John Craxton (born 1922) is a painter who has spent much of his life in Greece. Growing up in an intensely musical family in Hampstead (his father was the first pianist to play Debussy in England, his sister was a celebrated oboist), he was aware from a very early age of the infinite and magical connections between sound and the visual image. His subsequent work as a painter has all the structure one expects of a great composer: his are paintings which sing of their substance.
Poetry and conflict are as old as each other. From war springs suffering and from suffering song. Fourteen months after the invasion of Iraq, the ancient association is as vibrant as ever. According to the Guardian, an anthology entitled 100 Poets Against the War has outstripped the opposition and become the nation’s most frequently borrowed book of poetry. Even now I hold the volume in my hand. And I read with tremulous fascination about its torrid and telling birth-throes.
As Iraq burns, Paul Bremer’s men remain inventive. Faced with the problem of getting their positive message out from behind the blast walls and barbed wire which surround the Coalition headquarters in Baghdad, they have resorted to technology. A television studio has been built inside Saddam Hussein’s former palace, and broadcasting companies such as ours are expected to link its outpourings to London so that reassuring messages from American officials and their Iraqi allies can be pumped directly on to British television screens.
Bruce Anderson says that the scandalous events of the past week show that the Arabs can take brutality — but not from American womenAnyone who wants to understand the peoples of Arabia and the surrounding regions ought to start with Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands. He was writing about the late 1940s and, as he knew, the world which he described was about to vanish. This provides the modern reader with a necessary perspective.