Archive for March 16th, 2008

Who shot Saint-Exupery?

March 16, 2008

Here is one report:

“I didn’t target a man who I knew. I shot at an enemy plane that went down. That’s all”, he told the authors.

Mr Rippert said he spotted the author’s twin-tailed Lightning P38 while flying a Messerschmitt Me-109 over the Mediterranean near Toulon, and was amazed it was flying alone.

“He was below me. I saw his markings and manoeuvred myself behind him and shot him down”, said Mr Rippert, who brought down 28 planes during the war, and became a radio sports journalist afterwards.

Here is another:

“You can stop searching – I was the one who shot down Saint-Exupéry,” Mr Rippert told Mr von Gartzen when he telephoned.

Mr Rippert, whose story is told in the book Saint-Exupéry, L’Ultime Secret, described how he was patrolling in his Me109 and found the lone Lightning heading along the coast from German-occupied Toulon to Marseilles. The pilot was flying carelessly, as if enjoying himself, at a vulnerable 6,000ft, he said.

“If you were used to hard-combat flying, that was not normal . . . He was looking around,” Mr Rippert said. “He wasn’t bothered about my presence. I said to myself, ‘Ok old chap, if you don’t clear out, I’m going to pot you’. I dived towards him and fired at the wings. I hit him. The kite ditched, hit the water, smashed up. No one baled out. It would have been impossible to know that it was Exupéry. I hoped and still hope that it was not him,” Mr Rippert continued.

“In our youth, at school, we all read him and adored his books. He knew admirably how to describe the sky, the thoughts and feelings of pilots. His work drew many of us to the profession. They told me later it must have been Saint-Exupéry. What a disaster. What have you done, I said to myself.”

The book’s authors, Mr Vanrell and Jacques Pradel, a leading French broadcaster, said that the German pilots appeared to have agreed a pact of silence when they learned from American radio traffic that the search was on for Saint-Exupéry.

Mr Rippert told the authors that he had been temporarily taken off flying duties because he was Jewish. He said he had later been decorated for his victories over Allied aircraft by Hermann Goering, the Luftwaffe commander.

While Mr Rippert’s story appeared to fill in the blanks in the mystery, it has been greeted with some scepticism, given that it has taken so long years to emerge. French historians are expected to seek corroboration of his account.

Both the links via Literary Saloon.

A modern rendition of Ramayana

March 16, 2008

In the Journal of Asian studies, Paula Richman writes about a short story of Pudumaippiththan titled Narada Ramayanam in an essay titled A Tamil Modernist’s Account of India’s Past: Ram Raj, Merchant Raj, and British Raj:

The Ramayana, one of Hinduism’s two preeminent epics, has been retold in diverse ways over the centuries, but one modern rendition is unique: Narata-Ramayanam(?). Its author, C. Virudhachalam (1906–48), wrote in Tamil under the pen name Pudumaippittan, meaning “one who is mad about newness.” Narata-Ramayanam(?) presents colonialism as a continuation of the Ramayana narrative, showing how an ancient South Asian narrative can serve as an imaginative framework for modern Indian writers. The text mounts an astute critique of the notion of perfect rule, Ram Raj, and suggests that such a utopian ideal fosters the veneration of a glorified past that never existed. The text’s modernist literary ploys encourage scrutiny of culturally constructed concepts such as nationalism, consumerism, and narrative coherence. This unusual Ramayana reveals how narrative resources can be used to question both ancient and modern ideologies.

I guess A K Ramanujan would not have been averse to add the Pudumaippiththan version to the three hundreds he talks about in his essay.

The piece also reminds me of the pleasures of reading Pudumaippiththan’s short stories: Aatrangaraip-pillayar, which is actually a short story rendition of Indian history, and Paalvannampillai which is about an authoritarian father at home but a very mild mannered man at the office are a couple that comes to my mind immediately. We read those stories so many times that we knew them almost by heart, and had great pleasure in reciting our favourite sections and sentences to one another!

New York is like a compulsive gambler

March 16, 2008

At a friend’s wedding last fall, I was talking with the jazz singer Mary Foster Conklin about the transformation we’ve seen over the past decade. “Do you think the city has lost its soul?” I asked her. She didn’t. “The image I’ve always had,” she told me, “is that New York is like a compulsive gambler. When times are good, it’s flashy suits and drinks all round. When times are bad, the clothes are threadbare, and friends disappear.” Whether and where crime might increase or what form it may take if the city slides into recession in the next few years is anyone’s guess.

Maud Newton, while reviewing Richard Price’s Lush Life for The Boston Globe; via Maud herself.

A film I would love to see

March 16, 2008

Vaughan’s description (at Mind Hack) itself is so rivetting, leave alone the movie:

Although Marsh normally works at St George’s, one of London’s most established hospitals, he has regularly travelled to the Ukraine for 15 years to assist the development of neurosurgery in this still struggling country.

The contrast itself is striking. One scene sees Marsh and Kurilets looking through street market hardware stalls for screws, rivets and power tools to use in their operations.

One of the most gripping scenes is where the two surgeons open a patient’s skull using a Bosch power drill only to find the battery is going flat as they proceed.

The man has been only given local anaesthetic as the Ukrainian hospital doesn’t have the facilities to safely put someone under and wake them up after initial part of the procedure.

Some of the most moving moments concern the tension between the shortcoming of medicine and the hope of the patients. There are many profound moments that aren’t well captured by brief summaries, and I’m sure each viewer takes something different away from them, so you’ll need to experience them for yourselves.

Take a look!

Two clips and a trailer

March 16, 2008

If you are a fan of Alexander McCall Smith and his The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, you might enjoy the trailer and a couple of clips of the BBC pilot/film that Eurocrime links to!