". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, July 6, 2015

Gertrude Bell - Werner Herzog - Nicole Kidman - Jane Digby

Werner Hertzog is in the process of shooting an historical made from the life of Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert, with Nicole Kidman as Bell.  This could be . . .  awful.  For one thing, Bell wasn't remotely as young and beautiful as Kidman  in this era, or even previously.  Second, it looks from the trailer as though the writers have taken a great deal out of the biography of an earlier English woman who concluded her life in the Middle East, Jane Digby.

For those who are unfamiliar with why anyone would wish to make a film about someone named Gertrude Bell, go here.  She had a great deal to do with Europe's arbitrary drawing of national boundaries out of the Middle East's ancient kingdoms and tribes, including those of Iraq. Many books have been written about her, while she wrote books about herself by herself as well.

Left to Right: Winston Churchill, Bell, T.E. Lawrence
Robert Pattinson, whose only equal as actor made of wood is Kristen Stewart, plays T.E. Lawrence in Queen of the Desert.

Trailer here:

Myself, while recognizing. Bell's accomplishments, which, like those of Lawrence, her friend and contemporary, contributed much to the strong current in British society and politics that admires the desert, the Bedouin and pro-Arab interest, I continue to admire more this other English woman who much earlier, forged a life for herself in the Middle East, Jane Digby 1807 - 1881).

Digby, as commissioned by the King of Bavaria for his Hall of Beauties.

Painting of Jane Digby by C. Haag, 1859, in Palmyra
I initially learned of Digby from reading back in 1996, when it was published (presented to me by my still dearly missed first editor, who thought this would inspire me) Mary Lovell's biography, A Scandalous Life : The Biography of Jane Digby el Mezrab.  It's still worth reading.  Also, Jane Digby, until late in life, was reputed by all who saw her as one of the most beautiful women in Europe.  Jane Digby refused to allow that designation to define or rule her life.

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