". . . 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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Eurasia, Winter, the Ottomans: History and Archeology, Television and Books

     . . . . El V's enthralled with Barry W. Cunliffe's Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia (2015). 

It's lavishly illustrated with the most helpful maps possible, many photographs and other illustration, index, etc.  It's not quite a coffee table book, but its glossy paper, luxurious spacing and layout and dimensions does quite resemble more a deluxe museum catalog of a distinguished exhibit than a non-fiction hardcover.

Sir Barrington Windsor Cunliffe CBE FBA FSA

A Humanities Network review that hits the book's talking points can be read here.  

It goes well with the two books I read this year by Jack Weatherford -- The Secret History of the Mongol Queens (2010) and Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004). 

     . . . . It goes well too with the Turkish period series I began early this year and still haven't finished watching. One cannot and should not binge anything this long. I'm finally to episode 66, and it's still season 1 of Resurrection: Ertugrul (2014 --76 episodes in all).  The time period is the 13th century and the pressures from the Mongols are pressing hard on all nomadic peoples and everyone else, north, south, east and west, including Seljuk Turks (Salah ad-Din's people, falling into eclipse at this point), Arabs, Roman Christians, and Byzantine Christians -- none of which like each other and are in serious conflict.  The only uniting pressure for many of them is Islam.

Ertugrul is the legendary warrior who supposedly united and founded the peoples who became known as the Ottoman Turks, by re-uniting the Seljuk and the Oghuz Turks, was father of the equally legendary forefather of  Suleiman the Magnificent, whose grandfather, Mehmed the Conqueror, took out, finally, after many failed Ottoman attempts, Constantinople, in 1453.  Thus the Turkish television series' title, presumably -- resurrection of the Turks via union, which held back the Mongols, and defeated the European Christians, and the Greek Christians, to become the great Ottoman Empire which ruled the region for at least 500 years.

Season 2 of Ertugrul is also available on netflix (so far, I believe there are 3 seasons), again of 76 episodes.  So I could keep watching this for another year -- and probably will.  Among its many charms is seeing the western perceived exoticism of this eastern world through its own eyes.  It's great fun too, to see these palaces as filled with secret passages and vicious political assassinations as the romances.  It's stuffed with romance of story and character as well as the romance of its poetry, which runs through the cultures of all the peoples in this series -- and which illustrates from another angle than my grad courses in medieval and comparative literture courses how much Courtly Love and the Romances of the medieval world acquired from interaction with the Arabic cultures, particularly from Moorish Spain. The Pyrenees between Aquitaine and Al-andalus. 

Also, the horses are magnificent. (Cunliffe's book focuses a great deal on horses, of course!) How could I resist Ertugul, who confides at length to his lovely horse, all the doubts, fears and yearnings which he cannot express even to his loyal beyond death warriors?

El V says, "We're getting our winter on. Last winter: the Merovingians.  This winter: the steppes."

Ya, I say, "As winter disappears with the melting of the ice caps in Antarctica and the Arctic and the end of the glaciers. Winter, the primary fact of life since the beginning of life, of so many, including my own entire life until leaving the northern midwest, is rapidly becoming an exotic fantasy."

At least we still have books . . . .

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