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In the last 3459 years only 268 were without war. As Mark Kurlanksy tells Brian Donaldson, this fact drove him onto his next book, with the Dalai Lama in tow.
t‘s the afternoon of the ['8 midterm elections with
writer and journalist Mark Kurlansky having
already performed his democratic duty. As the repercussions have shown. the Republican defeat was seen as a massive vote of no-confidence in the Bush/(‘heney/Rumsfeld war of terror in Iraq and a sign that non-violent means are often a more sensible method of bringing about change than smart bombs. ‘And now they're going to kill Saddam llussein: what’s that going to do‘.’ It just means one more dead lraqi.‘ Kurlanksy tells me on the phone from his .\'ew York office.
In his conclusion to .Von-Violence: The History ola Dangerous him. he records his belief that the move away from military action in resolving conflicts may be coming. 'l‘m not especially optimistic that I will see it happening in my lifetime. but I can still imagine a scenario where it would.‘ he notes. ‘If you look at liurope. a continent where historically everyone has tried to blow everyone else tip. it‘s now unthinkable that the (iermans and the l’rench would start killing each other.‘
In the book. Kurlansky tells how the religious texts of Judaism. Islam and (‘hristianity have all been perverted from their original meanings to fit in with the fierce powers which states have chosen to wield at any given opportunity. It seems a no-brainer that any publication which contains the phrase ‘thou shalt not kill' should ever be used as propaganda for warfare. "l‘here‘s this linguistic thing that it doesn't actually say "thou shalt not kill". that it says "thou shalt not murder": but murder is a legal distinction which
30 THE LIST 1'73 iii) N01 700‘}
‘KILLING SADDAM HUSSEIN JUST MEANS ONE MORE DEAD IRAQI'
probably wouldn‘t have been made back then.‘
Moving through the ages. Kurlansky shows how every time soldiers or troops or terrorists have been mobilised into action. a converse movement rises up to oppose the ritual slaughter. lirom the Quakers to Maori leaders and onto figures such as slavery abolitionist William Lloyd (iztl‘l'lsnli. and civil rights icon Martin Luther King. the call to arms has meant a hug for the enemy rather than a bullet to the skull. To aid his cause. Kurlansky sought out the help of the Dalai Lama to write his introduction. ‘It was all done through email so I didn't have to go to the mountains to get him.‘ he recalls. ‘It wasjust a question of getting the book to him and luckily he liked it and wrote this thing for me.‘
Ktn‘lattsky‘s literary trip to the world of the pacifist has been a thoroughly idiosyncratic one. Having been a professional chef and pastry-maker in New lingland. he lived for periods in Mexico and Paris writing for the likes of Harper's and The International Hera/(l 'I'ri/mne. .-\nd while he has written an acclaimed book of short stories. The ll'liite Man in the Tree. it‘s his non— liction which has earned him most publicin with books about cod (subtitled .‘l Biography oft/1e fix/i that Changed the ll'or/r/l. salt (.-i World History) and 1968 lT/lt' Year t/iat Rtit'kt’tf t/Ie ll'or/r/l under his belt. .\'ot your average bunch of topics for tomes. ‘None of those subjects seemed odd until people started asking me that question. Maybe my mind just works in odd ways.‘
Non-Violence: The History of a Dangerous Idea is published by Jonathan Cape on Tue 28 Nov.
THE BEST BOOKS, COMICS & EVENTS
3|! Don Paterson Alongside Jo Shapcott, the Dundee-born poet extraordinaire will be musing over the enduring love people have for German verse genius Rainer Maria Rilke. Recently, Paterson published his own take on Orpheus, Rilke’s masterful ode to love and loss. Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, Wed 22 Nov.
* Ian Rankin For the final event in the Bridge Readings series, the man behind Inspector Rebus will no doubt ﬁeld the usual interest in the shelf life of his core creation and what lies in store for him as a writer. Augustine '3, Edinburgh, Thu 23 Nov.
3!! Johnson Beharry With his memoir, Barefoot Soldier, the Grenada-born British ﬁghter recalls how his bravery in Iraq saved some of his colleagues and resulted in the award of a V0 for his efforts. He is the youngest living recipient of the honour. Yheatre Royal, Glasgow, Fri 24 Nov.
3|! Mark Kurlansky War: what is it good for? Very little, as this New York—based writer concludes. See preview, left. Jonathan Cape.
3|! Angus Dunn Pitching the mysterious smalltown worlds created by the likes of Du Maurier and Lynch into the Black Isle. Dunn brings us Writing in the Sand, a scary debut tale about shape-shifters and parallel universes. See review, page 31. Luath.
3! Patrick McCabe Another writer who revels in the dark side is this Irish sage whose latest, Winterwood, features a homecoming going horribly, spookin awry. See review. page 31. Bloomsbury.
* Geoff Johns & Phll Jimenez The earth-moving Inﬁnite Crisis brings all your favourite DC superheroes together to. quite literally, save the world. One for the obsessed die-bards out there. See review, page 32. DC.