Sunday, January 31, 2010


Smelling a Rat

The correct focal point for the path of a planet is a star, but the writing world often seems to be in orbit around a burning pile of rubbish. I have recently been bewildered by some online activity concerning the great Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov (Михаил Булгаков). As I'm sure most people with an interest in modern culture are aware, Bulgakov was the courageous, clever and exceptionally inventive author of many superb novels, including The Master and Margarita, rightly considered one of the greatest classics of 20th Century Literature.

There's a publishing house in Romania by the name of Ex Occidente and they do a nice line in very fine books. One of their latest projects is a tribute volume to Bulgakov. This news seems to have upset some people for some bizarre reason. Comments have been made that imply (or overtly state) that Bulgakov was some sort of right-wing Tsarist, or a Fascist, or even just a plain anti-Semite! The motivating ignorance behind such defamation is boggling to the heart as well as the mind. One wishes that people would read more history books.

Bulgakov lived in a time of profound violent change. The Russian Civil War wasn't the neat black and white (or Red and White) conflict it is frequently portrayed as being. Not all Reds were Bolsheviks and not all Whites were Tsarist. The complex fact is that not even all anti-Reds were White, and not all Whites were White! I'm sure that the general modern attitude that the struggle against the Bolsheviks was purely Tsarist would come as astounding news to the Mensheviks, the Bundists, the Liquidators, to say nothing of Nestor Makhno and Anwar Pasho...

Unlike most writers in the modern societies of the West, Bulgakov had to fight to stay alive, fight with great vigour both physically and spiritually. Bulgakov stood up to Stalin during the period of Stalin's greatest power (an act of courage equalled by Ernst Jünger's stand against Hitler when the Nazi Party was in its prime). To denigrate a man of such honour reflects badly on those who cast the insults. One wonders why they do so. Might they have an ulterior motive? Might their ignorance be deliberately engineered?

I never talk about my own politics or religion on this blog, but as other writers seem happy to do so, I guess there's no reason why I shouldn't. My own politics are very simple. I'm a Libertarian. So I'm anti-communist, anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist, profoundly against any politics that seeks to create a controlling state. While I do think that Ayn Rand was completely mad, I'll always prefer her ideas to those of Marx or Rosenberg. As for religion: I have been a Buddhist since I was 14 years old.

But if there's one overriding principle in my life, it's the old-fashioned concept of "honour". In a certain corner of the writing world I see a dearth of honour. Dan Teodor Ghetu of Ex Occidente is a publisher of de luxe books devoted to the supernatural tale. He has a few competitors in this field. Most of them, like Ray Russell of Tartarus Press, are happy to live with Dan as a neighbour. They don't feeel threatened in any way by Dan. But there is one press, just one, that does appear to feel threatened...

Could it be that the owners of this other press are foolishly attempting to sabotage Dan's project because they naively believe it makes good business sense to do so? Are there unsubtle hints of a put-up job here? Can the handprints of a dirty tricks campaign be detected on the margins of the special interest publishing industry? Do these 'handprints' resemble the paws of a rat? The idiotic logic seems to run: Bulgakov was a Fascist (he wasn't), therefore the publisher of his tribute volume must be a Fascist (he isn't).

It's the same logic that will be forced to condemn Dan as a Communist once he publishes his planned tribute volume to Dino Buzzati (probably my favourite of all the writers he has lined up in his tribute series). I have a proposal: all people who rant about Dan Ghetu are henceforth to be known as 'Ghetu Blasters'. And we all know what happens to those, don't we? They end up in Dan T's Inferno.

I think I smell a rat -- a great big Roden(t). But it's not big and it's certainly not great.

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