Germany in the first half of 1919. The so-called November Revolution had swept away the Kaiser and the reigning noble houses. Government was weak. Communist and conservative coups were in open preparation. Violence was everywhere. In this volatile climate, Hermann Hesse’s ‘Demian’ found its first readers.
Five hundred years ago, the German reformer, Martin Luther, confronted the awesome power of the Roman Church, and discovered that he was free. Not only that, he discovered that every Christian is free, because freedom is what is taught by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His argument is presented in the Tract, ‘On the Freedom of a Christian’. The following is an attempt by an interested non-specialist, myself, to read this work and consider some of its meaning.
The disgraced Australian Cardinal, George Pell, may yet be rehabilitated. Now that the High Court of Australia has quashed his conviction for the sexual abuse of boys, he has returned to the Vatican. Whether a senior role will be assigned to him once more is not yet clear.
I wanted only to live the life that was struggling by itself to come out of me. Why was that so very hard? These fervent words are prepended as a motto to Hermann Hesse’s coming-of-age novel, Demian, which was first published in 1919. More a cry than a question, it must have established for Hesse the central issue of the story. In fact, it wasn’t hard, at all.
Fr. Maurice Bellière was adopted by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux as her ‘little brother.’ She told him that she would return after her death to help him with his missionary vocation. Fr. Bellière ended up a dismal failure. In exploring his story, this essay asks whether Saint Thérèse kept her promises.
Whether it originated from police interrogations, from the febrile imaginations of anti-semitic journalists and priests, or from the murky thoughts of the conspirator, ‘Nubius’, the ‘Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita’ anticipated to a high degree what has become of the Roman Catholic Church.
“I always wanted only the best for Germany.” In the prison yard, the rifles of the firing squad were at the ready. The condemned man, seeing their nervousness, tried to calm them. They shouldn’t blame themselves, he said. They were only doing their duty. He himself stood strong. “Shoot well, comrades,” he finished, looking each of them in the eye.
Vogelschiss. Birdshit. A German politician used this word recently to describe the National Socialist regime which ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was looking for a new perspective, one which would reduce the Nazi dictatorship to proportion in a thousand years of mostly successful German history. Elections were in the offing, and he may have felt that he needed attention. Because I am reluctant to give him any, he will be referred to here as Mr. Bird, leaving out the second syllable.
Claude Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’ is a memorable film. Not because of what it says. But because of its refusal to say anything at all. The theme of Shoah is the Holocaust, in which over six million Jews were murdered by National Socialist Germany. But to state the theme in this way is to already go beyond the film. Shoah can be classed as a documentary, in that it features interviews about events to which the interviewees were eyewitnesses. But it does not document anything, or try to explain anything. If there is a message, it must be worked out by the viewer, in subjective imagination. Which puts the question to me.
Gomorrah is the title Roberto Saviano chose for his well-known book on the Camorra, the network of criminal organisations that have dominated Naples and Italy’s Campania region for generations. A revelatory choice. Gomorrah and Camorra sound alike. And are alike. The land of the Camorra is a lost place, ruined by greed, hubris, and the vilest excesses. A Biblical place. A place of the damned.