I am reading Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama at the moment, and I must say I am impressed. A politician who would make a good novelist? Who talks honestly about his past? This is very good book, and was obviously a good book long before anyone knew where Mr Obama was going.
And it is soooooooo nice to know we have someone in the White House - who will impact my life whether I like it or not - with some intelligence and integrity. Ok, so maybe the integrity will develop a few cracks as present day democracy and politics make their demands. There will be evil compromises, because that's the nature of the beasts we have unleashed on the world with our lifestyles and economic structures and power plays and overpopulation and greed. But at least one gains the impression that this is at least a man who will think seriously about the moral implications of what he does. And that is a change.
Last weekend we went to see Valkyrie. And once again I was impressed. I expected to see lots of Hollywood and Cruise smiles, and mashed facts in the interest of drama. Instead I saw what appeared to me to be a good cinematic representation of a slice of history. It has been a while since I studied and taught that period of history, but I thought it amazingly accurate considering the time limitations and the medium and the number of people involved.
I did read one review that criticised it for not including a better overall picture of the larger context, and another that sneered about a portrayal of all those good nazis being a whitewash of history. Unfair criticism, I feel. This wasn't a movie about the Second World War or the Nazis or the Holocaust or Hitler. It was a movie about a plot to kill Hitler, how it was conceived and why it failed. It centred on one character, Stauffenberg, played well by Cruise.
My one criticism was that somehow it missed out being gut-wrenchingly poignant and I can't put my finger on quite why. I went in expecting to come out sniffing, and came out dry-eyed.
And here's something you may not know. One of those involved in earlier plots, and who went to Ravensbruck as a result of trying to help a friend involved in this one, was a man called Peter Bielenberg. His wife, Christabel, was British and she wrote a remarkable book about the experience of living in Germany from 1935 until after the war. Even more remarkably, she was instrumental in getting her husband out of Ravensbruck. Quite a story.