Tag: Stalinist

Epitaph for an enemy

Saturday, 27 April, 2019

The Anglo-Irish poet Cecil Day-Lewis (or Day Lewis) was born on this day in 1904. Along with being the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis, celebrity chef Tamasin Day-Lewis and critic Sean Day-Lewis, he was the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968 until his death in 1972. “The poet’s inverted snobbery in dropping the hyphen in his name on his publications (beginning in 1927) has been a source of trouble for librarians and bibliographers ever since,” is how his biographer at the Poetry Foundation puts it.

Cecil Day-Lewis became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1935 and he practiced the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist faith until the early 1950s. He renounced it in 1960 and his detective story, The Sad Variety (1964), written using the pseudonym Nicholas Blake, is a derisive portrayal of doctrinaire communists and their role in the brutal suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. While the works of his poetic friends Auden and Spender have endured the test of time, his own verse has faded. The visceral sentiment at the heart of Epitaph for an Enemy continues to pulsate, however.

Epitaph for an Enemy

You ask, “What sort of man
Was this?”
— No worthier than
A pendulum which makes
Between its left and right
Involuntary arcs
Proving from morn to night
No contact anywhere
With human or sublime —
A punctual tick
A mere accessory of Time

His leaden act was done
He stopped, and Time went on.

Cecil Day-Lewis (1904 – 1972)

The enemy


Revolutionary: Watching snow fall

Thursday, 4 December, 2014 0 Comments

In the world of the English idiom, if an activity is like watching grass grow or paint dry, it’s really boring. Watching snow fall is not boring, however, if the place is Bucharest and the year is 1988. Back then, Romania was in the final phase of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s grim Stalinist rule and the most ordinary events assumed extraordinary significance. One of these events was a football match on 3 December between two Bucharest rival teams, Steaua, the Army team, hand-picked by Valentin Ceauşescu, son of the dictator, and Dinamo, the side representing the dreaded Securitate, the secret police.

Despite the wintry conditions, referee Adrian Porumboiu decided that the game should go ahead and it was filmed in low-tech style by three TV cameras. When fouls and fights took place, the director discretely panned over the crowd, almost invisible behind the snow descending in curtains. The film of the game is now a film titled Al doilea joc (The Second Game) and the director is Corneliu Porumboiu, son of the match referee.

The two re-watched the match together, some 25 years later and the father-and-son commentary on the grainy, uncut VHS is layered with meaning. The father can sense the impending national turmoil, the son muses on the archaic poetry of the scene and the whole assumes an extra relevance when one reads about the personality cult and corruption that dominate FIFA, football’s governing body today.