Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bethlehem circa 1835 by David Roberts

Here's the incomparable Robert Fisk on the paintings of David Roberts:

When [He] toured the Holy Land, he was an explorer as well as an artist, a romantic who filtered the hot and crude realities of the Middle East through a special screen. As he journeyed on horseback through Palestine and then up the coast of southern Lebanon in the 1830s, he was an adventurer, staying overnight with the governor of Tyre, crossing the snows of the Chouf mountain chain to the gentleness of the Bekaa Valley where he sketched the great temples of the Roman city of Heliopolis.

In the world that he created, there were no wars, no political disputes, no dangers. His lithographs of Palestinian villages and of Lebanon, of Tyre and the peninsula of Ras Naqourra, of the temples of Baalbek, are bathed only in the peace of antiquity, a nineteenth-century dream machine that would become more seductive as the decades saw the collapse of the Turkish and then of the British Empire.

For today, Roberts’ delicate sketches and water-colours of Ottoman Palestine can be found in the hallways, bedrooms and living rooms of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon. In the dust of the great Elin Helweh Palestinian camp just east of Sidon, cheap copies of Roberts’ prints — of Nablus, of Hebron, of Jericho and Jerusalem — are hung on the cement walls of refugee shacks, behind uncleaned glass, sometimes held in place by Scotch tape and glue. His pictures of Lebanon’s forgotten tranquillity hang in Lebanese homes too. Volumes of Roberts’ prints of Lebanon and Palestine can be bought in stores all over Beirut. They can be purchased in almost every tourist hotel in Israel. They are a balm in which anyone can believe...

Extract from Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk. To read the rest of this great chapter, click here.


Blogger Fred Titmus said...

Fisk: "I suspect that is what journalism is about ... watching and witnessing history and then, ... recording it as honestly as we can."

They don't write satire like that anymore!

5:22 pm  
Blogger roGER said...

Don't be silly, Fred.

We live in a GOLDEN AGE of satirists such as Richard Perle and Dick Cheney:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

Vice President Dick Cheney, 26th August 2002

"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

Vice President Dick Cheney, 16th March 2003

"A year from now I'd be surprised if there's not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."

Former Pentagon Advisor Richard Perle, 22nd September 2003

10:05 am  

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