The Invention of Nationalism

Not many people realise that Nationalism is a relatively new phenomenon. Most think that it has a long history dating back centuries if not millennia. It’s common to hear modern people draw a connection between themselves and ancient people and nationalists often consider themselves following the footsteps of historic heroes. How many times have the Irish been called a proud and ancient race, with traditions dating back thousands of years? Historic battles and leaders are painted in national lines, even though people at the time wouldn’t have recognised the terms or given them much notice. Most believe that nations have always existed, after all didn’t the Irish always know they were Irish? What else could they consider themselves?

Yet not many realise that nationalism is a 19th century invention and that before that, there was no shared national identity linking people together. Before the Industrial Revolution, people only had loyalty to their family, their village and their lord, there was little concept of a nation. There wasn’t a common national culture, history or even language. But if people weren’t French, Irish, German etc, then what were they? Continue reading “The Invention of Nationalism”

My Life In 3 Languages

Where I come from, almost everyone speaks only the one language. Learning another language is like learning what happened at the Battle of Vinegar Hill or how mountains are formed. Something you try in school and maybe make some progress in the exam, but never really use in your life. People who know more than one language do exist, but so do talented people who can play musical instruments or get chosen for a sports team. They’re admired for such a gift, but most people don’t have that ability or even try to learn it.

I used to fall into this group, I could only speak English and didn’t see the need for any other language. Yet now I find myself using three different languages every day. Although I spend my leisure time reading and watching videos in English, I live in France and work for an Esperanto association. So, my free time is in English, my work is in Esperanto and everything else is in French. Continue reading “My Life In 3 Languages”

The Simple Guide For Foreigners To The French Election

In two weeks time, on the 23rd of April, the people of France will vote for their new President. This major event has gained added significance in the aftermath of Brexit and the election of Trump, and could prove decisive for the existence of the European Union. The election raises fears of a surge in nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-Islam support, and will be a test of how strong these feelings are. The result will have a major impact on the rest of Europe (and possibly the world) with regard to immigration, refugees, the Euro, European co-operation, trade, economics and a dozen other areas. So even if you’re not French, the result will probably affect you. Continue reading “The Simple Guide For Foreigners To The French Election”

Are The Discworld Books Overrated?

Terry Pratchett is one of the most famous British writers and his Discworld series has been read by millions. He has been praised by many as one of the funniest writers and master of the fantasy genre. His books have been hailed as literary classics and it has even been said that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Might Be The Highest Form of Literature on the Planet.

So naturally hearing such praise (and being a fan of Douglas Adams and fantasy), I gave it a go. While I found them enjoyable, I wasn’t blown away. They were good but nothing great. So, I thought maybe I was missing something and wasn’t appreciating him fully (Pratchett hardly has critics so the problem must be with me). Or maybe I just haven’t got to the best book yet. So, I kept reading and in total, I’ve read 13 Discworld books, 7 in the City Watch series (up to Thud!), 3 in the Death series (up to Soul Music), the first 2 of the Moist von Lipwig books and Small Gods (also Good Omens which half counts).

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely brilliant elements, clever ideas and hilarious moments. I have a taste for absurd humour and I love political commentary, so there’s a lot I did like about the books. Yet, I began to suspect that Discworld might be overrated. Such a thought is blasphemy, so I kept it to myself until I read enough books to see that while there are some very good books, there are also plenty of mediocre ones. Continue reading “Are The Discworld Books Overrated?”

How Many Books Will It Take To Finish ASOIAF?

One of the most eagerly anticipated books at the moment is “The Winds of Winter” by George RR Martin, part of the hugely popular A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) series. Millions of people are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next in the series and the book will undoubtedly be a bestseller upon release. However, the long waiting time for each book has become legendary as fans grow weary waiting to find out what their favourite characters get up to. It seems the final resolution of this famous and much loved series is always receding further into the distance.

Martin has said that there will be seven books in the series, so after The Winds of Winter, A Dream of Spring will be the final book. However, considering everything that must happen, there is growing doubt as to whether this is true. Looking at the vast number of subplots, character arcs and other events that must happen, it seems impossible for all of it to be wrapped up in just two more books. So how many books will it really take to finish A Song of Ice and Fire? Continue reading “How Many Books Will It Take To Finish ASOIAF?”

What Went Wrong With The Gentlemen Bastard Series?

When The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch was released in 2006 it was a massive hit. Not only did it become a bestseller, but it is also considered something of a modern classic. It won high praise and Lynch was counted among the most promising writers in the fantasy field, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie. This was an amazing achievement for a first novel, so expectations were high for the rest of the series. Did we have a new classic before us?

Yet, the follow-up books were something of a disappointment. Instead of soaring high, the rest of the series went downhill. Complaints began to pile up about the flaws in the newer books and even fans admitted some problems. Something was missing, some of the brilliance had been lost. Of course, all opinion is subjective and there are probably those who really liked the follow-ups. Yet no one would claim that they are as good as the first one.

Myself, I absolutely loved Lies and consider it one of my favourite novels, yet I was underwhelmed by Red Seas Under Red Skies and Republic of Thieves (although the names are fantastic). The original magic was gone and the plot seemed to wander directionless. A fourth book will soon appear and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll bother to buy it.

So, what happened? Where did it go wrong? Continue reading “What Went Wrong With The Gentlemen Bastard Series?”

Cultural Appropriation, Plastic Paddies and Irish-Americans – Who does culture belong to?

The first time I ever heard of Cultural Appropriation, I thought it was a ridiculous notion. How can it be wrong to copy another culture? What’s wrong with taking inspiration and emulating other nations? The idea that some cultures belonged to only one people seemed incredibly regressive, narrow-minded and almost racist. If some music and fashion belongs only to black people and white people can’t use it, then does that mean that there are some fashions and music that only belong to white people? Continue reading “Cultural Appropriation, Plastic Paddies and Irish-Americans – Who does culture belong to?”