Author: Hunt Hawkins

Julius Nyerere Translates “Julius Caesar” into Swahili, Dar es Salaam, 1963

  We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation.   So said the plaque the first President placed atop the snowy peak after the British finally left. Kaiser Wilhelm complained his grandmother had two mountains in Kenya while he had none, so Victoria gave him Kilimanjaro for his birthday, but botching the Great War, he had to give it back. The original Kaiser...

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The Good Samaritan

  Rembrandt’s landscape had it right: in a small corner in dark woods, the naked, half-dead man slung across a saddle blanket is held by the left hand of the Samaritan, half-hidden behind the horse. A horrified well-dressed couple in cloaks and floppy hats looks on while nearby a hunter, fully absorbed, aims his rifle high up a massive oak, accompanied by his boy. Hans Frank, Governor-General of occupied Poland, made it a crime to feed a Jew or house one overnight or give a lift, punishable by quick death as with Jósef and Wiktoria Ulma shot after the...

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Ian Watt Memorizes “The Divine Comedy” on the River Kwai, 1943

[Note: With the publication of The Rise of the Novel in 1957, the charismatic Stanford professor Ian Watt (1917-1999) became one of the most influential literary critics of the post-war period. He did not publish much, if anything, about his still recent experiences as a Japanese prisoner-of-war and a forced laborer on the infamous Burma-Thailand Railway, the historical truth of which did not find its way into the film The Bridge on the River Kwai. Marina MacKay’s Ian Watt: The Novel and the Wartime Critic (Oxford, 2018) digs into the archives of his fellow prisoners as well as Watt’s...

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Strange flame of neurons firing inside the helmet of my head, full of knowing, sights royal, azure, robin, finely graded, the roll and pitch of sounds, sweetness on my tongue, memories seemingly true, the 110 steps up to our house on Edgevale Road, the tree I fell from when six still there though I’m not, the gleam of Chesapeake Bay when my family was together driving to our rental on the shore, shadows falling on the Taconic Parkway going away to college in the North, “Now you know all of me,” she said, sitting on the yellow couch, all...

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Tunnel (Waterways)

Plunging into Lincoln Tunnel, my daughter stares at the yellowing tiles, empty glass booths hanging from the walls, the vertical blue line dividing New Jersey from New York, and asks what’s above us. When I say the river, my son exclaims, “Hey, neat,” but she winces, and I can see she’s imagining the bed of silt, the tons and tons of water, even the fish swimming, and far above, the ships resting lightly on the surface. In her body, she must feel the fragility of the tube, the possibility of cracks opening, water replacing air, people frantic. Don’t be...

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