Tag: tag1

46. Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity

“Elephants are not treated much differently now than they were in the mid-eighteenth century: they are objects of awe and conservation, yet legally hunted, made captive, abused, and forced to labor for human gain. What then has research and learning served?”


In Elephants on the Edge, Gay Bradshaw makes an eloquent but always scientifically reasoned plea on behalf of the elephant, “for if we fail to act on what we know, we will lose them, and more”. It’s not just a call for better conservation measures and an end to the culling of an animal listed as “endangered” on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature Red List in 2008. It’s an argument for expanding our notion of moral community to include animals, not least the sociable, communicative, intelligent elephant. Bradshaw Elephants on the Edge“This book”, one reviewer wrote, “opens the door into the soul of the elephant” and it is a remarkable world which we glimpse through that door. The book has also been highly praised by writers as diverse as Peter Singer, Desmond Tutu, J.M. Coetzee and Tim Flannery. Listen to the podcast by clicking on the link above and visit the website of the Kerulos Center in Oregon, which Gay directs, to learn about some of the inspiring projects they are running.

IUCN status report on elephant IUCN Assessment, 2008

Tolstoy’s bedtime story

Rosamund Bartlett Tolstoy biographyI was in Oxford on Friday to interview Rosamund Bartlett about her recent Tolstoy biography, which coincides with the great man’s death a century ago on 20 November 1910.

The interview will appear shortly on the Blackwell Online website, but in the meantime, here is Rosamund reading a short extract from the book itself, in which Tolstoy as a boy listens to his grandmother’s blind storyteller recount a bedtime story…

Click here for the reading.

45. Bloody borderlands

Amexica coverAmexica is the name journalist Ed Vulliamy has coined for the 2,000-mile-long borderland between the US and Mexico. It’s a land that has fascinated him for the past thirty years – “repelled and compelled”, as he puts it in the interview. “Charismatic,complex, irresistible” is how he describes it in his new book, Amexica, which he discusses with me in this podcast.

The US-Mexican border is the busiest such crossing in the world – a million people use it every day. And some of them are engaged in the trafficking – of people, arms, drugs, and dirty money- which gives this land its often brutally violent character.

In the interview we talk about that violence, where it comes from, the ways in which it mirrors developments in the global economy and – perhaps most worryingly – the fact that “children are growing up along the border with this as their world”.


Hilary Mantel interview revisited

Wolf Hall cover“Revisited” because this is something of a first for Podularity: a transcript of an interview which I conducted earlier this year with Booker prize-winner Hilary Mantel.

If this feature proves popular, we’ll be doing more of these in the course of the autumn.

And if you would prefer to listen to the interview rather than read it, you can still find it by clicking here.

This transcript was created by Typing Angels, and we’re very pleased to have found them.

George Miller:

Hello, and welcome to this first edition of Podularity for 2010. My name is George Miller, and I’m delighted to say that my guest in this first programme of the New Year is Hilary Mantel, winner of the 2009 Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, the novel in which she charts the rise of Thomas Cromwell from abject beginnings to Henry VIII’s right-hand man.

Shortly after her Booker win in October, I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon interviewing Hilary about the book. An edited version of the interview appeared shortly afterwards on the Blackwell site, Blackwell.co.uk, but this is the first opportunity to hear the whole interview. I took as my starting point the Hans Holbein portrait of Thomas Cromwell, which probably shapes, to a large extent, many people’s view of the man. In it, he looks hard, cold, even cruel. That portrait is incorporated cleverly into the fabric of this novel. Late in the novel, Cromwell is confronted with a vision of himself that others see, and it comes as a shock to him. I asked Hilary to tell me more about what she was doing in that scene, with images and self-images of the man.

Hilary Mantel:

Yes, I think when Holbein painted a courtier, he was, in a way, painting the man’s office, and a Tudor minister didn’t want to look pretty – he just wanted to look powerful, but of course, because Holbein’s a genius, there’s always an extra dimension there. In my book, when Cromwell sees the portrait, he is rather shocked by it. He’s got no illusions about being handsome, but the hardness of the portrait takes him by surprise, and the way his hand is gripping the roll of paper, as if it’s an offensive weapon, and he says, “I look like a murderer”. His son says to him, “Didn’t you know?”, which is quite a shocking moment, really. Now, what I noticed immediately about the picture is how Cromwell is penned into a small space. It looks as if Holbein has said, “Sit there”, and then he’s pushed the table against him. There’s another table at the side of him, he actually can’t move. In my second book, Cromwell learns to live with the portrait, but he realizes increasingly that Hans was right – he can’t move. His scope of action, as an idealist as opposed to a practical politician, is now severely curtailed, and so he says, “Artists know the truth before we do”.

So I wanted to consider what might be the experience of having your portrait in your house, learning to relate to it as another self. Then later though, this is now with the scope of the book, the original gets lost, which is quite piquant, because of course I think the original Cromwell has got lost. Read More