‘The Art of War’ was written by Sun Tzu in China about 2,500 years ago. On Sunday (7th March) I was interviewed by the historian and broadcaster Julian Putkowski for the World Service of the BBC on the enduring nature of the advice given by Sun Tzu. I first read the book in Long Kesh in 1973, along with books like ‘The War of the Flea’ and Kitson’s ‘Low Intensity Operations’. Tzu exhorts one to make conflict unnecessary but that in conflict one should act rationally and not emotionally and should treat prisoners with kindness and respect. He also says: “those who celebrate victory are bloodthirsty and the bloodthirsty cannot have their way with the world.”
There are many lessons to be learnt from this little book. He speaks about not prolonging operations far afield and to always remember the weather! Clearly, Napoleon re Moscow and Hitler re Stalingrad forgot that important bit of advice.
You can see Sun Tzu’s influence in Machiavelli and Clausewitz, and there are even resonances in Shakespeare. Tzu says, “When the trees move the enemy is coming”: Macbeth was assured by the witches that he was invincible “Till Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane [Castle]”, which would never happen, but happens!
6th March. Finished Volume I of ‘The Paris Review Interviews’.
3rd March. Finished ‘The Resurrectionist’ by Jack O’Connell, not my usual fare but was given it as a Christmas present. Allegedly crime fiction but it was a fantasy and un-engaging yet the author is highly regarded. On the second last page the narrator speaks about Sweeney, the very dislikeable main character, thinking “about all the places where the story’s creator [of a story in a fantasy magazine] had gone wrong, fallen down on the job. It was as if the artist had come to hate his characters and his audience. And for Sweeney, this was a helpful exercise in learning how to craft his own tales.” It’s a pity – I thought – that O’Connell hadn’t thought about that himself before writing this very disappointing book.
16th February. Finished ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins who is less militant and less egregious than the pugilistic Christopher Hitchens; but, nevertheless, a thought-provoking book, less abrasive, less visceral than ‘God Is Not Great’.
15th February. Went to the Opera House to see ‘Haunted’ written by Edna O’Brien. Met up afterwards with Edna whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. Enjoyed the play, especially the second half which had more pace and drama.
12th February. Leslie and I went to see Winter in Wartime is a 2008 Dutch war film directed by Martin Koolhoven. The screenplay was written by Mieke de Jong, Paul Jan Nelissen and Martin Koolhoven and was based on the novel of the same name by Jan Terlouw.
The film was hugely successful in the Netherlands out-grossing competing films like Twilight and The Dark Knight. It was the highest grossing film in The Netherlands during Christmas 2008 and the first weeks of 2009.
It was also chosen by the Dutch Critics as the best Dutch film of 2008, it won the PZC Audience Award (best movie based on a novel), three Rembrandt Awards and three Golden Calf awards. It is the Dutch entry (Best Foreign Language Film) for the Academy Awards of 2010.