The Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy was heavily bombed and destroyed by Allied bombers in February of 1944. The Allies thought that the Germans had placed soldiers in the monastery but the Germans had not done so. The Abbey buildings were completely destroyed. But the art treasures that it contained (including paintings by DaVinci, Titian, Raphael, a 70,000 volume library and ancient manuscripts) had been saved and sent to Rome thanks to the foresight of Lieutenant-Colonel Julius Schlegel who provided transport to the Abbey in October to remove these treasures to Rome. Schlegel had been a librarian and art historian in Vienna before the war.
It is with great sadness that we note the passing of one of the most controversial figures in American literature. Gore Vidal passed away on July 31, 2012. Gore Vidal was a many of prodigious talents: novelist, politician, screen writer and student of American history. His output was staggering but it was overshadowed by his altercations with the likes of Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley. Both literature and politics are lessened by his loss.
I had avoided seeing the 1969 movie, Her Majesty’s Secret Service, because it was reputed to be the weakest entry in the James Bond series of movies. Sean Connery had given up the role and was replaced by George Lazenby. I recently viewed the movie and was pleasantly surprised. It is not as bad as it reputed to be. But the best part of the movie was that Bond gains access to his arch-nemesis, Bloefeld, by pretending to be a genealogist from the London College of Arms. He is going to help Bloefeld prove that he is the Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp!
Have you ever wondered about the influence of a writer’s family on their work? There is an interesting and provocative new collection of essays on this subject by the Irish writer Colm Toibin. It is titled New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Thier Families. Toibin has done great work in his novels and short stories but here he shows a talent for explaining some great writers (including Beckett, Thomas Mann and William Butler Yeats) in terms of their family dynamics and subsequent inluence on their literary output. Toibin has proved he is a man of many talents.
Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on Russia began at 3:30 am on June 22, 1941. This was the day after Napoleon’s attack on Russia in 1812. Barbarossa precipitated the greatest land battle in history. The German armed forces struck Russia on a thousand mile front and initially enjoyed staggering success. But the Germans were stopped before Moscow in December in the midst of the brutal Russian winter. The Russians turned the tide at the Battle of Stalingrad and then arrived triumphantly in Berlin in 1945.