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Posts Tagged ‘pen portraits’

TIMUR LANE

Timur (1336-1405) was a 14th Century Turko-Mongol military leader who conquered most of the Muslim world, central Asia, and parts of India. His Timurid Empire rivaled the size and power of the Mongolian domain forged by Genghis Khan a century earlier.

He is known as Timur, from the Turkic word for “iron” and he claims his ancestry to Genghis Khan, which has not been proved. A man of contrasts his name has continued to inspire as well as fascinate us to this day. Was he the vicious conqueror, who made a mound of skulls and put some 80,000 to sword during his foray into Delhi? It is estimated that his armies killed 17 million people, which was about 5% of the global population at the time.

On the other hand, he is also known as a great patron of the arts, literature, and architecture. One of his signal achievements is his capital at the beautiful city of Samarkand, in modern-day Uzbekistan.

Known by his nickname, Tamerlane, began as the leader of petty thieves. They stole livestock from farmers, and property from travelers and merchants.

In his twenties, Tamerlane fought under the rule of various Khans and Sultans. His leadership skills led to him being given command of a thousand soldiers for an invasion of Khorasan (in north-east Iran).

When his leader, Kurgan, died, the subsequent struggle for power was eventually halted by the invasion of Tughlugh Khan from the Mongol Chagatai Khanate. The head of the Barlas tribe fled the invasion, and Timur was chosen by the Mongols as his replacement.

When Tughlugh Khan died and entrusted Transoxiania to his son Ilyas, Timur and his brother-in-law, Amir Husayn, sensed their opportunity and took the region by force.

Tamerlane’s descendents include Babur, founder of the Indian Mughal Empire.

Tamerlane’s ambition was to rebuild the empire of Genghis Khan, who had died a century earlier.

His military conquests saw him conquer land that comprises the modern day countries of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, large parts of Turkey and Syria, and the north-western portion of India (Delhi).

He referred to himself as the `Sword of Islam’ and converted much of his empire to the religion.

He was a highly intelligent politician who spoke Turkish, Mongolian and Persian.

The Timurid Empire lasted until 1507. The Persian Safavid dynasty took most of Iran in 1501, while a contingent of Uzbek tribes invaded from the north to take Herat in 1507.

Trivia:

Timur’s tomb was allegedly inscribed with the words “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble”.

His coffin supposedly read: “Whoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I”. Hitler invaded the USSR within two days of the exhumation, and when Timur was finally reburied, the Soviet victory at Stalingrad shortly followed.(Owlcation.com)

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(1883-1924) Czech

writer

Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He trained as a lawyer, and after completing his legal education he was employed with an insurance company, forcing him to relegate writing to his spare time. Over the course of his life, Kafka wrote hundreds of letters to family and close friends, including his father, with whom he had a strained and formal relationship. He died in 1924 at the age of 40 from tuberculosis.

In order to understand Kafka I shall do well to include a quote from his diary and an anecdote. The significant diary entry from August 1916: “My penchant for portraying my dreamlike inner life has rendered everything else inconsequential; my life has atrophied terribly, and does not stop atrophying.”

When Kafka was reading aloud the opening pages of The Trial before a group of Prague friends but laughed so much that he had to stop at intervals, while his listeners also laughed “uncontrollably,” despite what his friend Max Brod described as “the terrible gravity of this chapter.”

He complained often of being a martyr to his art, a self -realization that speaks of his sharp intellect but his irony in the face of the tragic fate of his protagonist, to burst out into laughter, sets the relevance of literature in his case as a nervous twitch set off by inanity of his times and his ideals. Literature has thus served her votaries each after its fashion. Everyday life about Kafka was giving way

as the father-figure you revered sliding into senescence and certainties about the hearth sounding false as the unfortunate masses of migrants you see on your screen daily shuffling about in the streets. Europe coming to terms with itself in a post-world war was all too real and as it were hell itself.

‘His conception of himself as tormented artist is allied closely to his view of his predicament as a man struggling to maintain his health and sanity in the face of an unrelentingly inhospitable world. In the annals of lamentation, from Job and Jeremiah to Beckett’s Unnamable, surely no one has devoted himself to the sustained moan with such dedication, energy, and exquisite finesse as the author of the “The Judgment” and the “Letter to His Father,” of the diaries, and of the correspondence with Felice Bauer and his lover Milena Jesenská, as well as his friend Max Brod’.1

Consider the prose fragment “The Great Wall of China.” The piece focuses not on the emperor on whose orders the wall was constructed, but on the construction itself, which was built “not as a single entity but rather in individual sections far apart from one another,” No one apart from those in the top command can say with any certainty how far the construction has progressed; it is not even clear whether the wall will really have all the gaps filled in when the work is done. It is never completed, and remains a fragment made up of fragments.

His journey into the self was a fragment made up of fragments and when a cry breaks out, no one shall know whether out of helplessness or of joy it assails us and prepares for similar surprises to come if the reader only persists enough. That fragmentary aspect, a student in literature in retrospect may accept or be dismissive about, but has despite of Kafka’s irony become a literary term –Kafkesque.

Quote: : “I am made of literature; I am nothing else and cannot be anything else.”

1. Brod, though mistaken in some things—his representation of Kafka as a religious writer, for instance—was ever commonsensical. He largely had the measure of his friend, and even after Kafka had been diagnosed with tuberculosis did not hesitate to write to him with a flat rebuke: “You are happy in your unhappiness.”

(A Different Kafka- John Banville/NYT Oct.23,2013)

 

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EMILIANO ZAPATA (1879- 1919) Mexico

Revolutionary

 Emiliano Zapata was a Mexican revolutionary and advocate of agrarianism who fought in guerrilla actions during the Mexican Revolution. He formed and commanded the Liberation Army of the South, an important revolutionary brigade, and his followers were known as Zapatistas.

When General Victoriano Huerta deposed and assassinated Madero in February 1913, Zapata and his men arrived at the outskirts of Mexico City and rejected Huerta’s offer to unite with him. This prevented Huerta from sending all his troops against the guerrillas of the north, who, under the direction of a moderate politician, Venustiano Carranza, had organized the Constitutionalist Army to defeat the new dictator. Huerta was forced to abandon the country in July 1914.

Zapata knew that Carranza’s Constitutionalists feared him. He attracted some intellectuals from Mexico City, among them Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, who became his theorist and later established an agrarian party. When Huerta fell, Zapata invited the Constitutionalists to accept his Plan of Ayala and warned them that he would continue fighting independently until the plan was put to practical use.

In October 1914 Carranza called an assembly of all the revolutionary forces. Pancho Villa, who commanded the most important part of the army of the north, refused to attend the meeting because he considered Mexico City as enemy ground. The assembly was moved to Aguascalientes, where both the Villistas and the Zapatistas attended. These two groups constituted a majority, and the convention agreed to appoint General Eulalio Gutiérrez as provisional president. Carranza rejected this decision and marched with his government to Veracruz.

War broke out between the moderates (Carrancistas) and the revolutionaries (Conventionists). On November 24 Zapata ordered his army (now called the Liberation Army of the South and numbering 25,000 men) to occupy Mexico City.

Two weeks later Zapata and Villa met on the outskirts of the capital and then visited the National Palace. The two leaders promised to fight together until they put a civilian president in the palace, and Villa accepted the Plan of Ayala.

Zapata created agrarian commissions to distribute the land. He established a Rural Loan Bank, the country’s first agricultural credit organization; he also tried to reorganize the sugar industry of Morelos into cooperatives. In April 1915 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s personal representative in Mexico met with Zapata; Zapata asked that Wilson receive his delegation, but Wilson had recognized the Carranza government (the convention’s government under Gutiérrez had dispersed).

Meanwhile, the war continued. Zapata occupied the city of Puebla and won various battles, advised by some professional soldiers who had joined his side. In 1917 Carranza’s generals defeated Villa and isolated Zapata. Carranza then called together a constitutional convention but did not invite Zapata; the convention approved and passed a constitution and elected *Carranza as president of the republic.

Soon afterward General Pablo González, who directed the government operations against Zapata, had Colonel Jesús Guajardo pretend to want to join the agrarians and contrive a secret meeting with Zapata at the hacienda of Chinameca in Morelos. There Zapata was ambushed and shot to death by Carrancista soldiers. His body was carried to Cuautla and buried there.

*Venustiano Carranza(1859-1920) whose term as president was due to end in December 1920, he attempted to force the election of his chosen successor, Ignacio Bonillas, despite opposition from his more radical generals. Obregón led an armed rebellion in April 1920, and Carranza fled the capital. When he headed for Veracruz with government records and treasure, his train was attacked. With a few followers, he fled on horseback into the mountains. On the night of May 20/21 he was betrayed and murdered.

(victor alba/brittanica.com)

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DL Moody (1837-1899)  USA

evangelist

In his time he was a well known evangelist whose indefatigable life mission to bring Christ to folks was a milestone in the American social history. While the Gilded Age burnished the materialism at end of a spectrum his fundamentalism was as plain as a hair-shirt. Moody often spoke to audiences of ten thousand to twenty thousand people. He presented the plan of Salvation, by voice or pen, to at least one hundred million people. One historian, obviously critical of both the excesses of the Gilded Age and evangelists like Moody, wrote: “There was revivalist Moody, bearded and reckless, with his two hundred and eighty pounds of Adam’s flesh, every ounce of which belonged to God.”

 

Moody was born in 1837, a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign, and he died in December, 1899, just nine days before the turn of the century.

Moody was not only a product of his age, but also a herald of a new one. He pioneered techniques of evangelism that remain largely unchanged today. He proclaimed a new eschatology of *pre-millennialism and fostered a new ecumenical spirit.

As one ponders Moody’s deprived, rural boyhood, his career as an evangelist and educator, and his role as a father, he was a man of the people for the people and it was their salvation was all that mattered.

Moody had no formal theological training and only the doubtful equivalent of a fourth- or fifth-grade education. Although he said he read the works of the great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Moody did not read widely. What he learned from others he learned in conversation. At age 18, when he attempted to join a Congregational Church, he failed a simple test of Bible knowledge administered by the deacons. Moody’s education was, by most standards, inadequate: he never went to college or seminary, nor was he ever ordained as a clergyman. He spelled phonetically, so his adult letters and sermon outlines abounded in spelling errors, as well as grammatical ones.

If Moody’s education was inadequate, other aspects of his childhood did equip him for his future career. His humble beginnings meant that as an adult he never lost touch with common folk; he disliked pretense or deference toward those of higher social position. From his mother’s heroic efforts to hold the family together, Moody learned the virtues of thrift, hard work, and close family ties. From her he also acquired tenderheartedness. As an adult he repeatedly broke into tears upon realizing that he had unwittingly hurt or offended someone. His public apologies to the offended person were profuse and sincere.

“I want to be frank with you, Mr. Moody,” one of his listeners once told him. “I want you to know that I do not believe in your theology.”

“My theology!” Moody exclaimed. “I didn’t know that I had any. I wish you would tell me what my theology is.” (Christianity Today, Stanley N. Gundry)

*pre-millennialism is the doctrine that the prophesied millennium of blessedness will begin with the imminent Second Coming of Christ.

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Born on 12 October 1798 his circumstances were ripe to take him to heights had he mind for taking a leaf out of the example of Napoleon and began it in the South America. In politics an enemy is one who you may worst by his own strength. Had he taken the truism to heart he would learnt to think and manoeuvre as Napoleon would have. As emperor of Brazil perhaps he could have set a domino effect on other South American states. But this was not to be.

Born in Lisbon, Pedro I was the fourth child of King Dom João VI of Portugal and Queen Carlota Joaquina, and thus a member of the House of Braganza.

When Napoleon conquered Portugal in 1807, Pedro accompanied the royal family in its flight to Brazil. He remained there as regent when King John returned to Portugal in 1821.

Pedro surrounded himself with ministers who counseled independence. When the Portuguese Cortês (Parliament), preferring colonial status for Brazil, demanded that Pedro return to Lisbon to “complete his political education,” he issued a declaration of Brazilian independence on Sept. 7, 1822. Within three months he was crowned emperor.

Pedro’s initial popularity waned, and in 1823, when the Brazilian Assembly was preparing a liberal constitution, he dissolved that body and exiled the radical leader José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva. On March 25, 1824, however, Pedro accepted a somewhat less liberal constitution drafted by the Council of State at his behest.

Although adoption of that charter may have saved Pedro from deposition, it did not reestablish his popularity. His autocratic manner, his lack of enthusiasm for parliamentary government, and his continuing deep interest in Portuguese affairs antagonized his subjects, as did the failure of his military forces in a war with Argentina over what is now Uruguay. Strong opposition in the Brazilian Parliament and a series of local uprisings induced him to abdicate in 1831 in favour of his son Dom Pedro II, who was then five years old. Pedro I then returned to Portugal.

Pedro I died of tuberculosis on 24 September 1834, just a few months after he and the liberals had emerged victorious. He was hailed by both contemporaries and posterity as a key figure who helped spread the liberal ideals that allowed Brazil and Portugal to move from Absolutist regimes to representative forms of government.

benny

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Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

For any young man politically minded and also a collector of quotes Thomas Paine is an inescapable presence whose quotes even this day have not lost their shine. In this age where all major religions are suffering from the virus of fundamentalism it is merely a caution well taken. Did he not say “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead?” His sane voice urging the man on the street that ‘he should not petition for his rights but take them,’ made the American revolution a necessity. His ‘Common Sense(1776)* was so influential for John Adams to observe, “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

A corset maker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination his footprints in England, America and France left in their wake great many who were his allies and admirers turn on him in the end as fiercely as they had warmed up to his clarion call.2.

Born in Thetford England in the county of Norfolk, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 and it was Benjamin Franklin who advised him to go to America and he just did, arriving in time to participate in the American Revolution.

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Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), in part a defence of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on British writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in 1792. In 1792, despite not being able to speak French, he was elected to the French National Convention. The Girondists regarded him as an ally. Consequently, the Montgnards especially Robespierre regarded him as an enemy. He narrowly missed guillotine and Thomas Jefferson as the Third President of the new Republic invited him to settle down in the new nation. His later years were plagued by ill health, neglect and when he died only six people attended his funeral. Quakers refused him burial and he was finally buried in a part of the grounds attached to his home.

*Common Sense

Paine used “common sense” as a weapon to delegitimize the monarchy and overturn prevailing conventional wisdom. He used two ideas from Scottish Common Sense Realism and from Philosophes. The idea is that ordinary people can indeed make sound judgments on major political issues, and that there exists a body of popular wisdom that is readily apparent to anyone. The Continental Enlightenment spread out influencing people as to how they thought. It empowered people in France to think for themselves. They held that common sense could refute the claims of traditional institutions. According to Sophia Rosenfeld the phenomenal appeal of his pamphlet resulted from his synthesis of popular and elite elements in the independence movement.

2.

Paine decided that President George Washington had conspired with Robespierre to imprison him. Embittered by this perceived betrayal, Paine tried to ruin Washington’s reputation by calling him a treacherous man unworthy of his fame as a military and political hero. Paine described Washington as an incompetent commander and a vain and ungrateful person. In a scathing open letter to President Washington in 1796, he wrote: “the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any.

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Maréchal Ferdinand Foch’s (1851-1929) rise to fame is firmly embedded in the popular consciousness of France as a symbol of Gallic spirit and determination to resist the invader at any cost. It was as the commander of the Ninth Army during the first battle of the Marne he displayed decisiveness that would turn the tide of the battle. Only a week after taking command, with the whole French Army in full retreat, he was forced to fight a series of defensive actions to prevent a German breakthrough. During the advance at the marshes in St.-Gond he is said to have declared: “My center is yielding. My right is retreating. Situation excellent. I am attacking.” These words were seen as a symbol both of Foch’s leadership which seems was, however lost on Maxime Weygand, his chief of staff .

Foch influenced General Joseph Joffre (chief of general staff, July 28, 1911 – Dec. 12,1916) when he drafted the French plan of campaign (Plan 17) in 1913.

Joseph Joffre(1852-1931)

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Papa Joffre (as he was called) took charge as Chief of the French General Staff in 1911.

In this capacity Joffre was responsible for the development of the deeply flawed Plan XVII blueprint for the invasion of Germany, which did not take account of the likelihood of a German invasion of France through Belgium.

Responsible for the French war effort, Joffre’s remarkable qualities of magisterial calm and an absolute refusal to admit defeat proved vital during the early days of the war, particularly during the First Battle of the Marne, after which he was declared the saviour of France, although others since claimed credit for saving France at the Marne, including Gallieni.

After two and a half years as Chief of Staff, Joffre was effectively dismissed on 13 December 1916 following the initial success of the German offensive at Verdun and other failures.  He was made Marshal of France on the same day.

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(Ack: firstworldwar.com,wikipedia)

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