Where do stories come from?

God created man in order to tell stories.
(Hasidic saying)

The Reverend Edward Casaubon is the self-absorbed, pedantic, wrong-headed scholar who disastrously, with his shrivelled sexuality, marries the fresh and eager heroine of Middlemarch Dorothea Brooke. Casaubon spends his adult life working on an ultimate theory to explain where all stories come from. His aim is to prepare an encyclopaedic account of world myths which emphasises their similarities. He rewards the lucky Dorothea, during their courtship, with a recitation of his new view of the philistine god Dragon and other fish-deities. George Eliot satirises his scholarship thus: “Mr Casaubon’s theory …was…a plan for threading the stars together”. He toils on his masterwork in vain and fails to complete it before his death. Middlemarch is a story; Mr Casaubon is a warning. Continue reading


Goodbye to Berlin

Today is the anniversary of the death by hanging of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, at Spandau prison, 17th August 1986. Incarcerated after the Nuremberg trial with six others, he had been there since 1947. By 1966 those others had died or been released and he remained alone for another twenty two years in a prison capable of holding six hundred people. Aged 93 Hess took the extension cord of his lamp wrapped it around his neck and hanged himself, dying by asphyxiation. A note found in his pocket gave thanks to his family. He was buried in a secret location and Spandau prison was destroyed to avoid it becoming a Nazi shrine. It later became an Aldi supermarket instead. Continue reading