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Spanish Civil War: Paul Preston: ‘Franco was shy with women, Mussolini an aggressive predator, and Hitler harbored a range of perversions’ | Culture

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With the United Kingdom in a post-Brexit tailspin, Paul Preston, 75, is living in London in what he considers a kind of dystopia. “Well, we knew this was coming with this incompetent, corrupt and lying government,” he says.

His forte is clarity, both as a person and a historian, which comes in very handy when approaching his specialty, Spain’s 20th century, particularly when there are those who continue to twist the truth. Preston’s insightfulness has delivered the best biography on Francisco Franco to date, and he has also penned a number of essays on the more ruthless aspects of the late dictator to counteract his portrayal both in Spain and abroad as a mild version of his tyrannical contemporaries.

Preston has made sure to point out that when it comes to cruelty, Franco was on a par with his fellow fascist colleagues. And this cruelty stemmed not just from fanaticism but also from opportunism, to ensure that he would remain in power until his death. This goal of dying as head of state was achieved by crushing his opponents and making sure they did not stand in his way.

This behavior is described in Preston’s The Spanish Civil War, A People Betrayed and the book which he found hardest to write, The Spanish Holocaust. Now, he depicts Franco’s brutality again in Arquitectos del terror (or, Architects of terror) in which he narrates how Francoism took hold in the 1930s due, among other things, to misleading information that provoked a civil war at the time and now, 90 years later, is still being spread among a not inconsiderable sector of the population, as incredible as that may seem.

The attempts to whitewash Francoism are unrelenting. We have had to listen to leaders of Spain’s conservative Popular Party deny the war took place after a coup d’état in 1936, and to the far-right Vox describe the current government of Pedro Sánchez as the worst in 80 years; in other words, more harmful than the dictatorship. Do you find it depressing that, after years of countering these claims with facts, they continue to be spouted by political leaders?

I remember 20 years ago, when journalists used to ask me if the tension over the Spanish Civil War was going to last, I, an innocent foreigner, would answer, “No, it is surely just a matter of time.” But every time I say this, there’s a concerning new outbreak of Francoism. What I don’t understand is what advantage can be gained from speaking in these terms. In the West, there is an intense and interesting debate between the left and the right on issues that affect people whereas in Spain, this is reduced to a cultural war. This is particularly so when they touch on issues such as homosexuality and come up with nonsense fueled by bitterness. Even in the UK, now that everything has become polarized over Brexit, it hasn’t come to that. A colossal amount of time has elapsed since the 1930s. But, even so, they’re still going at it.

Preston pictured in Highgate Wood in London.
Preston pictured in Highgate Wood in London.Manuel Vázquez

Is this due to masochism?

There is some justification for those on the left or the relatives [of the victims] to still be talking about pending issues. But the right already mourned their dead. They solved that on the spot in the areas taken by the Francoists. So what the hell are they going on about?

When you first came to Spain in the 1960s, as you say, it was only a matter of time before you would start talking about the war. How long did you think you would be discussing it for?

I understood very little. It was truly a strange and foreign country. My grandfather used to warn me, “Be careful, son. They eat very strange things there and they cook everything with olive oil…” I was born just after World War II. In almost all the atlases in school there were many countries that were colored red; that is, countries that were part of the British Empire. We were brought up with this superiority complex that I soon got rid of. And now, you see, this is where Brexit has come from. When I began to study Spain, the Republic, the Civil War, I was shocked by the pigheadedness of the right. British conservatives, by comparison, were much smarter.

In what respect?

They applied what the Italian author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard: “If we want everything to stay as it is, everything has to change.” Now the British right is almost as pigheaded as the Spanish one.

You say you got rid of that sense of superiority early on. How?

By traveling. For me, the most important thing in my life were the years I spent in Spain. That’s how I became aware of what it meant to be British, by living abroad. I learned at Oxford that to become a specialist in a country you have to acquire a kind of second identity. During the four years I spent in Spain, I developed a perception of difference and an appreciation of the meaning of family life. With the industrial revolution in the UK, many folkloric, traditional customs had disappeared. But not in Spain. And that seemed wonderful. Also, the fact that accents were not linked to social class. I belong to the northern working class. Now it doesn’t matter. I’m old and closer to kicking the bucket, but to survive in the world in which I grew up – for example, my going to Oxford on a scholarship was not at all normal. That’s still the case. It’s still very elitist. You felt that pressure; the pressure to speak like them. What happens is that, being from Liverpool, we have a tough attitude that helps us defend ourselves. You could say that in the UK there are two languages: Norman for the upper classes and Anglo-Saxon for the lower classes. I was very struck by these differences.

How long did you stay in Spain the first time?

It took me a long time to return [to the UK]. Traveling then was very expensive and more complicated. I stayed for about two years. [When I got back] I arrived at Gatwick airport at rush hour. I was accustomed to people with olive skin and when I got on the train, I was surprised to see so many red faces. They all looked like caricatures from Dickens novels. I was pleased to have learned another language. That is something that has been lost now too with the Erasmus scholarship – that wonderful thing that has been axed thanks to the Brexit ne’er-do-wells.

Paul Preston at Highgate Wood in London.
Paul Preston at Highgate Wood in London.Manuel Vázquez

It brings to mind the old news announcement from World War II: “Fog in the channel, the continent is isolated.” Does that depress you?

Very much so! On top of that, the pandemic has benefited [UK prime minister] Boris Johnson. It has delayed the consequences, which we are going to see far more of than we are seeing now. The referendum was bad enough. A victory of just 51% should not have been allowed. Too many mistakes have been made. If, as in the Scottish referendum, they had allowed 16-year-olds to vote, the result would have been different.

When you first came to Spain, is it true that you went straight down to the working-class district of Vallecas in Madrid?

It was just one day, to get in touch with a friend. But when I arrived in Madrid, what surprised me in the area around the central Puerta del Sol were all the orthopedic shops for those wounded in the war; also, the smells in the restaurants and the craftsmen working outside their stores. For a Brit, it was very exotic.

One has to feel sorry for you after reading your latest work. It must have been traumatic, while researching the book, to have to pore over speeches by General Queipo de Llano [responsible for mass killings in Seville during the civil war] and Emilio Mola [one of the leaders of the 1936 coup] or those of Father Tusquets [who disseminated anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic conspiracy theories] and the pro-Franco writer José María Pemán. How do you cope with that?

Well, I had already developed a thicker skin during the writing of The Spanish Holocaust. Back then, my wife would often find me crying at the keyboard when she came home from work. The crimes against women and children were unbearable. In this book, I was tracing concrete biographies. We are talking about twisted, perverse figures or, in the case of Tusquets and Pemán, people whose doctrines led to many deaths despite the fact they themselves at times gave the impression of being lay saints. The Pemán who was still around during the Transition had little to do with the man who was around in the war. Regarding Father Tusquets, for someone like me who grew up a Catholic – though I am no longer one – I find the case repulsive because of the inherent hypocrisy.

They couldn’t leave the Jews alone. They were fanatically anti-Semitic.

It was unbelievable. There were 3,000 Jews in Spain before they began to be expelled from northern and central Europe. Then the figure rose to 6,000. And there were more or less 8,000 freemasons. In Tusquets’ file, it was stated that there were 80,000; many of Franco’s military were listed among them. How could this be true? The fact is that it served as a good excuse to persecute whoever.

In fact, Franco’s own library had a few masonic volumes, which would have put him in a difficult position, had word of it got out.

Of course! It’s very interesting. It seems that, yes, Franco flirted with freemasonry and tried to join it.

Yes, because, early on, did Franco even know what it was to be a Francoist?

Indeed, his wife, Doña Carmen, had to teach him that.

Before that, he was a kind of ideological amoeba. He kept his cards close to his chest.

He didn’t even know where he kept them.

And your new book makes it clear that he was the moderate one compared to Mola, Queipo de Llano or Tusquets and Pemán. Did he take them seriously?

By comparison, yes, he was. And not only compared to these individuals, who have their own chapter in the book, but also in relation to their satellites: [Francoist politician Ramón] Serrano Suñer and [Franco’s right-hand man Luis] Carrero Blanco both became crucial for the regime as prominent members of the government, but also the writer [Ernesto] Giménez Caballero. All of them were very moralistic without exactly leading an exemplary life themselves.

Regarding the anti-Semitism they all shared, didn’t the Spanish Church maintain a more ambiguous position?

I believe that the Church was then clearly anti-Semitic. But, as it was with the Nazis, there was no distinction for any of them between the ethnic and the religious. They were simply anti-Semitic, period.

Where does the right’s sense of ownership over Spain come from?

Among other things, from the construction of the anti-Spain as a concept. It pushed them to want to eliminate 60% of the population. The majority was “against” the country. That is why they decided to exterminate or expel them.

British historian Paul Preston.
British historian Paul Preston.Manuel Vázquez

Special attention was paid to teachers, for example, and there was an aversion to the influential educational center Institución Libre de Enseñanza, which formed liberals rather than a dogmatic left.

They talked about the dangers of education. This was due to fear rather than contempt. Hence their reluctance to make education more accessible, because they believed that educating laborers or shepherds increased the risk of revolt.

Did the fanaticism and radicalism of Mola and Queipo de Llano scare Franco himself? You use data to illustrate almost beyond doubt that the death of the former could have been deliberately provoked. And that the fall from grace of the second is not surprising. And in the case of the latter, you also mention the strange relationship he had with his daughter. What happened?

He had an unhealthy relationship [with her], I would say. In the biography written by his granddaughter, Ana Quevedo, she describes the bond of the general with his daughter Maruja as suffocating and triggering his wife’s suspicions. When Maruja decided to marry without his consent, Queipo disinherited her in a fit of uncontrollable rage. His wife then gave vent to her suspicions and asked Maruja if his opposition to the marriage was due to motives “that went beyond paternal love,” as she put it. And she asked her, “Has he ever made a pass at you?” Maruja refused to answer. They were all immersed in double standards and hypocrisy. It’s delicate territory. I have been very careful. On the one hand, the book portrays adoration; on the other, rejection. I have dealt with the material within what is legally permissible.

Hence the title of the chapter devoted to Queipo, whom you call the psychopath from the South? It’s an extreme allegation maintained by witnesses of the violence and abuse with which he incited his troops.

He was absolutely repugnant.

But his remains are still inside the Basilica of Macarena in Seville.

It is curious that he is still there, yet Franco himself has been taken from the Valley of the Fallen.

Having spent your life using facts to flag up the brutalities carried out by these characters, do you despair that they have been either vindicated or their crimes downplayed?

I am aware that my books reach a tiny section of the population. I try to be honest, even if the right-wing press paints me as an amateur and a liar. But I don’t feel like responding to them or to those who spend their lives trying to discredit me. I am aware that I can only do so much. Besides, I don’t use social media. They seem to me to be a waste of time – time that I prefer to spend reading the classics.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on something that I’m not sure will come together. I’m collecting material and I’d like to write something about the sex life of the dictators. It’s going to be complicated, though. I’d like to tackle Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. There’s not much on the others. I could write hundreds of pages on Mussolini, but three at the most on Salazar [the head of Portugal’s authoritarian government from 1932 to 1968].

So what were Franco, Hitler and Mussolini like in that department?

Franco was shy with women; Mussolini was an aggressive predator – a rapist even, and Hitler harbored a range of perversions.

That sounds juicy. What about the political noise in Spain right now? Does it come to your attention in the UK?

I know about it because I read the Spanish media, but if I were to limit myself to the reporting in the UK, I would not be aware of it. They neither cover it, nor give it any importance.

Does that worry you?

What I often say is that I spend enough time wrestling with the past to worry about the future. Perhaps I am too complacent but first, it is very difficult for violence to erupt within the European Union. What they are blatantly seeking is a return to power. And that will depend, as always, on the left not being divided.

That mistake could easily be made again. Don’t you feel exasperated that a lack of appreciation of the past will lead to it being repeated?

In the UK, this is already happening. The current moderate leader of the Labour party, Sir Keir Starmer, is trying to move it towards the center to avoid the mistakes made by his left-wing predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. The followers of the latter, with whom a very interesting comparison can be made with [Prime Minister of the Second Spanish Republic Francisco] Largo Caballero for his hollow revolutionary rhetoric, are standing in the way of what Starmer hopes to achieve. So, it could be said that the British left is unaware of Spain’s past. The person who was very aware of it and acted accordingly, at the beginning at least, was [former Socialist Party prime minister] Felipe González. And I think [the current prime minister] Pedro Sánchez is too. Having said that, I have to stress that I don’t know if politicians read the books that deal with these issues. I have no idea to what extent a politician has time to read a 700-page tome.

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Dad’s army musters in the Dáil to repel the Russian threat

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Rear admiral Gerry Craughwell is all set to swash his buckle and take to the high seas in defence of Mother Ireland.

Who’s with him?

The Independent Senator is no stranger to military manoeuvres. He joined the British army when he was a nipper before returning home to his native Galway to join the Irish Army, serving with the first infantry battalion based in Renmore Barracks before handing in his sergeant’s stripes in 1980.

But you never forget your training. And now, says Gerry, it is time to take the fight to Vladimir Putin by dispatching a crack force from Leinster House to scare the living daylights out of the Russian fleet on its way to play war games next week off the coast of Cork.

He says members of the raiding squad should be drawn from the elite corps known as the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, nominally under the command of captain Charlie Flanagan but, presumably, led on this occasion by rear admiral Craughwell for operational purposes.

“In my view, the issue of the Russian fleet being off the southwest coast of this country in the next few weeks carrying out an exercise is something that we must monitor,” he told the Seanad on Thursday.

“We must send a Naval Service vessel to the southwest with members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence observing what’s going on there.”

Hear hear!

If the highly armed flotilla does not leave Ireland’s exclusive economic zone in the Atlantic, rear admiral Craughwell will detonate Simon Coveney and bore them all to kingdom come

Imagine the scene: the rear admiral in his cocked hat, standing on the prow of LE Kildare Street, chest puffed out and gold-buttoned arm aloft, waving his fist at Russia’s gunboats.

And behind him, standing strong and proud, the highly trained and fearless members of the joint committee eyeballing the terrified sailors who fear Craughwell’s elite force is concealing a terrifying secret weapon brought specially from Cork specially for this dangerous mission.

If the highly armed flotilla does not leave Ireland’s exclusive economic zone in the Atlantic, rear admiral Craughwell will detonate Simon Coveney and bore them all to Kingdom come.

This is serious.

The Naval Service must also provide search-and-rescue back-up for the fishermen who are “taking their lives into their hands by sailing their trawlers into a live firing exercise area”, the rear admiral also informed the Seanad.

“I’ve been involved in live firing events myself down through my career and I can tell you that when we start to fire live ammunition, there is no guarantee that there won’t be an accident.”

He said the Minister for Defence (secret weapon Simon Coveney) must be apprised immediately of the situation.

In the meantime, we understand members of the elite joint committee are training in the pond outside Government Buildings. They have been issued with inflatable armbands and camouflage galoshes and are ready to scramble at a moment’s notice.

Should things turn nasty corporal Bernard Durkan, fresh from his famous victory in the Battle of Lotto Balls, will command the troops in the ground offensive. Tactical genius Bernard, who was mentioned in Dáil dispatches on Thursday, will bring all his experience to the role.

Major Jim O’Callaghan of Fianna Fáil asked Coveney to look at the mandatory age of retirement for members of the Defence Forces as some of them leave “because they know they will have to retire between 56 and 60. At that age, many people are just getting into their prime.”

He then looked to his left.

“Deputy Durkan here beside me, could you imagine if there was a requirement in politics that people had to retire between 56 and 60? We’d lose some of the best wisdom we have in the house.”

Sergeant Kieran O’Donnell (FG) agreed. “Bernard still hasn’t reached his prime.”

“Obviously, I entirely agree with my colleague’s remarks,” replied the great campaigner.

Minister for Defence Coveney, clearly wrestling with the image of Bernard (76) in combat fatigues, bayonet fixed and going over the top, tried to address O’Callaghan’s point.

“On the image of deputy Durkan being in the Defence Forces . . . eh, eh, I, em, eh, eh, while absolutely, em, the retirement age issues are something, eh, that we have been considering and . . .”

He decided not to think about it.

RTÉ’s New Year’s Eve turkey

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin had some tough questions for RTÉ’s director general Dee Forbes and chairwoman Moya Doherty at this week’s meeting of the Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media.

Why hasn’t RTÉ brought back The Den and why was the New Year’s Eve show so awful this year?

He said the committee complained about last year’s effort and this year “we had an awful debacle of a New Year’s television celebration again. What has RTÉ got against New Year’s Eve?

The one great white hope we had was the return of The Den and for some reason that didn’t come back in 2021… It was one of the most positive developments in RTÉ

“Last year they got the tone wrong and this year they managed to get the time wrong. I mean, you’ve one job, that’s the 10-second countdown, and I’d say CNN were nearly welcoming in the New Year before RTÉ were this year, it was so far behind. Simple things like that really resonate with people.”

Turning to childrens’ programmes, he said: “The one great white hope we had in recent times was the return of The Den and for some reason that didn’t come back in 2021 . . . It was one of the most positive developments in RTÉ across the boards.”

What happened? “I think it was a huge mistake” not just for the children “but for the big kids amongst us who enjoyed it as well”.

Griffin said he was raising the matter because the number of parents who contacted him about The Den not returning “was not insignificant”.

As for New Year’s Eve next time out, “Could ye not just focus this year? You’ve got 11 months to work on it and just get it right for the arrival of 2023, please.”

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne suggested Griffin had so many scripted one-liners that maybe RTÉ might get him to present the show next year.

Paschal’s Ulysses odyssey

As it is, there are barely enough hours in the day to cram in all the eating, lounging, thinking, telly, tea, whingeing, scratching, scrolling and playing with the dog.

And here’s the Minister for Finance and president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, hosting another literary event between running his department, writing reviews, going to football matches, chairing history symposiums, working through his library of music albums and adding to his extensive bobblehead superhero figurine collection.

Just where does Paschal Donohoe find the time?

You’d be inclined to hate him, if he wasn’t, well, so flippin’ Paschally.

This thought occurred on Monday night when he popped up at the virtual launch of yet another book about the book Ulysses, which is in the news because it was first published 100 years ago. The Minister was in conversation with Dan Mulhall, whose book Ulysses: A Reader’s Odyssey is hitting the shops just in time for the centenary next week.

Publisher New Island Books says it is “an essential introduction for all readers seeking to navigate Joyce’s notoriously impenetrable masterpiece”.

Dan also happens to be our Ambassador to the US, so it was a transatlantic Q&A, with the Minister in Dublin and the ambassador in Washington.

Paschal said his “great Covid project of 2021” was to read the book (which, naturally, he has).

“I have a copy of Ulysses which has been in my home for at least two decades and I only had, I guess, the courage to pick it up last year and to begin delving into the extraordinary world that is Ulysses and the extraordinary mind and art that Joyce had to offer.”

He wished he had had a copy of Dan Mulhall’s book to guide him through some of the more difficult passages, because he found the opening chapters “tricky enough. I really had to concentrate and persist at it, to build up a little bit of momentum until I met Leopold and Molly.”

The author’s pragmatic advice to people who get bogged down in some of the more puzzling parts is to simply skip on to the next bit and maybe return later.

“I’m approaching this and I’m talking to you here this evening as a very general reader, somebody who is at the very early stages of trying to understand all that Ulysses has to offer,” explained Paschal.

Mulhall was more than delighted to fill him in further, even managing to get in a reference to the last words of the book and their relevance to the Brexit situation today.

Yes,” chirruped Paschal, because he’s read the book.

But no.

Music-head Paschal has had more than one Covid project on the go. In an interview last year he said he had set himself the goal of listening to all of Bob Dylan’s albums

“The last three words are ‘Trieste, Zurich and Paris’,”declared Dan, pointing to the significance of Joyce going to the trouble of writing down that his novel was written in three different European cities at a time of great conflict and change.

Even “the humble reader like myself” can discover the layers and depths in Joyce’s great work, said the president of the Eurogroup, quoting from a “lovely essay” by Anne Enright which he read in the New York Review of Books last year. “Ulysses invites meaning then throws it back at you, multiplied.”

And, as a Ulysses novice, he hailed the veteran diplomat’s book as “a compass to help us on the changing journey that each read offers”.

Mind you, music-head Paschal – a regular reviewer on these pages – has had more than one Covid project on the go. In an interview last year he said he had set himself the goal of listening to all of Bob Dylan’s albums. He must have achieved it because he is now moving on to The Beatles.

Where does he find the time?

A real beaut

Maybe Dan Mulhall’s next literary explainer might be a guide to interpreting and understanding the complex and sometimes baffling world of the parliamentary written reply.

Here’s one from this week in response to a question to the Minister for Finance by Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe, who asked why the beauty industry is subject to a VAT rate of 13.5 per cent while the hairdressing sector pays a 9 per cent rate and if this anomaly can be rectified.

“The VAT rates applying in Ireland are subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. While hairdressing services apply the 9 per cent rate from 1 November 2020, services consisting of the care of the human body, including beauticians, are subject to the 13.5 per cent rate,” it stated.

“This arises from the fact that many of the goods and services to which Ireland applies a reduced rate of VAT, including services related to care of the human body, have their basis under an EU derogation that provides that as Ireland applied a reduced rate to these items on 1 January 1991, we are entitled to continue applying that reduced ate to those items. However, this is conditional on the rate being no less than 12 per cent. These are known as ‘parked’ items, and are provided for under Article 118 of the EU VAT directive. As the services provided by beauticians are part of these parked items, it is not possible for Ireland to apply the rate of 9 per cent to them.”

Parked items?

With this sort of stuff emanating from Paschal’s department, it’s no wonder he was able to finish Ulysses in under a year.


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Rule number one of ‘Fight Club’ in China: The police always win | USA

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The first rule of Fight Club in China is that the police always beat the criminals. The second rule is that buildings are not demolished. And the third is that if the ending is considered unsuitable, change it.

David Fincher’s 1999 cult film, which was shown just once in Chinese theaters during an edition of the Shanghai Film Festival, is now available on tech giant Tencent’s streaming services in China. But with a different outcome. Warning this article contains spoilers.

In the original, the narrator, played by Edward Norton, has just “killed” his imaginary alter ego, Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, and watches the explosion of several nearby buildings with his girlfriend Maria, played by Helena Bonham-Carter. The anarchist revolution advocated by Durden is underway.

In Tencent’s version, on the other hand, there are no explosions and no scenes of Tyler and Maria holding hands as they watch the destruction. Instead, the screen turns black and writing appears, explaining that the police “arrested all the criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.” According to this alternative ending, Durden is sent to a psychiatric hospital, from which he is released in 2012. Screenshots of the new ending went viral last weekend in China, with comments mocking the changes. Although the film was shown just briefly in movie theaters, many fans have been able to watch pirated versions of the original over the past two decades, and considered the ending one of the film’s fortes.

“When a director comes to present his film in China, people will ask: director, why is your film so avant-garde that it completely dispenses with audiovisual language, ending it instead with just a poster and a story about respecting the law? Is it a satire on censorship in your country? And the director will answer: What? I filmed that?” wrote one user of Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. “Probably everyone in Ocean’s Eleven would also get arrested. And the whole Godfather family, too,” scoffed another. “But the ending was great! A bunch of foreigners in a terrible situation setting off terrorist bombs – a perfect scene to encourage [Chinese] nationalism,” joked another.

(l-r) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee in 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' another movie that was altered for audiences in China.
(l-r) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ another movie that was altered for audiences in China.

It is unclear whether it was Tencent or the film’s original producers who made the changes. On the Chinese movie review platform Douban, the original film is rated nine out of 10 and has 744,000 comments.

China currently has a flourishing movie market, one in which just over 30 foreign films are released on the big screen each year. In fact, it overtook the US market for the first time in 2020, due in part to a quicker recovery from the pandemic. And, according to research portal researchandmarkets.com, it is expected to gross $16.5 billion by 2026, annual growth of 30.1%, with respect to the $3.4 billion in 2020.

Within this market, Fight Club is not the only Hollywood movie to be changed. In 2019, scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody that alluded to Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality were carefully cut out in the Chinese version. While same-sex relationships are not illegal in the world’s second-largest economy, it is considered a sensitive issue and scenes portraying it are often, but not always, removed. Theoretically, they have been banned on television and also on streaming platforms since 2017.

The ending of ‘Lord of War,’ starring Nicholas Cage, was also altered in China.
The ending of ‘Lord of War,’ starring Nicholas Cage, was also altered in China.

Lord of War (2005) endured a similar fate to that of Fight Club. In its original version, the main character, an arms dealer played by Nicholas Cage, manages to escape prison and resume business. The film alludes to the fact that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council ­– the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – are the planet’s main arms dealers. But the version for the Chinese market, which is half an hour shorter than the international version, removes the original ending and replaces it with a text stating that the Cage “confessed to all the crimes of which he was officially accused during the trial, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.”

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High Court orders man to repay €30,000 awarded over fall on slippery tiles

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The High Court has ordered a man who fell on slippery tiles on the porch of his rented council home to pay back €30,000 he received in part compensation.

Mr Justice John Jordan also ordered solicitors who acted for Thomas Keegan (53) to repay €20,000 received in part payment of fees.

The judge made the order in relation to monies paid by Sligo County Council as a condition of being allowed to appeal a €105,000 award made by the High Court in 2017 to Mr Keegan over the accident at his home at McNeill Drive, Cranmore, Co Sligo.

Mr Keegan, who previously worked as a paver, had claimed the slippiness of the terracotta tiling originally installed in the porch, as well as the angle of the porch to face the prevailing wind and rain in Sligo, created a particular hazard.

In 2017, the court found the council was liable and there was no contributory negligence on Mr Keegan’s part.

However, the council was permitted to appeal on the basis of paying €50,000, including the monies to Mr Keegan’s solicitors on his behalf.

Failed to prove

The Court of Appeal (CoA) ordered a retrial and, earlier this month, Mr Justice Jordan found that the plaintiff had failed to prove the council was “in any way responsible” for the accident. He also found it “artificial” for Mr Keegan to suggest he was a visitor to his home, which he rented and occupied.

The case came back before Mr Justice Jordan on Friday for the matter of costs in relation to the second High Court hearing.

Peter Bland SC, for the council, argued his client was entitled to those costs but he had no objection to a stay in the event of another appeal to the CoA. He sought the repayment of the €30,000 for Mr Keegan and the €20,000 for his solicitors given the outcome had been overturned.

John Finlay SC, for Mr Keegan, said he could not oppose the costs order or an order for the return of the monies.

Mr Justice Jordan granted the council its costs for the retrial with the exception of one day’s costs related to the evidence of an expert introduced by the council “who made a difference” to the case.

It was unfortunate the council did not engage this expert at an initial stage in the case and Mr Keegan might have been spared all of this time and expense that followed, he said.

Difficulties

He also ordered the return of the monies paid out but noted that if the council had difficulties with that money being paid as a condition of it being allowed to appeal, it could have appealed that matter itself but it did not.

The court heard the accident occurred on November 18th, 2013, when Mr Keegan was returning home sometime after 5pm after visiting a number of pubs in which he had consumed five pints of Guinness.

He suffered a significant injury to his left ankle, with X-rays revealing a fracture to his left distal tibia and fibula.

The council did not argue the consumption of this level of drink was an act of contributory negligence but argued it as a factor in regard to Mr Keegan’s duty to take reasonable care for his own safety and in his conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.

Having heard expert evidence, Mr Justice Jordan was satisfied the unglazed tiles did not pose a danger.

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