The author is a well-known academic historian of Russia and Ukraine, which he approaches from a Christian (Russian Orthodox) and nationalist perspective, arguing that nationalism and Christian Orthodoxy are inseparable. He also writes widely on current affairs. Rare for contemporary Western historians of Russia, he sources original materials in Russian, pulling back the veil on much misunderstanding, ranging from modern history back to Russia’s very beginnings in the Middle Ages.
His latest book, Ukrainian Nationalism (2019), (Amazon), is the definitive treatment of this topic and is essential reading to understand the current political turmoil in Ukraine. It argues that Ukrainian nationalism is real and legitimate, but needn’t be Anti-Russian, and that Russia and Ukraine are in fact natural allies. Here is his article on Russia Insider explaining some of the ideas in the book. There is no other scholar writing today about Russia and the Ukraine with this extraordinary command of historical detail and meaning. Johnson is a national treasure, and his works are highly recommended. For a fascinating audio podcast discussion of the book by Johnson and Andrew Carrington Hitchcock, see here.
If you are so inclined, please rate the book on Amazon, as this increases sales greatly. It is a great way to support the author and help spread the ideas in the book. If Amazon blocks you from leaving a review, please let us know in the comments section below, and/or send an email to [email protected]
“The Jews were forwarding money to separatist princes in an effort to permanently divide Russia. … Jewish usury was a revolutionary development that required rapid intervention.”
“… the Jews had been given permission to enslave the Russians in exchange for a regular subsidy. Very soon, Jewish usury had much of the country in debt …”
” … the Jewish moneylenders received protection from Kiev and shared their cash with the prince. In turn, he would use this to maintain the army and keep all anti-Jewish forces at bay …”
“Jewish slave dealers had a special hatred for Slavic slaves. St. Eustratii (was) sold to a “ferocious Jew” on Korsun. Trying to force him to renounce Orthodoxy, he was tortured to death by the Jewish slave traders. All told, 50 Russians died this way from this same raid.”
In Old Kiev, prince Sviatopolk II Izyaslavich ruled the city through his dependence on Jewish usury. It was proof of illegitimacy in that this was his major prop of financial support. The Chronicles state that the invasion of the Polovtsy from the south were God’s punishment on this excoriable policy.
Upon the death of Yaroslav the Wise in 1054, his successor was Izyaslav. The prince of the powerful and increasingly independent Turov, Vyslav, challenged him and drove him from the city. Kiev was pillaged while the population demanded the return of Izyaslav. In the meantime, the city had disintegrated. Izyaslav was then challenged by Sviatoslav, who in the meantime had gone to the Germans. In response, Izyaslav went to Rome in 1076.
Detail from one of the most extraordinary monuments in Russia, “The Millenium of Russia” (1862), in Novgorod. For more details see this excellent Wikipedia entry)
Once Sviatoslav died, four princes vied for power: Vsevolod, Sviatopolk II, Vladimir Monomakh and Izyaslav. The coalition of Vsevolod and Sviatopolk II defeated the endlessly embattled Izyaslav, who died soon afterwards. Vsevolod and Sviatopolk II then ruled the state. The context then was an era of constant violence from local princes and several foreign powers, including the steppe nomads (the Polovtsy), Germans and Poles. The formerly strong, law-bound economy was gone and the rule of the strongest was the norm. Society was demoralized. This gave rise to the dominance of money lending.
Given that this prince gave the usurers free rein, a powerful oligarchy developed on the backs of rural communes. Slavery resurfaced as debt-bondage was the only recourse for many. As more and more land became forfeit due to debt, this oligarchy grew fangs. One manifestation of this was salty speculation during the embargo created by Galicia, the major salt exporter of Central Europe. The Caves Monastery released its stores, thereby reducing the price to manageable levels. The result was that Sviatopolk ordered the confiscation of all salt held by monastic institutions. The population had other plans, and a mob quickly reversed that policy. The mob was not stupid – they marched straight to the Jewish quarter where the salt was found.
Both the Caves Paterikon and the Chronicles state clearly that the oligarchy was aware of its illegitimacy and that it ruled solely by deceit and usury. It also stated baldly that they were very nervous. The death of the prince unleashed a revolt of the population explicitly and clearly dedicated to ending usury and debt bondage in 1113. It was an agrarian revolt against rentier income: income that is unearned, based on one’s commanding position economically or politically. It was not directed against the “feudal elite” as most history books in both English and Russian will state. It was aimed at oligarchy. Soviet era historian MN Tikhomirov writes:
It was directed against exploitation in all its forms, and clearly usury and the resultant bankruptcy and forfeiture of its victims. The collection of compounding interest became a tool for the enrichment of the boyars, merchants and upper clergy. Although religious canons always insisted that “rezoimanie” (usury) is a sinful thing, all church decisions in this regard were of a purely declaratory nature. During the second half of the 12th century, Ilya, the bishop of Novgorod bishop threatened severe punishment for clergy engaging in this practice. Monastic usury was widespread and carried out under various pretexts. . .(Tikhomirov, 2013)
This historical analysis is deeply flawed. There is little evidence of systematic usury among clergy and monasteries in an economy largely non-monetized. Jews controlled banking in the country and hence, made themselves easy targets of the riots they engendered. Church prohibitions against usury are well known, but since no such concept as “centralized, bureaucratic power” existed at the time (nor could it have), there is no organized way to haul sinners into court. All canons are “declaratory” in this sense.
In Novgorod, the boyar class was deeply usurious and so were all who functioned within her walls. Her “republican” government was like all others of its ilk, a shoddy cover for oligarchy that would (and was) ditched at the moment it ceased to assist them. The entire economy was based on usury, the merchant class and exploitation. When a power threatened her elite no value was too sacred to be thrown overboard. The elite maintained regular ties with Poland, the Grand Duchy and elsewhere so their political allegiances could be altered at a moment’s notice. This is why Moscow needed to act so quickly against them. It was from Novgorod that the Strigolniki and Judaizer heresies spread, both of which justified and ritualized usury.
Further, the problem with Tikhomirov’s view is that these were never systematic. Only the Jewish banking regime was a system of relations that had global connections. The later network spanning the great capitals of Europe was far into the future, but its outlines could clearly be seen. While the system’s text-books speak of the “rebellion against feudalism,” the fact remains that Jews had monopolized usury by the 12th century. Tikhomirov is simply incorrect.
Sviatopolk tolerated the Jewish trade in Russian slaves. The governor of Crimea was a Jew at the time of severe weakness in the Byzantine empire. While formally a Christian, this ma immediately permitted Jewish trade in slaves. While the Khazar state had been smashed a century prior, the domination of Jewish traders in the area had not abated. In this case, Sviatopolk brought them into Kiev as a means to ensure an income against his relatives.
The Jews used the Polovtsian raiders to obtain slaves. The Turkic hordes now had Jewish patronage. By 1092 or so, these raids increased markedly. They were then sold to the Jews on Crimea. By all accounts, Jewish slave dealers had a special hatred for Slavic slaves. St. Eustratii the Faster of the Kiev Caves, according to the Paterik of the Kiev Caves, was taken in a Polovtsy raid along with 20 or 30 others and sold to a “ferocious Jew” on Korsun. Trying to force him to renounce Orthodoxy, he was tortured to death by the Jewish slave traders. All told, 50 Russians died this way from this same raid.
St. Vladimir had five sons. Upon his death, Sviatoslav attempted to form his own state with Turov. Yaroslav fought against this and the former was killed in the fighting. In Novgorod, Yaroslav then had to fight Sviatopolk, seeking to take Kiev. Soon, outmatched at home, he went to Poland. The rape of Kiev with Polish soldiers made their paymaster very unpopular. With broad support, Yaroslav defeated Sviatopolk, but the resulting power was too much for Mstislav, a grandson of Vladimir.
The next generation saw Izyaslav, son of Yaroslav the Wise, defeated for Kiev by Vesvolod of Polotsk. Izyaslav went to Rome and converted to the Roman church in Poland. At Sviatoslav’s death, Vsevolod and Izyaslav mad peace, but this was not to last: a coalition of Vsevolod and Monomakh defeated him, and he died in 1078, Vsevolod died in 1093. The Liubech Code was partly the result of this chaos.
The first Kievan synagogue was built under Sviatopolk. His father Izyaslav, during one of the many civil wars that plagued old Kiev, fled to Poland for assistance. While living there, he became quite the Judeophile. Later, he ran to the Germans, promising to make Kiev a tributary of the German state if an army were given him. He was even willing to accept papal rule over Kiev as well. It is from the Jewish influx under Izyaslav that Jews first penetrated Russia.
Both rulers knew the Jews had been given permission to enslave the Russians in exchange for a regular subsidy. They quickly became unpopular, but Svyatopolk’s police protected them diligently. As always, the synagogue, contrary to popular belief, was never meant as a prayer house. It was a fortress for protection and a center for military and ideological mobilization. While protected, the Jews never quite needed it. They had a martial tradition of their own. Very soon, Jewish usury had much of the country in debt, and, especially when facing unrest among princes, foreign occupation and defeats from the Polovtsy, the population had enough.
The mob looted the Jewish quarter in that same year of unrest. Since it was an urban movement, it could not have been a rebellion against “feudal exploitation” but, since no such conceptual objected existed at the time, it was directed against those that did: merchants, Jews and those profiting from them. These were foreigners, those who had no connection to the soil and hence, used human material as the “soil” to grow their profit.
The power of the boyar class at the time was as obnoxious as ever. Its faction fighting destroyed the property of Galicia as nobles, caring only for property and profit, used Turks, Cumans, Poles, Hungarians or Tartars to invade the territory of their rivals. The surplus of the promising Galician economy was decimated. The Jews were singled out, again, because of the systematic and deceitful means used that set them apart.1 Importantly, it was under the rule of Sviatopolk where the Jews, invited and encouraged, first made their agenda obnoxiously known.
Thus, it was a fairly new phenomenon.
The riot in 1113 was very popular, aimed at Jews and the gentiles that had business relationships with them. These were well known and were anything but arbitrary. It was the nobility, fearing for their money, that sent for Monomakh to restore “law and order.” They stated that, if left unchecked, they might even “rape your daughter and family.” This was a lie, since the targets of the mob were very clear. They wrote to Vladimir saying: “Come, prince, to Kiev so as to stop the violence; the Jews will attack the nobles, the monasteries and even the royal family itself. They will plunder if you do not come.” A meeting of princes concluded that Jews needed to be expelled from Kiev. He did so, and anti-usury legislation was immediately drawn up.
First, interest could not be compounded. He did make a distinction between the charge for the use of money and usury. The interest charged could not be more than the principle. If the lender tried to charge more than the principle over time, the debtor was freed from the obligation of paying the principle at all. The maximum rate of interest could not exceed 20% a year. The Bankrutsky Statute protected the property of smallholders and artisans from confiscation.
Debt slavery was outlawed. Repayment could be done on a installment plan of up to five years if the debtor had a regular income. Interest could not be collected for longer than two years. After that, the loan was no longer interest bearing. When a debtor had to work off a loan, he had the rights of any Russian and was not a slave. The only time slavery was permitted is if the debtor tried to defraud the creditor.
The Testament of the metropolitan of Kiev Nikifor states that “if you take the wealth of your brother though usury, it will do you no good and provide no security or virtue. If you eat meat, you are not eating the meat of sheep or other animals, but the flesh of your brothers, cutting into his flesh though the evil methods of extortion, bribery and unjust debt collections.” This shows that the practices of the Khazars were well known and that many were aware that the mind of that empire has not gone away.
Ancient Khazaria is essential to understanding the Jewish mind. By the early 8th century, it reached from the west Caucasus to the Sea of Azov and took most of the Crimean steppe. To show its commercial nature, its capital lay at the mouth of the Volga. In the work of Lev Gumilev and Tatiana Gradev, the Khazar civil war of 810-820 led to the total Judaization of the elites. The war was between Islam and Judaism, two social views very similar, but ultimately, it concerned the orientation of this commercial parasite.
The empire was a “chimera” in Gumilev’s view defined as any x having two distinct rhythms or functions, creating a cacophony understood only subconsciously. This consists of a state without any real ethnic or racial basis, merely a gaggle of people held together by force. The ethnic mix was chaotic, maintaining the Jewish ruling class secure. From this time forward, “Gog and Magog” were exclusively used in reference to Khazaria. Only during the Crimean war did the English propaganda machine equate “Ros” or “Rosh” with “Rus.” In reality, it refers to the chief prince rather than a people. In a letter from Hisday ibn Sharput in 9th century Spain, the Khazar king is referred to as “Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” The testimony of the church fathers of both east and west was that Antichrist is Khazaria.
The Pecheneg and Polovtsy forces that harassed Kiev through much of its existence were popularly associated with the Jewish control over the slave trade. The profit for the nomads was to sell the Slavs to the Jews. Klyuchevskii argues that short-term loans were extremely expensive and not regulated by law at all. He further suggests that the real agenda of Jewish moneylenders at the time was not so much the quick payoff, but the destruction of Russian capital. Default meant that the property went to the Jews and its debtors became slaves.
Once the Khazar Khanate was destroyed, the Jews moved to Tmutarakan, from which they orchestrated the nomadic attacks on Russia. From there, they moved north to Kiev. Since the Jews had great experience in banking, they were easily able to dominate their gentile competitors. This served as a convenient midpoint between Byzantium and Kiev and was at one time the capital of St. Vladimir himself.
Rather than making war on the nomads, rulers such as Izyaslav would much rather hire them out than fight them. For the first time – specifically in 1068, the veche became a powerful voice in Russia. If the ruling class and pagan aristocracy were planning on working with the Poles, Jews and nomads, then the most patriotic of the elite organized into the veche. Izyaslav took his revenge on the urban poor the veche were advocating for.
Similarly for 1113, Sviatopolk II, rather than go to the nomads, made an alliance with the Jews. Each ruler and faction was trying to discover which alien group would give them the best advantage over the others. At the end of the 11th century, there were three factions in Kiev: the old nobility, the pro-western associates of Sviatopolk II and the veche. Sviatopolk threw in his lot with the Jews. The result was that Jews were able to rule at will.
The westernized nobles along with the prince and Jews eased out both the church and the old nobles, permitting the Jews to absorb the capital of the area in exchange for financial support. Lev Gumilev writes:
The control mechanism was extremely simple: the Jewish moneylenders received protection from Kiev and shared their cash with the prince. In turn, he would use this to maintain the army and keep all anti-Jewish forces at bay (Gumilev, 2014).
It was the death of this prince that permitted the old nobles and the people to fight back. The collapse of the older tribal system and the rise of the state separated the people from the traditional sources of morals. The church was not as yet firmly in control, so chaos demoralized most people. As the factions fought it out for control of the state, money and finance became very important. Hence, the Jews were as well.
The destruction of Jewish usury and their removal from power by Vladimir Monomakh was significant largely because it restored the power of the church and assisted greatly in the Christianization of the country. The importance of this cannot be overstated: The Russian empire was to be the very opposite of the Khazar mind and this was made explicit in document after document.
Vladimir Monomakh was the first “gatherer of the Russian lands.” The Jews were forwarding money to separatist princes in an effort to permanently divide Russia. The warfare among princes had debased the population. Jewish usury was a revolutionary development that required the rapid intervention of a legitimate prince.
Kalyuk, E. (2012) Bankrotstvo fizicheskikh lits: dolzhnikov bit’ ne planiruyetsya. The Journal of
Pakhmonov, S. (2014) The Reality of Debt and the Civilization of Ancient Russia. «Бюджетный учет» October http://b-uchet.ru/article/263334.php
Golb N., O. Pritsak Khazar-Jewish documents of the X century. M., 2003, pp 21-22, 30-31.
2 Richard Pipes. Russia Under the Old Regime. NY, 1974. P. 28-31.
Kulisher IM History of the Russian economy. 2nd ed. Chelyabinsk Society, 2004
Russian legislation X-XX centuries. The 9 tons. Ed. OI Chistyakov. Legislation ancient.
Tatishchev VN Russian history. The 7-ton. T. 2. M., L., 1963. S. 129
Tikhomirov, MN (1955) Ancient Russia. Reprinted Online at the Journal of Alexander Nevsky
Froyanov, I. (2012) Ancient Rus IX-XIII centuries. Popular movements. Princely power and Veche. Reprinted Online at the Journal of Alexander Nevsky
LN Gumilev (2014) Ancient Rus and the Great Steppe. Aris Press
Isabel Allende: ‘There is a real war against women’ | USA
The world’s best-selling Spanish-language author talks feminism and love in later life as she unveils Violeta, a novel about the world between two pandemics.
Isabel Allende published her debut novel at the age of 40, finding global success with The House of the Spirits, about the tangled history of a Chilean family leading up to the years of the country’s dictatorship. This was followed by almost 30 books that have sold around 70 million copies in 42 languages. Now on the verge of turning 80, Isabel Allende lives a semi-reclusive life in San Francisco and will publish the English-language version of Violeta, her latest novel, next week. This new tale begins in the 1920s with the havoc wreaked by the so-called Spanish flu, and ends 100 years later in the midst of our own pandemic.
This perfect ellipsis is used to pay homage to her mother’s generation, though it never neglects her usual themes: domination, power, women’s aspirations to enter forbidden spaces, freedom, loyalty and love. Allende believes that Chile has a new chance with the election of the youthful left-winger Gabriel Boric, and is proud to have become a passionate old woman. She speaks openly of her marriages and relationships, of the death of her daughter Paula, and the fear of love she sees in her grandchildren’s generation.
What follows is an edited version of her interview with EL PAÍS.
Question. Your new novel, Violeta, begins with the wrongly-named Spanish flu and ends in the times of Covid-19. What a good tool literature is for tracing historical ellipses, don’t you think?
Answer. It was almost natural that it came out that way. The idea was born when my mother died, a year before the pandemic. If she had lived another year, she would have been 100 years old. She was born in a pandemic, because the flu arrived in Chile in 1920, and she would have died in another one. When she died, many people told me to write her story. We had an extraordinary relationship. But she was always submissive, first to her father and then to her husband. There is no self-fulfillment for a woman if she cannot support herself. If you depend on someone else to pay your bills, you have to bow down. And that was my mother’s fate, even though she was a very creative woman. As I wrote, not knowing what Violeta would become, I think that deep down she is the woman I would have liked my mother to be.
Q. Your mother was an artist, she painted?
A. She painted and had an eye for business. If her father and husband had listened to her, they would have ended up rich. She knew instinctively where to invest.
Q. What sets your generation apart from your mother’s? In a short time a big gap was created.
A. My generation went out on the streets, and many went to college, although I didn’t. They looked for work and they earned a living. But this is within a specific social class. The humblest and hardest workers have always supported their families; I am talking about that class of girls who were educated to be wives and mothers.
Q. You have always been interested in inventing women with grit and determination.
A. I am surrounded by them! Extraordinary women. Often I find a human model to develop as a character, but I’m overwhelmed by reality because they achieve things I would never have dreamed of.
Q. Reality itself is often an exaggeration… should we suppress that in fiction?
A. Exactly. When I wrote The Infinite Plan, based on my second husband William Gordon, there were critics who argued that no one could have all that happen to them, yet I had to cut some things out to make it believable. Fiction must be believable, and at times life is not.
Q. What are your work’s obsessions? What questions are still present and what answers have you not found?
A. They are always the same: love and death. Violence, the need for justice, loyalty and courage. And a subject that haunts me: power with impunity, both in the family and in society.
Q. You fail to mention feminism. You say that the key to that movement is not what women have between their legs, but between their ears.
If Boric manages to do half of what he intends to, it will already be a step forward
A. Of course, that has marked my whole life! We live in a patriarchy. Morals, laws, everything is mostly done by men. We women have to find loopholes to let our voices be heard. More and more often we are succeeding. But we are not there yet. There is a real war against women.
Q. The problem in the West is that there is a far right wing that maintains that the patriarchy is in danger and that the loopholes to which you allude are already too numerous. What do we do?
A. Didn’t I tell you that we live under a patriarchy? By that logic, they don’t like any gains from the other side. But women have been tearing bits and pieces out of the situation little by little. And they will succeed, but I will not be alive to see it. Even so, I feel the rumbling underground energy of young people. Look at what just happened in Chile.
Q. I was thinking that too.
A. A young man like Gabriel Boric, 35 years old, has won [a presidential election]. Who voted for him? 63% of women and three out of four young people too. I feel that energy, and that is why I am very optimistic about the future. They are not going to stand idly by as these old fogeys run the world.
Q. What do you think these elections crystallized?
A. What has been going on for many years. Inequality, discontent, corruption and impunity produced an outburst in 2019. They did not really know what they were demanding. It was not just the price of a subway ticket, although that served as an excuse: it was privatization, the state of education, the scandalously miserable pensions, the complete corruption of the whole system. They demanded a new constitution. Democratic, and not imposed from above as has happened with all of them since the beginning. The pandemic sent everyone home and it all seemed to be frozen, but the election came along and it had not been forgotten, far from it. Things are happening there.
Q. Of course.
A. If Boric manages to do half of what he intends to, it will already be a step forward. His acceptance speech summarized in 17 minutes the great aspirations I have for Chile: inclusion, equality, women, diversity, democracy, respect for nature. If he succeeds, it will be a huge step forward. If the CIA doesn’t get involved, of course.
Q. How has that young woman who you once were, going into exile, been stirred up during the months of campaigning?
A. It’s been a long time. We live in another country, in another world. I notice a little wink from Boric to Allende. But I never think about that girl anymore.
Q. Is she someone you have definitely left behind?
A. Yes, deep down, when I go to Chile, I feel like a foreigner. The dictatorship changed it completely. It’s another country. I feel Chilean if I talk to people, but if I go there, I feel as foreign as in the United States, where I live.
Q. So you define yourself as a foreigner and you’re not at all nostalgic?
A. I am nostalgic for that time when I felt I belonged somewhere. But it is a sentimental, romantic and very unrealistic nostalgia.
Q. A kind of nostalgia, on the other hand, that is good for your work?
A. Yes, because that’s where my roots nourish me. This last book, for example, although I never mention it, I could not have written it if I did not come from Chile. I carry it here, in my heart.
Q. Violeta also carries things in her heart. For example, when one does the formula “wife plus mother equals boredom,” it’s mathematics. Isn’t it the same equation that you confess to having experienced in your first marriage?
A. Yes, it certainly draws on personal experiences. My first husband, Miguel Frías, was like Violeta’s first husband: respectable and a good person. Then came the passion I experienced in Venezuela with an Argentinean. He made me leave that first husband and my children, but it didn’t last, and I quickly became disillusioned. When I feel that affection, mutual respect and admiration is over, that’s it. Ciao!
I think it takes more courage to stay in a relationship that doesn’t work than to leave
Q. Even so, you got married again.
A. Yes, to a fascinating, adventurous man who at first you weren’t sure if he was a criminal or not, and that was Willie Gordon. But that too ended when I noticed that on his side the affection had stopped. I could have gone on, but as soon as I realized it, it was “Ciao!” again. I got divorced at 74 and people said, “What? You are going to be all alone.” Well, I think it takes more courage to stay in a relationship that doesn’t work than to leave.
Q. And then Roger came into your life. Your third partner.
A. Roger gives me what I need: a lot of love. The rest I can get on my own. But I can’t allow myself that unless I get it as a gift. And he gives it to me!
Q. Does this fulfill your aspiration to become what you were looking for, a passionate old woman?
A. I’ve been training all my life for that. Don’t you think that you can just get to old age and be passionate, you have to train for it.
A. By taking risks. By throwing yourself into adventures, participating in life with curiosity about others and the world, not settling in where you feel good. I see young people my grandchildren’s age who have cautious relationships, who don’t want to suffer. What are you going to do with your life if you don’t want to suffer?
Q. They are often overprotected by their parents. Is that good or unrealistic? Shouldn’t they suffer a little more?
A. That’s what I say, let them suffer a little. Gentle neglect works well for children. That’s how I raised Paula and Nicolás. I held down three jobs simultaneously when I was raising them, I didn’t have time to keep an eye on what they were doing. I suppose they took a lot of risks and did stupid things, but they also grew up without me monitoring everything.
Q. The happiest moments of your life, you say, were when you held them in your arms for the first time, and the saddest, when you held Paula, who was dying. Have you been able to turn that grief into something positive?
A. Yes, into action. Writing the book about my daughter, Paula, helped me to put it into words, to understand what had happened. Her year-long agony was a very dark night. Everything was a haze of pain and anguish. When I started organizing it, based on things I had written to my mother and the notes I took, I realized that my daughter’s only way out was death. I had to accept it, understand it, try to get rid of the rage I had built up from that neglect that gave her severe brain damage. Nobody tried to hurt her on purpose; it was a series of circumstances. I received thousands of letters, as there was no internet. And by answering them, all of them, I was developing a communication process with people. Everyone has suffered losses and pain. That was extraordinary. I feel Paula everywhere. I won’t say I’m seeing ghosts, but it’s a very strong feeling. And the proceeds from that book went to a foundation that is dedicated to doing what she would be doing if she were alive, defending the fundamental rights of women and children.
Q. Which is more painful and which is celebratory, writing about one’s parents or one’s children?
A. I don’t know. I make use of them all: parents, grandparents, children, cousins… When I published The Sum of Our Days, my son Nicolás told me: “Please, mom, don’t ever write about me again. I have a private life and I don’t want to expose my family.” And I didn’t. It’s been 15 years since that memoir and no more.
Q. After Paula, in Aphrodite you paid tribute to aphrodisiacs. Did it work for you?
A. I was lucky that book was published four months before Viagra appeared. Otherwise, not a single copy would have been sold.
Q. Thank goodness!
A. After Paula was published, I couldn’t write anything. Everything came out flat, gray, boring, impossible. I remembered that I was a journalist and I looked for a subject that was as far away from grief as possible: love, gluttony, sex. And the bridge between these are aphrodisiacs, so when I researched and tested the recipes with friends…
Q. Tell me which ones really work.
A. None, the only thing that works is imagination.
Q. The same in men as in women?
A. Especially with women, we romanticize everything, we get sentimental, we make up stories because we find that much more stimulating than anything else. Men are very visual. I don’t know if Playboy magazine still exists. They have tried to make those magazines for women and they don’t work. They’re bought by homosexuals. We don’t get turned on by seeing a half-naked man, we get turned on by having something whispered in our ear. The G-spot is in the ear, you don’t need to look for it elsewhere.
Q. Wise advice at almost 80 years old!
A. I’m almost there!
Q. Do you plan your books much?
A. Nooooo! Except if they deal with historical episodes. I’ve learned after 40 years of writing to relax, to not try to force either the story or the characters with what I previously thought it should be. If I let myself go by instinct and enjoyment, discovering what happens, it usually works much better. There is a very intuitive part to writing.
Q. Many consider you to be one of the very few female voices of the Latin American Boom, a very masculine movement.
A. Well, that’s what they said when House of the Spirits appeared, that I was the only woman in that movement. But then they quickly erased me, I don’t know why, and labeled me as post-Boom. And you know what? Nobody likes to be considered “post” anything.
Former pope Benedict criticised in Munich church abuse report
German investigators have said it was “overwhelmingly likely” that Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was aware of a paedophile priest in his former Munich archdiocese and dismissed as “not credible” his claims he did not attend a key meeting where the cleric was discussed.
On Thursday, lawyers commissioned by the Catholic archdiocese of Munich and Freising presented a report identifying 497 cases of clerical sexual abuse and identified 235 perpetrators – with 42 cases now passed on to state prosecutors.
The report is based on examination of archdiocese files and identifies two cases in which prosecutors say the current archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, breached church rules and did not report abusers to the Holy See.
The report found that 40 of the perpetrator priests identified were known to their superiors at the time of their abuse yet allowed to continue their pastoral work, with many moved to new parishes unaware of their behaviour. Only a handful of priests were punished and laicised.
In the case of Benedict, who served as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger from 1977 to 1982 in Bavaria, investigators uncovered four cases of abusing priests during that time but “no indication” the archbishop was interested in abuse victims.
In response to a catalogue of written questions, the retired pope provided an 82-page written response rejecting claims he knew of abusing priests during his time heading the archdiocese.
“We consider the information from Pope Benedict to be not credible,” said Dr Ulrich Wastl, one of the investigators at a press conference.
Presenting the four-volume report, he said it revealed a “shocking picture” of an institution that, for decades, ignored victims of clerical sexual abuse. Those who took note of survivors, he added, were usually seen “as a danger for the institution”.
Co-investigator Marion Westphal said they had uncovered a “terrible phenomenon of cover-up”. After this report, their second for the Munich archdiocese in a decade, she said the time of investigation had passed and the time of “individual guilt” had come.
The investigators declined to say what consequences, if any, the report should have for the 94-year-old former pontiff.
An entire volume of the report is devoted to one priest who was moved from the diocese of Essen to Munich-Freising in January 1980 for treatment for his paedophile tendencies.
More than two dozen men, in both dioceses, are on record as saying they were sexually abused as teenagers by the priest, identified only as Peter H, often after he gave them alcohol and showed them pornography.
When the case first came to light a decade ago, Munich and Rome moved quickly to insist Benedict, then still pope, had known nothing of the abuse during his time as archbishop.
Ahead of Thursday’s report, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, private secretary to the retired pope, insisted it was “incorrect to claim [Ratzinger] had knowledge of the previous history [claims of sexual assault] at the point of the decision to accept the priest H. He had no knowledge of this previous history.”
In his written response to investigators, the retired pope insists he did not attend a meeting on January 15th, 1980, at which the priest was accepted for therapy.
But a 2016 internal report, commissioned by the Munich archdiocese, disagrees, saying Ratzinger, “knowing the facts” about the priest accepted him and “ignored” a 1962 obligation to report the priest to Rome.
On Thursday, investigating lawyers presented details from the minutes of the January 1980 meeting at which the transfer of the priest was discussed, indicating that the archbishop attended.
The investigating lawyers said they “regretted deeply” that Cardinal Marx declined an invitation to attend Thursday’s presentation. He will make a statement in the afternoon and hold a press conference in a week’s time, after he has had time to read the 1,000-page report.
Planned review of State agencies’ actions dropped in 2018
A proposed inquiry into the sexual abuse and neglect of several children by family members in the Munster area, to examine the actions of State agencies in the case, was previously shelved.
The review, announced in 2018, was halted after a number of months due to concerns raised by those conducting the work and the government’s legal adviser over fears it could prejudice criminal investigations.
On Tuesday, five family members were sentenced and jailed over the abuse and neglect, after earlier being found guilty by a jury of a total of 77 counts against the children following a 10-week trial last summer.
The family members were the parents, aunt and uncles of the children, and cannot be named for legal reasons. They were all found guilty of sexually abusing the three eldest children between 2014 and 2016, while the parents were found guilty of wilfully neglecting five of the children, who ranged in age from one to nine during this period.
Following initial media reports in early 2018, then minister for children Katherine Zappone announced she was to commission an independent review into the serious case of abuse and neglect.
The review was to include an examination of the actions of An Garda Síochána and Tusla, and how they responded to the case.
The children came to the attention of the State’s social services in 2011, and there was extensive engagement between social workers and the family over several years, the trial heard.
Following years of severe neglect, the children were removed from the family home by Tusla in 2016, and placed in foster care. Later that year the eldest child made a disclosure about sexual abuse to his foster parents, which Tusla referred to gardaí, who later opened an investigation.
The proposed independent review of the case was to be led by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, child law expert and former special rapporteur on child protection. A three-person review panel would also include child welfare consultant Suzanne Phelan and retired Garda chief superintendent Pádraig Kennedy.
Internal Department of Children records show officials were in regular contact with Dr Shannon about the proposed review over several months in 2018, before it was halted.
It is understood those involved in the review raised concerns about the work impacting on the criminal case, which were shared by then attorney general Séamus Woulfe, and led to the review being dropped.
A 2019 briefing note from Fergal Lynch, department secretary general, said it “did not prove possible to frame terms of reference that successfully guarded against the dangers of pre-empting the criminal cases that were in process”.
“After a number of months it had to be postponed, because the Attorney General was very concerned about the potential effect on criminal cases pending,” he wrote in the note, released under the Freedom of Information Act.
In a statement on Wednesday, Tulsa said it would review the Munster abuse case “when appropriate to identify any learnings or insights that can be gained from our involvement in the lives of the children and their families”. The agency said its main focus continued to be to “support the children who were the victims in this case”.
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