Although it is a remarkable story, it was not only irascible and rarefied intellectuals whom Varian Fry aided in their escape from the Nazis ("The Saviour", 11 March). In his Memoirs of a Revolutionary, the Russian Marxist Victor Serge noted of his fellow refugees at the Villa Air-Bel outside Marseilles, "In our ranks are enough doctors, psychologists, engineers, educationists, poets, painters, writers, musicians, economists, and public men to vitalize a whole great country." And vitalise a country they did when they arrived in America. Serge made his own escape in the same boat as one of the founders of contemporary structuralism, Claude Lvi-Strauss.
One omission from Donald Carroll's engaging article should be noted, however. Although Fry helped to obtain the necessary American visa for Max Ernst, it expired before Ernst had an opportunity to leave Marseilles. It was only the intervention of Peggy Guggenheim which managed to secure a replacement visa for Ernst and the money for him to make his way to America. There, an unknown painter called Jackson Pollock was introduced to some of Ernst's paintings in which paint had been carefully dripped on to the canvas. And the rest, as they say, is history.
South Darenth, Kent
A Freudian slip
I was very happy with Natasha Walter's article about me and with Jake Chessum's beautiful photographs which accompanied it ("Freudianism", 4 March), but my heart sank when I read that, as a child, I had apparently learned Arabic and done the shopping because my mother "couldn't be bothered". The comment is untrue; it seems to have arisen out of a confusion between reviews of my sister's novel Hideous Kinky and the real facts of my childhood. I hope you will set the record straight.
How Irish is Irish?
What annoyed me about Kenneth Griffith's absurd foray into historical review (Heroes & Villains, 4 March) was not so much his "reve-lation" that Edward Carson was an arch imperialist, but his simplistic analysis of what, or who, is "Irish".
English people asking "What is the conflict about?" would do well to ignore Griffith's misleading summary of the often bloody relationship between these two islands. In his eagerness to disparage the plantation settlers he fails to mention, for instance, that it was these Scottish Presbyterian forebears of Ian Paisley who, prior to the Act of Union in 1801, had risen up in Ulster against England in the Republican-inspired rebellion of 1798; the same dissenters, who crossing the Atlantic to avoid the Penal Laws, had played a conspicuous part, on the American side, in the War of Independence.
Furthermore, at the end of the 19th century, there were many among the Anglo-Irish "Ascendancy" who, far from despising the "native Irish", were prominent in the Gaelic revival movement and just as determined to see Ireland take her place among the free nations.
At this current positive juncture in Anglo-Irish relations, when many people in Ireland are re-examining long-held cultural and political prejudices, it is a pity that Griffith does not address his own. More basically, he should make himself better informed; since when has John Major relied on Ian Paisley's vote?
The underlying assumption of Kenneth Griffith's attack on Edward Carson seems to be that the Ulster Protestants are not real "Irish Irish" or "Celtic Irish", because they have only lived there since the 17th century.
Does he apply the same principle to the white inhabitants of America and Australia, for example? Their presence, too, is the result of the imperialism of former times. And if so, what is his proposed solution - disenfranchisement or deportation? I only ask.
Arma virumque cano
The Weasel finds the verse from Nostradamus, allegedly foretelling the Great Fire of London, as clear as mud (Up & Down Canary Wharf, 11 March). The mud was not helped to settle by Valerie Hewitt's translation.
The most glaring mistake was the translation of occis as "in the West". In fact, it means slain. The verse, therefore, prophesies that several members of one sect will be killed.
The English words occision (slaughter) and occident (west) would have been familiar to the Weasel's medieval ancestors, as would the infamous occidere trap!
The Weasel may be inspired to improve his knowledge of French by the fact that his Gallic cousins are called belettes, literally meaning "beautiful little creatures". Alas, etymology is full of surprises. It would appear that they were renamed in the Middle Ages in a placatory attempt to counter their evil influence.
Nope is dope
Regarding Alan McMurray's criticism of the Weasel for using the word "Nope" (Letters, 25 February), why shouldn't the Weasel use a colloquial expression? "Nope" is in all the dictionaries I possess. As for his suggestion that the Weasel use a computer spellcheck, surely no literate person can regard computer spellchecks as anything other than a source of amusement.
Hip hip Hoare
I was delighted to read Richard Hoare's letter in praise of Iain Sinclair's Heroes & Villains on the legendary, semi-forgotten guitarist Martin Stone (Letters, 4 March). It seems that Stone is only really remembered by progressive- rock freaks, from whom his Mighty Baby albums command extremely high prices. But I can remember being mesmerised, sitting in a Glastonbury field on 21 June 1971, listening to Mighty Baby extemporise upon "There's a Blanket in my Muesli", with Martin Stone's sublime improvisation weaving in and out of the main theme...
If my story were only true. I've only heard 17 minutes of their five-hour set that day, as featured on the Glastonbury triple album; I was far too young to be hanging around in 1971. But I did make a pilgrimage to that very field on 21 June 1991; ironically, the year that there was no festival. Oh well, at least there were no hippies getting in the way.
deepinder singh cheema
Coin of the realm
Regarding Mark Unsworth's letter (4 March) in which he writes that the true cost of the monarchy leaves the state in considerable deficit, the Prime Minister stated in the Commons two years ago that "It is certainly true that the hereditary revenues from the Crown Estates by far exceed official expenditure in support of the Head of State", adding that this point was not perhaps understood by everyone (Hansard, 11 February 1993, p1117).
No one else in our nation provides the lifelong public service given by the Windsors.
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