July 28

Amber pages

The potato was introduced into Europe, today in 1586. By Sir Thomas Harriot - who had the humility not to name them after himself. Solanum tuberosum, in Latin, Batatas in the Caribean, Spuds in Lancashire, Recycled Peelings in MacDonalds - but those were surely yams, sweet potatoes, and not the white ones eaten by the Peruvian Incas for at least five thousand years, and which they called papas.

The potato was introduced into Europe, today in 1588, by Clusius, on behalf of the governor of Mons, who had been given one by one of the Pope's attendants.

The potato was introduced into Europe, today in 1589. By Sir Walter Raleigh, who planted 40,000 of them on his estate near Cork (what, they were never a native crop? Not even in Ireland?).

But hadn't Christopher Columbus already brought back the patata, decades and decades earlier?

French fried potatoes were introduced into Europe, today in 1789, by street vendors on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris, conscious that revolution was about to bring vast crowds onto the streets, and hoping to cash in on their hunger...

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a man about who I know absolutely nothing, except his name, and that he has been somebody I have been promising myself for decades that I will eventually get around to reading, or at least to reading about; my resolution to do so reborn, on his birthday, today in 
1844 (that magnificent sculpture depicting him is by Rowan Gillespie, though contemporary portraits suggest that he might not have been quite that handsome, quite that angelic).

World War I began, today in 1914. And isn't that a wonderful headline! So succinct, so precise, so complete! The event which brought a thousand years of European civilisation to its dramatic end; its apocalypse; the insemination of the most barbaric century in human history, at the end of which technology stood poised to reduce humans to automatons and the entire globe to homogeneity; the century in which the proletariat rose up across the globe, and failed completely to overthrow the masters and the human mania for exploration stood on the verge of turning the rest of the cosmos into a toilet, just as we have done to our own little corner of it... all of it, summed up in just those six simple words and four numbers!

Malcolm Lowry, the writer Lowry not the painter Lowry (he was a Laurence), erupted from under the volcano, today in 1909, and never ceased pouring lava till the day he died, on June 26th 1957, alas a day too early for inclusion in my novel "A Journey In Time" (a piece about him for Private Collection is, however, in draft, and has been for many years, and will eventually get finished, I hope). I have a deep conviction that, when the history of literature-in-English gets written, about two hundred years from now, Lowry will be removed from virtual oblivion, where he currently resides, and placed alongside Faulkner and Patrick White, where he belongs: the exquisite linguists of the human mind and soul.

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2018 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment