Monday January 22, 2018

Was Sherlock Holmes completely opposite? A Priest-Detective and his cases (Column: Bookends)

0
//
166
Sherlock Holmes, Wikimedia
Republish
Reprint

April 16, 2017: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” The Shadow, the mysterious narrator of a 1930 American radio show, knows — as he told us with his eerie laugh — but he wasn’t the only one. Various detectives — Sherlock Holmes, et al — made it their business to find out too, as well one whose calling exposed him to it. And he was equally effective despite being Holmes’ polar opposite.

Unlike the tall and lean and striking Holmes, Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest, is short and stumpy, with “a face as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling”, “eyes as empty as the North Sea” beneath his spectacles, wears shapeless black clerical garb and always carries a large umbrella.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

The real difference is in their methods. While Holmes uses the deductive approach — reasoning from one or more premises towards a logical conclusion — as well as the abductive, using his superb observation and sharp brain to fashion from available evidence a theory that can explain it, Father Brown is intuitive, seeking to place himself in the criminal’s mind to find how the deed was done and thus ascertain who did it.

But there were similarities too. Both rejected supernatural causes and had keen insights into evil — Holmes by dint of research and our priest by his work, once telling an adversary: “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?”

Debuting in 1911, Father Brown was the creation of author and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), a colossus both in appearance and intellect, and also a poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, and a literary and art critic.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

Chesterton, who had read Holmes (he prepared a number of illustrations for them — which weren’t used and have been only recently discovered), however sought to create a counterpoint to the trend of the coldly analytical detective. The good priest’s reliance on philosophical and spiritual truths also serves to express Chesterton’s own point of view of the world.

The 50-odd stories, 48 published in five collections: “The Innocence/Wisdom/ Incredulity/Secret/Scandal of Father Brown” between 1911 and 1935 (three stories were found and published posthumously) are masterpieces of the genre, with their ingenious puzzles, fiendish plots set out against evocative descriptions of time and place, and spirited dialogue and observations. Chesterton, termed the “prince of paradox”, was also gifted in creating a supernatural ambience — but one that is easily dissipated and stumping us with the unexpected, but perfectly reasonable, solution.

Brown debuts in “The Blue Cross” in which French policeman Valentin, in England on the trail of notorious criminal Flambeau, sees him in his rail carriage but dismisses him as pitiable. But it is the seemingly oblivious priest who enables the arrest of Flambeau (disguised as a fellow priest) by identifying and outsmarting him while laying a strange but unmistakable trail across London for Valentin to follow.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

But after encountering Flambeau in two further stories in the first volume itself, Brown succeeds in weaning him off a life of crime and making him a companion (like Dr Watson) in most of the canon, a strange assortment of tales, set not only in Britain, but also in rest of Europe, the US and in Latin America. And all may not be crimes, despite the evidence (if you pardon the pun).

A recently-deceased Scottish lord’s castle has several strange things — candles without candlesticks, jewels lying loose, prayer books mutilated and so on — and when his body is exhumed, the skull is missing (“The Honour of Israel Gow”); a retired soldier faces some inexplicable attempts on his life after a strange curse in India while an assailant runs off with condiments from the dinner table (“The Salad of Colonel Cray”); a dog howls in despair at the time its master is stabbed to death back at home (“The Oracle of the Dog”); an unclaimed glass which held whiskey helps to solve a murder in a bar (“The Quick One”); are the simultaneous murders of three American millionaires (“The Ghost of Gideon Wise”) a conspiracy by the militant trade unionists and so on.

Father Brown also shows how a revolution-minded university teacher cannot have murdered two businessmen in an Oxbridge college (“The Crime of the Communist”) , how an eminent criminologist and psychic researcher are misled in two cases (“The Absence of Mr Glass” and “The Blast of the Book”), and exposes a number of charlatans, including holy men drawn from various sects/religions.

But the priest-detective, who like Holmes, continues to be written about long after his creator passed on and appearing in other media, had another prominent legacy. The good father, who according to Italian Marxist ideologue Antonio Gramsci, far outstripped Holmes, also inspired the trend of clergy detectives (nearly 350 according to Philip Grosset of www.detecs.org, mainly from Christianity and Judaism but even Buddhism). Other religions are only represented by devout laity. Anyone keen to address the deficiency?  (IANS)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

0
//
93
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)