Ernest Hemingway

The legendary American writer will soon illuminate the theatrical world in Britain when a little-known play of his is to have its debut performance in London, seventy-eight years after it was written.

The Fifth Column, the writer’s only full-length play, set during the Spanish Civil War, was never performed on the London stage, and had fallen largely out of public memory after failing to win over the critics.

It will be staged at Southwark Playhouse after a producer managed to secure the rights for his company, which specialises in finding lost gems for the stage.

The Fifth Column, which was written in 1937, and staged in Glasgow in 1944 but did not transfer to London under the bombs of the Second World War, shares similarities with Hemingway’s classic For Whom the Bell Tolls and was made into a successful film in 1943, starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman.

However, the play did not take off on stage, partly because its enormous cast made it complicated and expensive to put on.

It will open in March next year with tickets on sale now, and will mark eighty years since the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

The play recounts the story of two American war correspondents that fall passionately in love, while sheltering in a hotel, under bombardment by Franco’s artillery. ‘Around them, people are struggling, often comically, to survive,’ a spokesman for the play explains. ‘The idealism of the young men who came to fight with the International Brigades is contrasted with the ruthlessness of civil war.’

The play is based on real events. Hemingway experienced the war with his lover, Martha Gellhorn, one of the first female war correspondents.

Graham Cowley, the show’s producer, has taken on the challenge of staging it with Two’s Company, who specialise in producing forgotten masterpieces of the twentieth century. He secured the rights to put it on in England after tracking down Hemingway’s former publisher, who heard of his plans. ‘It’s a great honour to be given the rights to it,’ Cowley told the Sunday Telegraph. ‘He was a world-class writer who wrote from direct experience – that’s what makes us so excited. The play is recognisably Hemingway’s work. If you love Hemingway, you’ll love this.’

As a great admirer of Hemingway, I can’t wait to see the play. It will certainly be a smashing theatrical success, for people of Hemingway’s ilk are perhaps a dying breed. A reminder of what we now miss will still engrain the sort of nostalgia we often yearn for.

To Be or Not to Be

Reading an article in the Mail on Sunday recently, about one of Britain’s leading classical actors, Sir Anthony Sher, and his rather furious reaction to Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowe’s view that a university education was needed to understand Shakespeare, reminded me of the clash I once had with the actor.


In April 1981 a young South African actor by the name of Anthony Sher unexpectedly telephoned to ask if I would be willing to help him with some advice for a part he was about to take in a new play by Mike Leigh called Goose Pimples. The role was to play a Saudi Arabian student in London. My immediate response over the phone was that I had arrived in England at the age of eighteen, having lived till then in Palestine, and therefore could not

claim any expertise on the background and habits of Saudi Arabian students. My best advice was that he should make a direct approach to the cultural attaché at the Saudi Arabian embassy in London, or to any other institution with links to that country which would offer far more insight on the subject than I ever could. This was exactly the route he was following with his research, he said, but even so he would appreciate a few minutes of my time

if only to exchange views in general. A meeting between us, he added, would in any event be of some social benefit if nothing else. Naturally I did not wish to be uncooperative towards a newcomer to the country who was under the impression I could be of some help to him. That, combined with his insistence, led me to say that of course I would be delighted and I suggested he come to my office at Namara House.

Our meeting took place soon after and I formed the impression that a major new talent was about to make an impact on the London stage. (Time would show I was right in my assessment.) We chatted endlessly about the theatre, a medium that I was beginning to be passionate about, but barely touched on how he could best play a Saudi Arabian student. He must have realized by then that my knowledge on the issue was very limited indeed. Probably he was curious about my own assimilation into British society and wanted to find out, as a Jewish South African émigré, whether assimilation was possible where a wide cultural divide existed. We parted with my saying that I looked forward to seeing the play on its opening night and that I only wished I could have been of some assistance.

The fateful evening came. I took my seat in the front row of the theatre, from where I could hear every word and pick up every nuance. As the play progressed, I felt a growing sense of outrage at the way Arabs were being ridiculed. It seemed to be holding Arabs up to mockery, portraying without any subtlety whatsoever the plight of the inebriated student. The whole performance, to my eyes, was vulgar in the extreme and left me deeply shocked. The liberal tolerance and sense of humour on which I prided myself deserted me and frankly I could not stomach the crudeness of the play. I refrained from clapping at the end of the show – a fact noticed, of course, by Anthony Sher and his fellow actors as they took their bow. The theatre was too small for me to conceal my disgust and anger and when I found my name wrongly spelt where I was given a credit in the programme notes it was the last straw. I left the theatre as soon as I could find my way to the exit.

To vent my anger I reviewed the play in the Literary Review. I made no bones about saying I had found it ‘nauseating and dishonest since it is based on a series of premises that are demonstrably false’. The press then made quite a story of my review being the most savage the play received, although I was listed in the programme notes as a ‘special adviser’ to the cast. This went down badly with me, as did the rest of the piece ‘Atticus’ wrote in the

Sunday Times after he had asked me for my comments. The play was appalling, I said, and I hated the hypocrisy of those involved who claimed that it portrayed Saudi students sympathetically. Under the heading ‘A Belief in Freedom – Up to a Point’, ‘Atticus’ claimed that Anthony Sher had tried his best to pacify me by saying that, from a Muslim point of view, the play was a cautionary tale that showed the dangers of drinking and attempting to womanize. ‘Atticus’ then ended the piece by expounding on its headline: ‘While one does not want to give even more publicity to this storm-in-a-teacup play, it is none the less worth doing for Attallah’s immortal riposte: “I am a publisher and I believe in total artistic independence. But there are limits.” ’

My response was to write a letter to the Sunday Times, which published it under the heading ‘Editorial Freedom’ on 24 May: The piece in your Atticus column (May 3) under the heading ‘A Belief in Freedom – Up to a Point’ shows varying degrees of inaccuracies.

I was not listed as ‘special adviser’ to the cast. It was a simple credit in the programme, where I was listed with scores of others. I told your reporter that my name was spelt wrongly, and I also told him that my advice was never sought by Anthony Sher nor was it given. In the last paragraph purporting to convey my feelings on editorial freedom, I am again misrepresented. As a publisher, I believe in editorial freedom but recognize sometimes this freedom is abused under the guise of artistic licence. This is what I recall saying. I did not contradict myself by suggesting any limits.

It is a sign of changing times that where matters of race are concerned in today’s social climate political correctness has become something of an obsession rather than a natural awareness of the evils of racism. In view of this I do not believe it would now be possible to stage Mike Leigh’s Goose Pimples in its original form. There would be no alternative but to tone down some of the more offensive elements. The public has become highly sensitive to the question of race – some would say over-sensitive, to the point where freedom of expression has become jeopardized. In retrospect, my reaction to the play was largely amplified by what I felt to be the unfair criticism of the Arabs to be found everywhere in the media at the time. Arab largesse was rewarded with sneers. Very rich people did not circulate money in the way the Arabs did in those days. The Arabs were never given the credit they deserved for this and therefore the balance was uneven. It was true that, with the advent of

oil and the wealth that came with it, the behaviour of some Arabs put out the wrong signals, but this behaviour was not, as was usually assumed, typical of Arabs in general. Ostentation and vulgarity are to be found everywhere; a sudden excess of wealth may have a destabilizing effect for a time and cause a deterioration in moral values. Faced with the play today, I would be less angry and more composed.

It was an irony that the producer of Goose Pimples, who crossed swords with me over my attack on the play, should later have married Fiona Golfer, an enchanting woman who worked for me for a brief period at Namara House, and also have counted me among his theatrical ‘angels’ on more than one occasion. It went to show how a conflict can sometimes be the prelude to a beneficial association. Many years later, when the impresario Howard Panter and I collaborated on a few theatre productions, he took me backstage to effect

a reconciliation with Anthony Sher. We buried the hatchet, Goose Pimples by then being little more than a distant memory. I felt sure his playing of the Saudi Arabian student, however misjudged, never had any malice in it. He had played the role with his usual professionalism. As I predicted, he became a great actor, and over the years his contribution to the English stage has been immense.

Yehudi Menuhin, a Most Ardent Campaigner

There was general agreement that Yehudi Menuhin was not only a great musician but also a great human being.

I had already been in contact with his father, Moshe, over The Palestinians, and was interested to hear the son’s views on some of the issues involved. My lead-in to the subject was a question about Wilhelm Furtwängler, who had remained in Germany and continued his career as a conductor almost till the end of the Nazi era. As a result he had been much criticised. Yehudi Menuhin’s assessment was both eminently sane and full of insight.

A very great conductor and an absolutely clean man, no question of that. He stood up for Hindemith, he protected a great many Jews, helped many out of Germany, and himself had to escape towards the end of the war. He happened to conduct the orchestra when some of the German leaders were there, but we can’t expect everyone to behave in the same way. Sometimes it takes more courage to remain in your country than to leave it. Those who stayed suffered a pretty bad fate, and those who came out, after all, escaped. Yet there was this feeling of superiority among those who escaped, thinking that they showed great determination in leaving it behind. I would say, Jew or Gentile, you can’t blame those who stayed, you can’t blame those who escaped. It’s just the way things went. But Furtwängler himself was a man of integrity.

The anti-Semitism I have seen in my lifetime has had a psychological impact on me only to the extent that I know it is important to maintain the dignity of the Jew and to avoid a kind of behaviour that might prompt a response. The caricature of the Jew is the businessman with the big cigar, who does exist sometimes. They can be charming and interesting people. What bothers me sometimes is that they are a little like desert flowers. When they have only a drop of water they blossom. They make the most of the opportunity, as they did in Germany before the Nazi days, when they occupied extremely powerful positions. That must have created a certain amount of resentment. Of course, it gives no excuse for anti-Semitism, but you can understand it. The Jew does not stand out in Italy or Greece, nor would he in China, since the Chinese are far cleverer at business than the Jews. There are so many different types of Jew, but traditionally people have fastened on the Jew who is obviously different from them. But there are so many that are in no way different. It’s like the problem of the black in the United States. There are almost a majority of blacks that are nearly white, and no one bothers about them.

It is true that the Jews are far too sensitive, though they have perhaps been sensitised by history. They are too ready to imagine an insult; they are not prepared to give enough leeway, even to allow for a certain misbehaviour; and it is part of the psychology. One can understand that too, and one must understand it. They have to compensate for certain established assumptions. If it’s not one thing it’s another. If it’s not religion, it’s jealousy or it’s race. Yet it’s none of these things actually. It’s simply that people are nasty and want to condemn anything if they can find a little difference; can say that hair is frizzed instead of straight or there’s a detectable accent. Then they pounce on it.

Unfortunately the Jews have come to Israel with the narrow aim of making themselves an independent nation, to a large extent disregarding the environment and the rest of the world. They didn’t come to establish a nation with the Palestinians and a wonderful federation (though now they realise that perhaps they should have done). They came instead with the pure desire to establish a Jewish state to the exclusion of everything else. They did it very successfully, but they did it ruthlessly, and probably the sense of fear is equal on both sides. I feel that the only solution lies in a federation, totally equal, as in Switzerland. If both have an equal title to the land, what else can you do? Meanwhile there is something cruel about all of us. We are capable of the most horrid things, especially if we have suffered them ourselves.

Yehudi left an indelible impression on me: a shining example of goodness
and humility.

He would never have thanked you to feel humbled in his
presence, but that was the effect.

Last Evening Launch Party at Daunt Bookshop in Holland Park


Here is my short address for the occasion.

Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen, we are assembled here today to celebrate the publication of Joannah Yacoub’s first book, which Quartet are proud to publish.

For Quartet to add short stories to their list is rather a rare occasion but, having discovered a new talent and a storyteller of note, we could not resist the temptation of having a flutter to remind the market that this medium can be as entertaining as a fully blown novel.

Joannah writes with verve and considerable insight. Her startling virtuosity is inspiring and a joy to watch and read with breath-taking admiration.

The title story is about a portrait of a Russian officer bought from a crooked Lebanese art dealer that causes mysterious events and strange men come calling.

Elsewhere a cat, tortured in pre-Revolutionary France, returns to wreak revenge; a German soldier deserts to see his mother in a devastated Germany with surprising consequences; an exotic birdcage seems possessed of strange powers to its new owner; an erotic genre story, risque but elegantly constructed, perhaps, even so, not for the fainthearted…

Just five synopses of ten remarkable stories heralding a most impressive debut.

At this rate, Joannah will no doubt go far. She has all the makings of a writer with the courage to tread where others fear and a mind capable of innovative thought and a rich lexicon to boot.

People like her need encouragement and backing. So please show us the colour of your money and buy as many copies as you can afford – and spread the good word wherever you happen to be.

Thought for the Day

You are never too old to believe anything thrown at you, however preposterous it seems.

Apparently, men who help with the housework have a better sex life, a study suggests. Researchers, and there are many of them these days, asked over one thousand couples how frequently they were intimate. They found it was more often where the man felt he had made a contribution to the household chores.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, flies in the face of previous research, which found that men who do more housework have less sex.

Study author Matt Johnson, of the University of Alberta, said: ‘Rather than avoiding chores in the hopes of having more sex as prior research would imply, men are likely to experience more frequent passion when they simply do their fair share.’

Tell it to the Marines, was my first reaction. However, on second thought, as the difference between genders, and their odd comportments in our gone-crazy society these days, the unbelievable becomes more palatable and psychology points the way to uncharted horizons.

The result is all in the mind, although no logical explanation seems available for why the sharing of housework makes more men active in the bedroom.

Be that as it may, it is still good news for those whose languidity in the performance of their conjugal duties is far too mediocre for comfort, to take heed, put on an apron and dedicate themselves to the kitchen sink.

Perhaps then, a winning streak in the bedroom will surprisingly engulf them to the eternal pleasure of their partners.

Hi-De-Hi, Hi-De-Ho…

A Glorious Leap into Stardom

There are times when a photograph of a pretty woman makes your heart beat at a crescendo more in tune with her sexual appeal.

It’s a rare feeling that transcends the limits of normality and gives you a bolt of ecstasy, the likes of which you seldom experience.

Emilia Clarke, born 26 October 1986 (or 1 May 1987, as sources differ) is an English actress best known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO series Game of Thrones, for which she received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a drama series in 2013 and 2015.

Clarke made her Broadway debut in a production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s as Holly Golightly in March 2013. She was named Esquire‘s Sexiest Woman Alive in 2015.


No wonder. Her looks have a freshness combined with sexual dynamics that are irresistible to anyone who recognises quality enshrined in a classical form that subjugates men without even trying.

The British star, who de-robed for this raunchy bedroom photo shoot, has already scooped GQ‘s Woman of the Year recently.

Her path to glory is certainly rosier than anyone would have predicted.

The Law is No Longer an Ass

Progress is often hampered by outmoded legislation.

With the ‘feminaza’ rearing its ugly head when women are doing extremely well in all walks of life, surpassing men at universities with their achievements and enjoying divorce settlements which are perhaps the largest in the world, it is a cheering development to find that London is losing its reputation as the libel capital of the world.

The number of defamation cases last year fell by nearly thirty per cent as restrictions on claimants came into effect.

Research soon to be released highlights one great area – claims relating to social media.

Legal analysts say the Defamation Act of 2013 is causing the drop in cases. It requires potential claimants to show actual or probable ‘serious harm’ caused by a written or spoken statement. Previously claimants merely had to demonstrate that a statement was ‘false and defamatory’ – in other words, that it was wrong and lowered the reputation of the claimant in the eyes of ‘right-minded’ people.

According to research by Thomson Reuters, the number of reported defamation cases in the UK fell in the past year from eighty-six to sixty-three – the lowest level for six years.

Social media-related defamation cases rose to eleven last year compared with eight in 2013/14.

Harry Kinmonth, a media law solicitor at RPC, a London law firm, said: ‘The serious harm threshold is making claimants think hard about whether they will be able to demonstrate the necessary harm to their reputation.’

Freedom of expression must remain sacrosanct. Celebrities with money have in the past taken advantage of the law, especially since the introduction of the restrictions imposed by the legislation that masquerades under the far-fetched censorship of political correctness which, in my view, demeans the mere tenets of democracy.

Anything that liberalises the stifling laws that renders fear into the words that express inner feelings must be scrapped to enrich the way we feature opinions, irrespective of the Big Brother syndrome.