DEFEATING CANCER

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We are gathered this evening to celebrate a book which Quartet published recently, Defeating Cancer, and to salute the epic achievements of its author, Dr Philip A. Salem M.D.

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Dr Philip Salem is Lebanese, from a small country with a population of no more than 5 million, though the ‘Land of the Cedars’ has always been known throughout ancient and modern times for its inventors, writers, artists and scientists – many of them emigrants. It is well known that the Phoenicians, the ancient residents of Lebanon, invented the alphabet and spread it to the world. Their boats sailed to Europe and Africa, and according to some theories, the Phoenicians may have even been the first to cross the Atlantic and discover the American continent.

In the modern era, the Lebanese began to emigrate in significant numbers at the beginning of the 18th century, primarily to Europe, the Americas and Africa. Some Lebanese researchers put the number of Lebanese emigrants, including their children and grandchildren, at between 11 and 16 million. These emigrants have included some prominent intellectuals, scholars and inventors. The most famous perhaps being Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), who became popular in the West as a poet and painter after emigrating to the United States and publishing his books in English.

Quartet Books over the years have published works about Gibran, as well as Lebanese writers such as Amin Maalouf and Hanan al-Shaykh. But tonight we honour the scientists. Among the most prominent Lebanese scientists was Hassan Kamel al-Sabah, born in Nabatieh, in southern Lebanon who earned the moniker the ‘Edison of the Orient’. One of his inventions was a device for image transfer, a technology still used today in photoelectric imaging, and was the foundation for modern cinema, in particular CinemaScope.

Peter Medawar was a British doctor of Lebanese descent. In 1953, Medawar discovered that injecting mice embryos during the development stage with cells taken from the tissues of adult mice enabled the young mice to successfully accept a patch of skin from the older mice. Medawar and the Australian scientist Sir Frank Burnett received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1960 for their discovery of acquired immunological tolerance.

Michael Ellis DeBakey was an American doctor and inventor of Lebanese origin and one of the pioneers of heart surgery who served as a medical consultant to every US president over the course of five decades.

And talking of presidents, Quartet would publish the memoirs of the legendary ‘Lucky’ Roosevelt who remained one of Ronald Reagan’s most important confidantes and a legendary Washington hostess. Let’s also not forget another iconic Lebanese diplomat, Charles Malik, whose work in the United Nations led to his drafting the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These Lebanese innovators like Gibran, Medawar and DeBakey are numerous in Lebanon and abroad. Some of them gained fame, while others remained obscure. Most inventions and scientific achievements by Lebanese were made abroad, especially in the United States and all over the globe.

Which is why tonight’s celebration is more than just a conventional publisher’s book launch: Dr Salem is a world-renowned cancer physician, researcher and author following in the mighty tradition and footsteps of his fellow Lebanese. His achievements and his provenance are to be honoured accordingly.

Finally, I want to mention George Zakhem whose own endeavours are a shining example of a man who never forgot his roots. His sterling efforts to both endow and stabilise the financial stability of the Lebanese American University have enabled so many Lebanese students to benefit from a world-class university education in their own country.

And for what I will always be eternally grateful, apart from his friendship, is introducing me to Dr Philip Salem in the first place. George has been a wonderful friend to me, and to Quartet. His encouragement for almost everything I’ve ever wanted to do has been an irreplaceable support, and he will always remain an inspiration to me and to others.

 

‘Music is a live substance’

THE JEWISH CHRONICLE
22 MARCH 2019

One-time child prodigy violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin died 20 years ago this month. He is one of many distinguished individuals, now dead, included in a new, 800-page retrospective collection of interviews by Naim Attallah, ‘No Longer With Us’, from which the following edited is taken

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NAIM ATTALAH: Albert Einstein said when he heard you play as a young boy,
“Now I know there is a God in heaven.” Were you aware of the extraordinary
nature of your talent?

YEHUDI MENUHIN: I’m still not aware of it, and I becomes less and less aware of it as I listen to very remarkable, talented children who play beautifully, and then hear of others who rob banks at the age of 11, others who tap into computers at the age of 12 and learn the secrets of the Pentagon, and others who storm into Tiananmen Square and are ready to be immolated for their peaceful purposes.

I feel more and more that I’m one of a great many people, almost one of a great many young people, and, at the age of 73,that is probably a permissible illusion.

When I was a child, I felt absolutely normal and resented any allusion to wunderkinder and prodigies. I hated it and I think I was right then and am right now. No doubt I played beautifully and had deep feeling, but Einstein was a man who was very impulsive, very emotional, and he could have said the same thing about his own remarkable, intuitive discovery of the oneness of the universe. Anyone who looks on an insect or a flower could say there is a God within us and we are a part of that God.

I am indebted to the quality of my parents and my teachers, and their high-mindedness. There was never any talk of money in the house, no vulgarity; always high purpose, good literature and poetry and a great deal of fun. I was spared all preoccupations with violence, or with sex, or with the unhealthy worries and frustrations that many people have to live under; the bad air, the sidewalks they have to walk on, the ugliness they are surrounded by. I feel therefore fortunate and grateful. I believe firmly that children bring a great deal into the world that they then forget. Learning is a process of forgetting.

It sounds a paradox, but none the less, as we learn to live in the world, we forget that intangible quality we brought with us when we were born. People are conditioned by their prenatal stage.

I was lucky, since children who pursue a career often leave the parental nest early and have to fend for themselves, but I don’t think any child in the world can have seen more of both parents than my sisters and I did.

Of course, they had their frictions because they were totally different characters. My father was very emotional and deeply moral and felt for the whole of humanity. My mother was very maternal and felt for her own children first, then for others. She was highly disciplined and a remarkably strong character.

The concerts were always in the evening, so they didn’t interrupt the day. Any tribute or adulations from the public was also kept at arm’s length, although I would be aware that the concerts were sold out. My father looked after the business interests and the rest of the family life on tour.

Later, it took me a long time to get accustomed to dealing independently with people on a one-to-one basis, for we had never been to school to receive a formal education, though my mother saw to it that we had wonderful tutors. And when you spend your life with Mozart and Beethoven, Bach and Schumann and Brahms, you are living with great minds.

It is a privilege given to a very few people, for the great composers are those whose works convince the interpreter of the great and good truths, eternal and immutable, recognised in the proportion and structure of their works.

NA: When you hear your first recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto, conducted by the composer himself, do you see it as the definitive performance?

YM: No, I don’t. Rarely, if ever, do I consider any musical performance a definitive one. It can never be nearer or farther from the absolute truth, but music is a live substance and, even today, performances in the recording studio can still be “live” if you play the whole work — or a whole movement —through, for, even today, retouching is not always feasible in many cases.

When I listen to that recording of the Elgar, I enjoy it, and I have listened to it perhaps twice or three times since I made it. I always feel it is a beautiful recording. It has the ardour of youth; it has deep feeling; it has the authority of the composer and it has the historical uniqueness of the fact it was done with the composer. Therefore, I am very moved by it. Naturally, I can imagine certain things I could do better or differently. But it doesn’t matter; it’s beautiful.

NA: Your former marriage to Nola Nicholas apparently provoked a lot of adverse criticism from the Jewish press at the time.

YM: I wasn’t aware of it. If they had criticised me for other reasons, I would have accepted that certainly, and as it turned out it was not a successful marriage. That was as much my fault as hers but I didn’t realise there was thatcriticism. Any number of Jews marry out of their religion, and I wouldn’t either applaud it or condemn it. It is just one of the things that happens or doesn’t happen…

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; they do carry a chip on their shoulders. They have to compensate, and it is a part of the psychology.

NA: What prompted you to record with musicians outside your own sphere, like Ravi Shankar and Stéphane Grappelli?

YM: There are no boundaries where such superb musicians are concerned. They are simply the masters of their art, and enlarge one’s mind.

‘No Longer With Us: Encounters with Naim Attallah’ is published by Quartet at £30. Other interviewees in ‘No Longer With Us’ include Betty Friedan, Sir Ernst Gombrich and Lord Goodman, as well as Lady Menuhin and Moshe Menuhin.

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-jewish-chronicle/20190322

 

 

 

No Longer With Us

The Lady’s edition of today chose No Longer With Us as their book of the week. The review was well-written and rather flattering . Here what the reviewer said:

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Absent friends by Rebecca Wallersteiner

No Longer With Us: Encounters With NAIM ATTALLAH by Naim Attallah, with an introduction by Richard Ingrams (Quartet, £30)

‘An anthology of sensitive, revealing interviews with legendary men and women who are no longer with us: from Tony Benn and Enoch Powell to writers Sybille Bedford and Elizabeth Jane Howard, lo Lord Lambton and the Duke of Devonshire. Republishing these interviews ‘ will preserve the memory of a group of remarkable individuals and prove to be an invaluable assistance to the historians of our troubled times’, writers our very own Richard Ingrams in his excellent introduction.

My favourite dialogue is with journalist Quentin Crewe, on how, despite having muscular dystrophy and using a wheelchair, he never ceased to ‘delight’ in ‘travel’, ‘food’, ‘beautiful women’ and partying the night away: he argued that disabled people are not very different to anyone else. This is one of many pithy moments.

The Duke of Devonshire described how, when young, he liked ‘casinos’ and ‘fast women’. Elizabeth Jane Howard confessed her many lovers and troubled marriage to Kingsley Amis, and why she ‘ never took alimony from her three husbands’. On a lighter note, Sybille Bedford revealed that she and Ken Tynan ‘were nearly thrown out of court for laughing’ during the 1960 Chatterley trial.’

Attallah has a genius for drawing people out. As sparkling as Champagne, this collection brings back to life a rich cast leading lights.

If you haven’t already bought the book, I suggest you do so without fail.

A SCRIBBLER IN SOHO,

We are assembled here tonight to celebrate the publication of A SCRIBBLER IN SOHO, A Celebration of Auberon Waugh, whose early death at the age of 61, shook the establishment to its very core.

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Here is a brief introduction I made to remember a man I met who had no equal in my view.

The death of Auberon Waugh radically changed my life. Since meeting him he rapidly became my cherished friend, my mentor in many ways and above all, a man the likes of whom one rarely encounters, for his wit, his charming contrariness and his vision of a world which to him was an amalgam of insanity and impertinence.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, he used words as an art form and described situations to make them an artifact and comical works of distinction. His passion when challenged could be deadly, yet it was only acceptable because of the way he weaved it. His loyalty to friends was unsurpassable and his rancour with foes was legendary. Reading his writing was always a joy and often a work of genius. Yet kindness was to be found lurking behind the comically harsh way he expressed himself, always making light of the hypocrisy as he encountered it.

I miss him, especially when I see the mediocrity of today’s state of affairs and wonder what a field day Bron would have had describing these events in his unique way. When I look around, no one today is his equal in this respect.

This book about Bron is merely a small testimony to what a giant he was. His memory will never leave me, for I had the privilege of knowing him so well, enjoying his company and can still recall so many of his outbursts of indescribable words of wisdom, varnished so to speak in a motley of hilarity.

When I thought of publishing A Scribbler in Soho part of my intention was to create a book which would allow a new generation of readers to discover just how funny and original Bron’s writings could be.

It is beholden on all of us here tonight to further that intention by buying multiple copies, and spread the Gospel according to Auberon Waugh – using our credit cards if necessary – all around this land which Bron so cherished and defended so mightily. May God bless him!

A POKE IN THE EYE…

I am very pleased with the continuing coverage that A Scribbler in Soho is getting from the quality press, though as ever, so far, no attention has come from the Guardian, maintaining their consistent habit of hardly ever mentioning Quartet ever since Anne Smith resigned from the Literary Review in 1981, a decision I accepted. The mayhem that followed, with her accusing me of monstrous behavior – amply reported in the Guardian – eventually subsided and Anne and I would eventually reconcile, but the Guardian seems determined on its boycott. Mind you though, given their contemptuous account after his death of Bron’s achievements – Polly Toynbee’s abusive article comes to mind – it comes as no surprise.

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What was a little surprising however, are two reviews over the weekend from the Spectator and the Mail on Sunday. William Cook plugs his own 2010 anthology in his Spectator review, rightly pointing out that his selection is more comprehensive and questioning whether my friendship with Brown clouded my choices but does end with a complimentary ‘… for Waugh obsessives like me (and thousands like me) this is a welcome addition to the canon.’ Craig Brown’s coverage (it was spread across two pages) in the MoS was far more vitriolic.

Calling it ‘this strangely ramshackle collection’ Brown does manage to award it 3 out of 5 stars and sometimes even manages a compliment: ‘He [Bron] rails against publishers for their “overwhelming incompetence“, and adds “that there is scarcely an author in the land who has not entertained the thought that his agent and publisher are in a conspiracy to sabotage his chances of survival”. In support of this argument, he says he has observed, “a degree of idleness and incompetence among publishers and agents that seems entirely incredible unless it is also motivated by malice”. One of the marvelous things about these observations is that they were, more often than not, included in editorials in which he was pleading with publishers to spend more of their advertising budget on the hard-pressed Literary Review.’

But Brown saves his real attack guns for me, based on his ‘surprised’ reaction to see my mentioning a lunch which Bron organized, for me and him to discuss what seemed to me to be a contemptuous reaction (based on his reviews) for my various literary attempts. The lunch was clearly not successful.

I recognize the possible mistake of responding to criticism, but I do wish to make two points. To William Cook, I would say my book in no way offers itself as a comprehensive selection from Bron’s writings and would suggest had he read the jacket’s blurb he would have known better than to expect a wider range. I wanted to honour Bron’s editing the Literary Review above all else by reprinting the best of his ‘From the Pulpit’. His editorials should not be forgotten.

And as for Craig Brown, I would have thought it was clear to anyone with no axe to grind that my idea for the book was really to provide an account, with plenty of examples, of my relationship with Auberon Waugh. Perhaps I should not have provoked Brown with my comments, but then, as Bron taught me (and A Scribbler in Soho relates): ‘First cultivate your enemies’.

A BESTSELLER, IT SEEMS…

The past few days have been highlighted by a number of very pleasing reviews for Quartet’s latest volume, A Scribbler in Soho, an anthology of Auberon Waugh’s writings in Private Eye and the Literary Review, with a commentary edited by me.

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It started in the Sunday Telegraph with a double page article by Christopher Howse which was more biography than review, remembering Bron at times as a colleague as he subedited Waugh’s column in the Sunday Telegraph during most of the nineties. But his main point was to endorse the real reason for our book’s publication: ‘He died a century ago, in 2001. In today’s climate of censoriousness, many things he wrote would not be published in a daily paper. Indeed, it is hard even to mention some of them. That is a bad thing…’

Howse ends his piece, having mentioned Bron’s love of jokes, as well as being struck by a remark Bron made to him ‘late in life that he hadn’t gone to bed sober for 25 years,’ with a paragraph which sums up the need to remember Bron’s significance: ‘Waugh’s friend Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote last week that the Spectator had a golden few years under Alexander Chancellor because everyone was so drunk all the time. I think it might have been a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. Yet drinking, and making jokes, are political acts as much as anything Germaine Greer got up to. If they are not allowed, we’re losing our liberties. The political journalist Alan Watkins, no mean stylist himself, judged that Waugh’s great strength was “his complete absence of restraint and good taste”. I fear that cultural pressures may prevent him from having any emulator.’

Next was a review by John Carey in the Sunday Times. He takes a certain waspish view of my use of the third person, and objects to some of Bron’s opinions which he considered ‘unfit for mention in a celebration.’ He adds however: ‘Attallah might justifiably reply that his duty was to give an accurate account of his friend, and that prejudice was part of [Bron’s] make-up.’

After a long (and critical) list of Bron’s prejudices, Carey suggests that what the book really celebrates is courage and ends the review with ‘… [though] his wounds [Waugh had shot himself by accident during his National Service] caused him pain and infections for the rest of his life, he worked almost to the day of his death with prodigious energy, writing each week for several periodicals. Nor did he allow his suffering to affect his temper, but treated subordinates with courtesy and consideration, as their testimonials, printed by Attallah, bear out. The writer was detestable, but the man was not, and Attallah rightly celebrates him.’

Roger Lewis’s review in The Times gets straight to the point. Regretting that Waugh ‘is not a name that will mean much to the younger generation’, he goes on to suggest that if they did ‘they would ban Waugh instantly. Never can there have been a writer more likely to be pinioned and blackened by no-platforming, Twitter storms of disgust and opprobrium, social media persecution and snowflake heebie-jeebies.’

Calling the book ‘this wonderful anthology’, Lewis ends with a the wish to ‘give anything to get Bron back by necromantic means to pillory modern despotisms. He was tough without a gun. A stranger to embarrassment and good taste. The greatest paradox is that despite the imbecilities he witnessed, he always remained bright and cheerful, his prose growing in strength and character.’

Lewis Jones, writing in the Sunday Telegraph gives the book three stars calling it ‘affectionate and admiring’. Jones quotes from a typical Bron entry in his Private Eye Diaries from 1977 which we reproduced, which captures perfectly why Bron was such a master: ‘There is a photograph in today’s Daily Express of a plump, homely middle-aged woman in slacks and bedroom slippers sitting on a sofa. She is not topless or anything like that, but I find myself eyeing her appreciatively and wondering if we have not perhaps met somewhere before. Then I look at the caption and find myself reeling back in amazement: “A relaxed Mr Heath at his home”.’

And checking the book’s performance on Amazon over the weekend, I was delighted to see a reader’s review by one of their top 100 reviewers, Dr Barry Clayton. He wrote: ‘Waugh was a philosopher, an eccentric one. He had a genius for dividing his readers into two camps: the delighted and the infuriated. He was a master at starting an argument. Since he died no writer has replaced him. No one has his talent for turning mundane news into funny flights of fancy. He saw a world of bores and bullies and changed it into a bizarre and outrageous one… This [book] is the nearest thing to a fully-fledged biography.’

I created this book to honour the memory of a remarkable writer who was also my friend. How delightful to see such response in the media and the rush of copies moving out of bookshops with such speed that we are reprinting before the official launch of the title next week.

THE EYES HAVE IT!

Well, it seems that suffering from an eye condition could be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s, scientists warn. People with glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy were all found to be at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s, a study found. Any of these problems brings a 40 – 50% higher chance of developing the condition, which robs people of their memories.

It could be because the eye is the window of the brain and displays the same degeneration that is happening in the mind. Lead author Dr Cicilia Lee, from the University of Washington, said: ‘We don’t mean that people with these eye conditions will get Alzheimer’s disease. The main message is that ophthalmologists should be more aware of the risk of developing dementia for people with these eye conditions – and primary care doctors seeing patients with eye conditions might be more careful on checking on possible dementia or memory loss.’

Glaucoma is caused by fluid built up in the front part of the eye, damaging the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain. It affects more than 600,000 people in the UK, as does age-related macular degeneration, which affects central vision and can lead to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes which damages the retina because of high blood sugar levels, affects more than 1.5 million people in Britain.

Experts examined the eyes of 3,877 patients over the age of 65 and screening them for Alzheimer’s over an average follow-up period of 5 years. Over that time, 792 people were diagnosed with this form of dementia. The results show people with diabetic retinopathy had a 44% higher risk of Alzheimer’s, while age-related macular degeneration sufferers saw their odds of dementia rise by a fifth.

There was a 46% higher risk for people with recently diagnosed glaucoma, but not for those with established glaucoma. The study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that the results cannot be explained by age-related decline as age was taken into account.

But the eyes and brain may share a pathway in the body which causes both to stop working properly. Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said it was important that research continues to explore this link adding that 1 in 6 people with dementia have some form of visual impairment.

That’s the reason that people suffering with diabetes are always urged to have their eyes examined on a yearly basis.