Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Review: 1916 Rising

1916 Rising: The Photographic Record
Turtle Bunbury

Most of what I know about the abortive 1916 Dublin revolt I know from songs. 1916 Rising (published overseas as Easter Dawn) is somewhat song-like itself. That is, it's evocative; it's colorful; it's moving; it's flagrantly partisan; and it's not really all that informative. The photos are terrific, and strongly reminiscent of a Ken Burns documentary ... but without a Ken Burns to bring the story together. The overall effect is rather pontillist.

The chief reaction I took away from 1916 Rising is sadness, informed by my knowledge of what came afterwards. Many of the men involved were young, most of them were romantics, and all of them were idealists. A good many were poets and artists and writers. Their unswerving belief in their Cause and its righteousness strikes me as tragic, not glorious. The subsequent executions (aside from being a gross political blunder by the British) were no less so. The follow-on conflicts--the Black-and-Tan War and the Irish Civil Wars--were as stupid and brutal as any. And, least forgivably, a few Irish Nationalists were later to suck up to the Nazis, because the Nazis were fighting Great Britain. Was there no better way?

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