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Cape Town - A convicted paedophile, who committed suicide in police holding cells, will not be taking his secrets to the grave.
The Daily Voice has managed to view the diary of Brian Shofer which is in possession of a source close to him.
In the red Lever arch file, he chronicles how he raped young boys, and was the victim of abuse himself.
Shofer, 58, wrote that he was sexually molested by his uncle as a 13-year-old, and that his father knew about it, but failed to intervene.
In graphic detail, he also noted that during a stint in prison in the 1990s, he was sodomised by prisoners after they heard he was in for molesting children.
Slipped into the file was submission letter for parole, dated May 1, 2008, in which he claimed to feel remorse for his sick crimes, and wanted to ask his little victims’ families, the community, and his father for forgiveness.
The memoirs, in which Shofer documents his troubled life, and contains pictures and accolades, include the 13 psychiatric programmes he “aced” while at Brandvlei and Drakenstein Correctional Facilities.
He claimed the wardens and prison psychiatrists had “enormous respect” for him.
Shofer was found dead in a Mitchells Plain police holding cell on Friday after he hanged himself with a blanket.
He was arrested after his elderly landlord saw him on the front page of the Daily Voice on Monday, and called police. Police took in two young men, aged 25 and 18, the latter admitting that Shofer raped him.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority’s Western Cape spokesperson, Eric Ntabazalila, the teen was repeatedly raped over six years, from the age of 12. Shofer was released from prison six years ago.
The 70-year-old landlord said his tenant claimed the two were his adopted sons.
The teacher made headlines after he advertised tutoring services for kids, from Grades 2 to 11, on Gumtree.
Shofer claimed that he was rehabilitated and that parents were aware of his criminal record.
His convictions date back to 1994. His first victims, mainly from Mitchells Plain, were aged between seven and 14.
He was jailed for several counts of indecent assault, before being released on parole.
Shofer re-offended after setting up a youth centre in Hanover Park.
He was released from prison in 2010.
A parent who has a child at Lourier Primary School in Retreat said he had still been teaching there until last term.
Police say Shofer’s suicide comes as they were formulating more charges against him.
These include: a rape case in Steenberg, a sexual assault case in Mitchells Plain, a sexual assault case in Hanover Park, and 18 cases of sexual assault involving street children in Strand, where he used to reside.
Shofer has also been linked to several Cape Flats schools, including Garlandale High and Tafelsig High.
His diary, written in a neat handwriting, revealed that he studied teaching through Unisa, graduating with six distinctions.
He also had friends who believed he was rehabilitated and took him all over Cape Town, finding him work and places to stay.
On the final page of his submission for parole, he begs for a second chance at life.
“I am truly sorry for my deeds...” he wrote.
“To my beloved father who is still alive and loves and supports me, my chaplain, members of correctional services and the Almighty, [thank you] for transforming me into the being I have become.”
Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesperson Robbie Raburabu said a post-mortem would be conducted on Shofer’s body.
“It is believed he tore off the edge of his blanket and hanged himself on the door. The results of his autopsy will be released in this week,” he said.
You have to understand the mentality of Hong Kong businessmen. They exploit their workers harshly, trick their suppliers when they lower their guard, cheat their customers on every occasion, and then spend their earnings on prostitutes
Updated March 29, 2017
Rodney Alcala is a convicted rapist, torturer and serial killer who evaded justice for 40 years.
Dubbed the "Dating Game Killer" Alcala was once a contestant on the show, "The Dating Game," where he won a date with another contestant. However, the date never happened because the woman found him to be too creepy.
ALCALA'S CHILDHOOD YEARS
Rodney Alcala was born on August 23, 1943, in San Antonio, Texas to Raoul Alcala Buquor and Anna Maria Gutierrez.
His father left, leaving Anna Maria to raise Alcala and his sisters alone. At around the age of 12, Anna Maria moved the family to Los Angeles.
At the age of 17, Alcala joined the Army and remained there until 1964 when he received a medical discharge after being diagnosed with a severe anti-social personality.
Alcala, now out of the Army, enrolled in UCLA School of Fine Arts where is earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1968. This is the same year that he kidnapped, raped, beat and tried to kill his first known victim.
Tali Shapiro was an 8-year-old on her way to school when she was lured into Alcala's car, an act that did not go unnoticed by a nearby motorist who followed the two and contacted police.
Alcala took Tali into his apartment where he raped, beat and attempted to strangle her with a 10-pound metal bar. When police arrived, they kicked in the door and found Tali laying on the kitchen floor in a large puddle of blood and not breathing.
Because of the brutality of the beating, they thought she was dead and begin to search for Alcala in the apartment.
A police officer, returning to the kitchen, saw Tali struggling to breathe. All attention went to trying to keep her alive, and at some point, Alcala managed to slip out the backdoor.
When searching Alcala's apartment, the police found several pictures, many of young girls.
They also found out his name and that he had attended UCLA. But it took several months before they would find Alcala.
ON THE RUN BUT NOT HIDING
Alcala, now using the name John Berger, fled to New York and enrolled in NYU film school. From 1968 to 1971, even though he was listed on the FBI's most wanted list, he lived undetected and in full view. Playing the role of a "groovy" film student, amateur photographer, single hot shot, Alcala moved around New York's single clubs.
During the summer months, he worked at an all girl's summer drama camp in New Hampshire.
In 1971, two girls attending the camp recognized Alcala on a wanted poster at the post office. The police were notified, and Alcala was arrested.
In August 1971, Alcala was returned to Los Angeles, but the prosecutor's case had a major flaw - Tali Shapiro's family had returned to Mexico soon after Tali recovered from the attack. Without their main witness, the decision was made to offer Alcala a plea deal.
Alcala, charged with rape, kidnapping, assault, and attempted murder, accepted a deal to plead guilty to child molestation. The other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to one year to life and was paroled after 34 months under the "indeterminate sentencing" program.
The program allowed a parole board, not a judge, to decide on when offenders could be released based on if they appeared rehabilitated. With Alcala's ability to charm, he was back out on the streets in less than three years.
Within eight weeks he returned to prison for violating his parole for providing marijuana to a 13-year-old girl. She told police that Alcala kidnapped her, but he was not charged.
Alcala spent another two years behind bars and was released in 1977, again under the "indeterminate sentencing" program. He returned to Los Angeles and got a job as a typesetter for the Los Angeles Times.
It did not take long for Alcala to get back into his murderous rampage.
The Murder of Jill Barcomb, Los Angeles County In November 1977, Alcala raped, sodomized, and murdered 18-year-old Jill Barcomb, a New York native who had recently moved to California. Alcala used a large rock to smash in her face and strangle her to death by tying her belt and pant leg around her neck.
Alcala then left her body in a mountainous area in the foothills near Hollywood, where she was discovered Nov. 10, 1977, posed on her knees with her face in the dirt.
Murder of Georgia Wixted, Los Angeles County
In December 1977, Alcala raped, sodomized, and murdered 27-year-old nurse Georgia Wixted. Alcala used a hammer to sexually abuse Georgia, then used the claw end of the hammer to beat and smash in her head. He strangled her to death using a nylon stocking and left her body posed in her Malibu apartment. Her body was discovered Dec. 16, 1977.
Murder of Charlotte Lamb, Los Angeles County In June 1979, Alcala raped, beat, and murdered 33-year-old legal secretary Charlotte Lamb. Alcala strangled Charlotte to death using a shoelace from her shoe and left her body posed in a laundry room of an El Segundo apartment complex where it was discovered on June 24, 1979.
Murder of Jill Parenteau, Los Angeles County In June 1979, Alcala raped and murdered 21-year-old Jill Parenteau in her Burbank apartment. He strangled Jill to death using a cord or nylon. Alcala's blood was collected from the scene after he cut himself crawling through a window. Based on a semi-rare blood match, Alcala was linked to the murder. He was charged with murdering Parenteau, but the case was later dismissed.
Murder of Robin Samsoe, Orange County On June 20, 1979, Alcala approached 12-year-old Robin Samsoe and her friend Bridget Wilvert at Huntington Beach and asked them to pose for pictures. After posing for a series of photographs, a neighbor intervened and asked if everything was alright and Samsoe took off. Later Robin got on a bike and headed to an afternoon dance class.
Alcala kidnapped and murdered Samsoe and dumped her body near Sierra Madre in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Her body was scavenged by animals, and her skeletal remains were discovered July 2, 1979. Her front teeth had been knocked out by Alcala.
ARRESTED After the Samsoe murder, Alcala rented a storage locker in Seattle, where police found hundreds of photos of young women and girls and a bag of personal items that they suspected belonged to Alcala's victims. A pair of earrings found in the bag were identified by Samsoe's mother as being a pair she owned.
Alcala was also identified by several people as the photographer from the beach on the day Samsoe was kidnapped.
Following an investigation, Alcala was charged, tried, and convicted for Samsoe's murder in 1980. He was sentenced to receive the death penalty. The conviction was later overturned by the California Supreme Court.
Alcala was again tried and convicted of the murder of Samsoe in 1986 and was again sentenced to the death penalty. The second conviction was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
THREE TIMES A CHARM While awaiting his third trial for the murder of Samsoe, DNA collected from the murder scenes of Barcomb, Wixted, and Lamb was linked to Alcala. He was charged with the four Los Angeles murders, including Parenteau.
At the third trial, Alcala represented himself as his defense attorney and argued that he was at Knott's Berry Farm on the afternoon that Samsoe was murdered. Alcala did not contest the charges that he committed the murders of the four Los Angeles victims but rather focused on the Samsoe charges.
At one point he took the stand and questioned himself in third-person, changing his tone depending on if he was acting as his lawyer or as himself.
On Feb. 25, 2010, the jury found Alcala guilty of all five counts of capital murder, one count of kidnapping and four counts of rape.
During the penalty phase, Alcala attempted to sway the jury away from the death penalty by playing the song "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie, which includes the lyrics, "I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL."
His strategy did not work, and the jury quickly recommended the death penalty to which the judge agreed.
MORE VICTIMS? Immediately after Alcala's conviction, the Huntington Police released 120 of Alcala's photos to the public. Suspecting that Alcala had more victims, the police asked for the public's help in identifying the women and children in the photos. Since then several of the unknown faces have been identified.
NEW YORK MURDERS Two murder cases in New York have also been linked through DNA to Alcala. TWA flight attendant Cornelia "Michael" Crilley, was murdered 1971 while Alcala was enrolled at NYU. Ciro's Nightclub heiress Ellen Jane Hover was murdered in 1977 during the time that Alcala had received permission from his parole officer to go to New York to visit family.
Currently, Alcala is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
It's not that we would be madly in love with Donald Trump. Yeah, he may not be the brightest one. Not even bright enough for political correctness. But hey, that's a plus, not a minus. Fuck that political correctness.
95 percent of the victims of violence are men. Because women feel flattered when men fight each other and kill each other to prove that they are real men.
Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs or CBRN) are undeniably a terrifying thing. Some of them have the capability of indiscriminately killing dozens, some hundreds and some even millions. Although CBRN terrorism has been widely considered only a low probability risk, the possible high consequences of a successful attack has still kept many policy-makers awake at night. Preventing CBRN terrorism has been a constant aim of numerous official security doctrines across the world.
There have been so far only a handful of terrorist incidents involving chemical, biological or radiological weapons, and none concerning nuclear weapons. To name a few, the Rajneeshee cult poisoned salad bars with salmonella in a small town in Oregon in 1984, Chechen terrorists placed, but did not detonate a dirty bomb at a park in Moscow in 1996, and Aum Shinrikyo repeatedly used botulinum toxin, sarin and VX in the early 1990s. Fortunately, no terrorists were ever successful in using these weapons in an effective way.
However, this historic experience does not mean CBRN attacks cannot become a more common and deadly phenomenon. This essay will analyse whether the security threat of CBRN terrorism has increased over the years and how much. This essay will particularly assess the motivation of the fourth wave of terrorism and the overall accessibility of CBRN weapons. In essence, this essay argues that the overall threat has increased indeed, but it still belongs in the ‘low risk-high consequence’ category.
Motivation: Organizations Willing to Use CBRN Weapons
Building on David Rapoport’s scheme, a close analysis of the four waves of terrorism shows that only the last one has a true motivation to use CBRN weapons. The first wave, represented by anarchist movements, never attempted to use CBRN weapons. During the second wave, the ethno-separatist, only the Tamil Tigers used chemical weapons, but only in battlefield use against armed forces. Neither did the third, left-wing wave used CBRN weapons, even though there have been some allegations. However, the current fourth wave is diametrically different from the previous three.
One of the usual suspects is Al Qaeda. The group, its affiliates and the global Salafi jihadist movement in general perceive the world only in shades of black or white. That enables Al Qaeda terrorists and perhaps even motivates them to kill their adversaries en masse and indiscriminately, not excluding civilians. Furthermore, Al Qaeda has openly claimed the divine right to kill four million Americans. It seems difficult to imagine Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates would not use CBRN weapons if had the opportunity.
Al Qaeda actually tried to buy a nuclear warhead on the black market in the late 1990s. Ahmed Ressam, an Al Qaeda member and known as ‘the millennium bomber’, claims that the organization has been training its operatives in Afghanistan how to use chemical weapons. Furthermore, its Iraqi branch, the predecessor of the Islamic State (ISIS), remains the main suspect of more than a dozen of car bombings enhanced with chlorine gas in 2007.
The Islamic State has repeatedly shown that it is willing to use all means necessary to achieve its aim. In 2006, it started a sectarian war against the Shia by bombing the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra. Now, it seeks to defend and expand its current territory in lands formerly known as Syria, Iraq and Libya, even by using chemical weapons, as Baghdad claims.
One should not underestimate terrorist organizations coming from other religions. After all, the most active user of CBRN weapons was Aum Shinrikyo. Similar religious sects, attempting to cause the Apocalypse with CBRN weapons, could theoretically originate anywhere.
Another possible CBRN terrorist category could be the radical right-wing. Similarly to religious extremists, the far-right perceives the world in black and white, it does not avoid using violence against members of other communities it deems inferior, and it is prepared to take justice into its own hands if the government fails to act accordingly. The extreme right-wing is non-violent now, but it has the potential to become a serious security threat if it came to the conclusion that it cannot force political changes by peaceful means.
In Europe, the right-wing with the greatest potential for the future can be seen in the current anti-Islam movement, represented for instance by the English Defence League and German Pegida. In the United States, CBRN terrorism seems the most probable coming from the local militias, which consist in total of approximately five million paramilitary-trained members. In 1985, U.S. authorities seized illegal guns and ammunition, automatic rifles, hand grenades, a light anti-tank weapon, and 43 gallons of potassium cyanide at a headquarters of an Arkansan militia, to name just a single example to demonstrate the security hazard.
Capability: Accessibility of CBRN Weapons
Accessibility of chemical weapons can be assessed as fairly easy. Chemical components to dangerous agents can usually be easily found on the open market. Experts deem the nerve agent tabun to be the easiest to make and a skilled chemist could prepare sarin in his own kitchen as its components can be found for instance in gasoline additives, paint solvents and antiseptics. As for the laboratory equipment, it gets cheaper and more accessible every year, like it is with all modern technology. Aum Shinrikyo worked for years with dual-use equipment without raising suspicion.
The more difficult task, when it comes to chemical weapons, is the dispersion. If aerosol is prepared poorly, it will not cause many casualties. Thus terrorists might prefer to steal already weaponized and tested chemical weapons. Because of the Arab Spring, this task might be easier than ever before. The revolutionary wave destabilized particularly Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Unfortunately, these countries also had active chemical programmes in the past. Troublesome could be especially Iraq because Saddam-era chemical weapons were found in recent years and no one can tell if there are more to be found.
The same problem is regarding biological weapons as Libya, Egypt and Iraq had invested into researching biological warfare as well. As for acquiring non-weaponized agents, some are extremely easy to make, particularly toxins like botulinum and ricin. Terrorists may be also very interested into anthrax, which was demonstrated by Aum Shinrikyo or Bruce Edwards Ivins. As it was with chemical weapons, dual-use laboratory equipment would suit terrorists the best and the greatest challenge lies within the delivery mechanism.
Radiological weapons are arguably the easiest to obtain and weaponize. Nine isotopes are considered a high security risk should they lose physical protection or become abandoned. Three of them (caesium-137, cobalt-60 and iridium-192) are strong gamma emitters which can be easily found in standard hospital or mining equipment.
A terrorist can either simply attach the source to a conventional explosive, which is generally known as the dirty bomb. While panic and some economic damage would be guaranteed, experts doubt this kind of attack would cause many casualties. Another option would be to disperse the radiological source in the form of aerosol, which would be more lethal, but it again requires a sophisticated dispersal device. Furthermore, the perspective of people dying weeks, months or even years after the initial attack due to cancer does not seem too dramatic, which is something terrorists usually crave for.
While nuclear weapons might be the most desired CBRN weapon, they are by all means the most difficult to obtain. Because the implosion device is a tremendously complex mechanism, terrorists are indefinitely more likely to use the much simpler gun-type design, if they ever acquired at least 55 kilograms of high enriched uranium (HEU). The IAEA registered only sixteen incidents involving HEU or plutonium with the total weight being not even close to the needed mass. Extreme security measures have so far served as a sufficient deterrent against nuclear terrorism.
The overall threat of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction has clearly increased over the years. The fourth wave of terrorism, represented by Salafi jihadists, apocalyptic religious cults and the extreme right-wing, has little respect for life of everyone who does not share their beliefs. This black and white perspective of the world helps them justify killing of civilians in large numbers.
Chemical and biological weapons are the most likely CBRN weapons to be used. First, some chemical and biological agents or their components are accessible on the free market. Second, laboratory equipment gets cheaper every year. And finally, the Arab Spring severely destabilized several countries which had chemical and biological weapons. On the other hand, radiological and nuclear weapons do not seem likely to be used by terrorists in the near future. The former for its ineffectiveness and the latter for its complexity and inaccessibility of fissile material.
However, it would still seem farfetched to claim that CBRN terrorism would become an increasingly common phenomenon in the future. Although the overall threat of chemical and biological terrorism is definitely much higher than a decade or two ago, it is still quite difficult to access the required agents in sufficient numbers, weaponize them and acquire an effective dispersal device, especially without gaining attention of the authorities and intelligence services.
Why does this site show photos that depict brutality? Get real, man! Because reality is brutal.
In 2015, some 885,000 migrants arrived in the EU via the Eastern Mediterranean route – 17 times the number in in 2014, which was itself a record year. The vast majority of them arrived on several Greek islands, most on Lesbos. The numbers increased gradually from January to March, but began to climb in April, peaking at 216 000 in October. The numbers eased slightly in November and December with the onset of winter, but were still well above the figures from the same months of 2014.
Throughout 2015 Frontex deployed an increased number of officers and vessels to the Greek islands to assist in patrolling the sea and registering the thousands of migrants arriving daily. In December, the agency launched Poseidon Rapid Intervention after the Greek authorities requested additional assistance at its borders.
Most of the migrants on this route in 2015 originated from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Somalia. There are also increasing numbers of migrants coming from sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the migrants continued their journeys north, leaving Greece through its border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Frontex also deploys officers at Greece’s northern land border to assist in registering exiting migrants.
Trends prior to 2015 The Eastern Mediterranean has been under pressure from irregular migration for many years. Even in 2008-2009, more than 40 000 people entered using this route, accounting for some 40% of all migrants arriving in the European Union.
The sea route to the Aegean islands is far from being the only one used in the region. The air route remains popular with those who can afford it, with migrants flying directly to European cities from Istanbul. Others have entered Greece via the land border, or else exited Turkey directly into southern Bulgaria. There are other sea routes, though significantly less prominent, such as via Cyprus.
This site teaches an understanding of reality. Reality is brutal. Death is often brutal. And if death isn't brutal for the way it happens, then it is still brutal as a fact of life. We are all goners.
Fatu Sillah clearly recalls the day her childhood ended. She was six years old when her mother's friends invited her to a party with girls from her village near Freetown in Sierra Leone.
"When I got there I saw other girls sitting on the ground crying and I remember the overwhelming smell of a traditional African medicine used to heal wounds. I was taken into the backroom, stripped naked and held down on the ground by six women. I saw the cutter with a small, sharp knife. She said: 'It will be quick and it won't hurt that much.' "
This was not the case. "As she cut away at my genitals, the pain was excruciating," Sillah says. "There was blood everywhere. I cried uncontrollably and screamed as the woman poured alcohol over my wounds."
Sillah could barely move afterwards. "For six months I struggled to even walk. Afraid to urinate, I taught myself to hold on so I could avoid the pain of peeing. I would go only once a day at the most, and as a result for years I have suffered from urinary tract infections."
On Monday Fatu, now 26 and a university student, will talk about her experience at a Family Violence Has No Boundaries conference hosted by the University of Melbourne. The Sydney woman's message to anyone considering breaking the law to impose female genital mutilation (FGM) on their daughter is clear: "It still affects me as an adult and I wouldn't want my worst enemy to go through the pain and suffering it has caused me and many other girls."
Sillah is one of a number of African-Australian women who are speaking out against FGM, also known as female genital cutting (FGC), in the hope that they can stamp out the practice.
"The World Health Organisation estimates more than 125 million girls have suffered FGM. What you need to know is that this is not just happening in Africa and the Middle East but right here in Australia," she says.
Another FGM survivor who insists the practice persists in Australia is young Adelaide mother Khadija Gbla. Since Gbla spoke at TEDx Canberra last October, her courageous, often funny presentation – where she reveals what it is like to live in "clitoris-centric" Australia – has attracted more than one million views on YouTube.
Gbla was told in Australia that her FGM injuries incurred as a child in Sierra Leone meant she couldn't have children. But she did become pregnant and this makes her eight-month-old son all the more precious.
Gbla was so devastated by her FGM experience that she co-founded No FGM Australia with Melbourne woman Paula Ferrari. The pair describe themselves as "clitoral warriors", running an organisation that aims to protect girls from FGM and support survivors.
In their work, the two women have had to call the Child Protection Service to stop FGM being performed on girls, some of whom had just been born.
"It is secret, so difficult to detect. We know from overseas data that girls born to mothers who are survivors of FGM are at very high risk of being subjected to FGM," says Gbla.
The incidence of FGM in Australia has been difficult to quantify as, unlike in Britain and France, little data has been collected. What is known is that 20 years ago, with the arrival of the first refugees from countries where FGM is practised, a concerted effort was made to prevent it through education programs and later by making it illegal, with mandatory reporting. As a result, in New South Wales performing FGM could lead to 21 years in prison; in Victoria a "cutter" could face 15 years.
Though most African, Middle Eastern or South-east Asian parents have abandoned the practice for their daughters in Australia, many people interviewed for this article say it stubbornly persists within parts of some communities here and has been driven underground because it is illegal. They say there needs to be more education for recent arrivals.
The findings of a new study of 800 Australian paediatricians confirms that FGM is still being performed in Australia. The survey, by Professor Elizabeth Elliott and her colleagues at the University of Sydney's Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit, found that more than half of respondents believed FGM was being performed on Australian children.
Yet, though most paediatricians were aware of its complications, few asked about or examined patients for FGM.
Ten per cent of those surveyed had seen at least one case of FGM in a girl aged 18 or younger during their career, including 16 paediatricians seeing FGM in the past five years. Professor Elliott says the study reveals that FGM is occurring, yet there is a "dearth of knowledge" among medical professionals. The researchers also reviewed the Australian and international research, which confirmed widespread medical ignorance of the practice.
Legal authorities have taken action. In an ongoing case in the New South Wales Supreme Court, an elderly woman has pleaded not guilty to the alleged genital mutilation of two girls in separate procedures in Sydney and Wollongong. The girls' mother is accused of organising the procedure. A high-ranking member of the Dawoodi Bohra Shia Muslim community has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the fact.
Fatu Sillah estimates about half of her friends from Muslim backgrounds have undergone FGM. "No one will talk about it. Everyone is scared because they know the consequences. I know of someone who wanted it for her daughter. There is talk of a Somalian cutter who will do it. It is happening."
She has heard of families taking girls to towns such as Wollongong to have the procedure done, mostly at around five years old so it won't be known outside the family.
Some say FGM persists because it is a religious practice. But Sheikh Isse Musse, a spiritual leader in Melbourne's Horn of Africa community, says FGM is not sanctioned by the Koran.
"There are a few sayings from the Prophet, but those have been found to be lacking in strength. Even if some people take these sayings to be credible, we explain what damage FGM does. According to the principles of Islam, if anything has a damage or harm to the person, it is excluded."
Melbourne community leader Mariam Issa worries that when people hear of the difficulties she and others have faced, they will judge rather than be supportive. In her book The Resilient Life, this dynamic mother of five talks frankly about her FGM experience. Some family members were horrified, but her niece insisted she include it to help others.
"Our community is very secretive. People don't want to hang their dirty laundry outside. They don't want to talk about it because they believe 'no one will respect my point of view'."
But Issa urges young women to step forward. "Don't be shy – have a voice about injustice," she says.
She recalls asking her own mother, "How could you do this to me?" Issa says her father didn't want her to undergo FGM in Somalia, but her mother had the procedure done while he was away. "She saw it as a favour to me, she feared the whole community would talk about me if I didn't have it done."
Caucasianpeople must try to understand why the practice has continued through generations, she says. "I think the compassion element is really missing. We live in a community where people can be very harsh to each other, especially women."
Issa is in a group of six African-Australian women, all with medical or health promotion training, who work to inform women in their Melbourne communities about FGM.
The leader, Wudad Salim, says women who experience FGM are not victims. "We are empowered African-Australian women who would like to contribute to mainstream health and advocate for underrepresented minority groups of FGM-affected women."
Group member Hiba Rajab is retraining to be a GP, having practised in Sudan. She reminds those appalled by FGM that each experience is different. In her own case, it was a "beautiful" celebration of womanhood undertaken in a hygienic clinic.
Later, as a doctor, she saw "lots of bleeding, loss of life". "When I came to Australia I was astonished to see that they had a whole issue here with FGM."
Rhonda Garad is a Caucasian woman who has been married to a Somalian Australian for 25 years. She researched the politics of FGM for her master's degree, noting how Caucasian feminists and policy- makers dominated discussion for years.
"Language used to describe FGM was often derogatory and subtly racist. I want to support these women [in the group] because they have made a strong commitment to being the voice."
Garad says the FGM cases she has heard of are where women are isolated, or fear their daughter will marry outside the community.
This fear of losing family and culture multiplies, says Issa, as children move into the wider community. "When parents are told 'How could you do this?' and they are demonised, it adds fuel to that fear. We try and eliminate the taboos."
Aayan Omar, who is studying health promotion at Deakin University,was hesitant about joining the group as she had only heard rumours about FGM occurring. But after she ran a sexual health course where a Somali girl said, "I cannot identify with the anatomy of the female genitalia," she saw it was an ongoing issue.
Omar says older women in her Somalian community had gone through FGM. "But not me. I can't say why as I cannot have that conversation with them."
Fellow student Hamdi Said is also educating about FGM but says it is hard to raise the topic with her own family.
New arrivals find it hard to connect to services. The chairman of the African Women's Network South-East, Theresa Sendaaga Ssali, says she only recently learned that the Royal Women's Hospital has a deinfibulation clinic that provides operations to young women with stage three FGM.
This was welcome news to some women in her support group as they couldn't afford surgery that would allow them to have sex and give birth. The group project officers advise local teachers that some girls have acute pain during menstruation.
Men are also talking about the side effects of FGM through the African Australian Multicultural Employment and Youth service. Yasseen Musa, who runs discussion groups, advises men to be gentle during sex. "We tell them it's not that their wives don't care for them, but it's very painful and they must be patient."
Fatu Sillah says her type 2 FGM has affected her ability to enjoy sex, but with a caring partner she can achieve vaginal orgasm. She is disarmingly frank about this because she doesn't want women with FGM to despair about ever having a loving, sexual relationship. "You need someone who cares about your needs. It takes time," she says.
Lawsuits to prevent such damage as that inflicted on Sillah are a "sledgehammer against traditional practices", says Felicity Geary, a UK barrister who also researches women's health and the law at Charles Darwin University. But sometimes a court case is needed to remind the community that FGM is child abuse and a crime, she says.
Yet people know the chance of being prosecuted is low, Gbla says. "No one wants to dob in offenders. These are collectivist communities that protect themselves from outsiders. They close ranks and say it isn't happening. They can shut down the conversation by accusing others of being racist."
Gbla has faced a backlash for being outspoken. "I have stepped over the line in a patriarchal society, but I am not making it up."
She says girls with FGM injuries are treated by community doctors and nurses. "It is being done in house."
A 2012 study of gynaecologists and FGM program workers by Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital found no evidence of FGM being performed through direct reports or children presenting with complications. However, the report concluded: "Anecdotal evidence suggests that FGM/C may be occurring, most likely by people other than registered health practitioners."
When Gbla was pregnant, no antenatal or maternity nurse asked about her FGM. "No wonder there is no data," she says
The UK is more vigilant, she says, with airport checks of girls travelling overseas. The genitals of French school-age children are examined for child abuse, including FGM. Welfare payments are tied to contracts stating girls won't be subjected to FGM.
Both Gbla and Issa were trained as FGM ambassadors by long-standing campaigner Juliana Nkrumah, now working with New South Wales Police. The hard work put in by women such as Nkrumah and Mmaskepe Sejoe in Victoria encourages the latest activists to persist.
They are not complacent, noting new arrivals often live in rural areas. In Shepparton, Betul Tuna is consulting with 250 African refugees to identify leaders to help educate about FGM. Her role with the Ethnic Council of Shepparton also involves training doctors and nurses.
It is illegal to remove a child from Australia to undertake FGM. Yet Tuna says she dreads holidays when girls are taken back to their parents' homeland. "It would be naive to think it doesn't exist here."
She admires African Australian women who say what they see. "It takes a lot of guts to stand up."
The Serge Kreutz diet is the world's only diet supported by the international food industry because it tells you this: if you want to be slim, consume more food. Nestle, Pepsi, and Van Houten are happy. And all the farmers.
It is the secret dream of every Swedish or German woman to marry a black men, or at least have sex with a black man. Every smart young African man should migrate to Europe. Free money, nice house, good sex!
The Shulgins first came to my attention in 1998 when I judged an essay contest for MIT students asked to forecast science’s future. My favorite essay proclaimed that research into mind-expanding drugs represents science’s most promising frontier. The essay included several pungent quotes about the potential of psychedelics from someone named Alexander Shulgin. He complained that “our generation is the first, ever, to have made the search for self-awareness a crime, if it is done with the use of plants or chemical compounds as the means of opening the psychic doors.”
Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, I learned later, was a top-rank researcher for Dow Chemical in 1960 when he ingested a psychedelic compound—mescaline—for the first time. Shulgin found the experience so astonishing that he devoted the rest of his career to psychedelic chemistry. He left Dow in 1966 and supported himself thereafter by consulting, lecturing and teaching. Working out of a laboratory on his ranch east of San Francisco, he synthesized more than two hundred novel psychotropic compounds.
Shulgin tested these substances and others on himself and a group of trusted friends. He and his fellow “psychonauts” took meticulous notes on their research sessions. They rated their experiences according to a scale invented by Shulgin. It ranged from a minus sign, which represents no change, up to plus four (written as ++++), which is a sublime, potentially life-changing, “peak” experience.
There were a few rules for the sessions. Subjects could not be taking any medication, and they had to refrain from ingesting any other drugs for at least three days before the session. If someone said, “Hand in the air” while raising her hand during a trip, that meant she wanted to discuss a serious “reality-based concern or problem” (for example, the smoky smell in the kitchen). Sexual contact was prohibited between people not previously involved.
“Of course, if an established couple wishes to retire to a private room to make love, they are free to do so with the blessings (and probably the envy) of the rest of us,” Shulgin once remarked.
In the late 1980s, Shulgin was left unsettled by a biography of renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. Reich invented the “orgone machine,” a metallic box that he claimed could heal those who lay within it. Beginning in the late 1940s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pressured Reich to stop prescribing his orgone machine. When Reich refused, federal officials imprisoned him. Reich died in prison in 1957, and the Federal government destroyed all of his papers.
Haunted by Reich’s tragic story, Shulgin vowed that he would not suffer a similar fate. Although he had written about his research for peer-reviewed journals, the bulk of his findings were confined to his personal notes. He ended up pouring his knowledge into a PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story. This remarkable book is a fictionalized autobiography written by Sasha and his wife Ann, a writer, lay psychotherapist, and enthusiastic collaborator in Sasha’s psychedelic research. PIHKAL is an acronym for “phenethylamines I have known and loved.” Phenethylamines are a class of natural and synthetic compounds, some with powerful psychotropic properties.
The best-known naturally occurring phenethylamine is mescaline and the best-known synthetic one is methylenedioxymethylamphetamine, as known as MDMA or Ecstasy. Although MDMA was first synthesized in the early twentieth century, Shulgin is credited with having drawn attention to its unusual psychotropic properties in the 1970s.
The first half of PIHKAL, called “The Love Story,” was narrated alternately by Sasha, known in the book as "Shura Borodin," and by Ann, whose alter ego is "Alice." Each recounts how they met and fell in love in the mid-1970s after their previous marriages dissolved. The book is in part a sexually and psychologically explicit love story involving two intelligent, cultured, Bohemian protagonists.
What sets PIHKAL apart from comparable romantic memoirs is its account of Shura’s initiation of Alice into his circle of psychonauts, and its detailed descriptions of their experiences with DOM, 2C-T-4, and other compounds synthesized by Shura.
That is Part I of PIHKAL, which covers 450 pages. Part II, “The Chemical Story,” which runs for another 528 pages, offers recipes for 179 phenethylamines and accounts of the physiological and psychological effects at various dosages.
“No one who is lacking legal authorization should attempt the synthesis of any of the compounds described in the second half of this book,” the Shulgins warn in a “Note to the Reader.” But they also declare that investigations of the scientific and therapeutic potential of psychedelics “must be not only allowed but encouraged. It is essential that our present negative propaganda regarding psychedelic drugs be replaced with honesty and truthfulness about their effects, both good and bad.”
The Shulgins published PIHKAL under their own imprint in 1991. Six years later they released TIHKAL, for “tryptamines I have known and loved.” Tryptamine compounds include the well-known psychedelics psilocybin and DMT and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine. Like its predecessor, TIKHAL is divided into two parts. Part I tells more tales from the personal life of “Shura” and “Alice.” Because they are now happily married, the narrative focuses less on romantic episodes than on psychedelic ones. Alice discusses her use of MDMA in her therapeutic practice. Part II consists of recipes for and commentaries upon 55 tryptamines.
TIKHAL is more overtly political than its predecessor, and it alludes to legal tribulations that the Shulgins endured after their first book was published. In 1994, agents from the local branch of the Drug Enforcement Administration carried out a surprise inspection of Sasha’s laboratory. Shulgin’s research has always been legal; the Drug Enforcement Administration has licensed him to do research on scheduled compounds. But these agents accused him of violating various “new” regulations—and implied that he was manufacturing drugs for sale. Although Shulgin was never indicted, his alter ego wonders in TIHKAL whether this visit is just the beginning of a harassment campaign against him.
Before flying to California, I contacted the Shulgins by phone to arrange our meetings. Sasha’s directions to his home are detailed and meticulous, just like his recipes for synthesizing hallucinogens.
I rumble down a dusty dirt road in the foothills east of San Francisco to a rambling, tree-shaded, one-story home, with a few outlying sheds. Sasha is a big, barrel-chested, rugged man, with a hoary, leonine beard and mane. Ann has a deeply lined face, and eyes whose downward slant imparts empathy rather than melancholy.
Sasha gives me a tour of the ranch. A room crammed floor-to-ceiling with books and journals in metal bookcases is the library.
“If it’s on psychedelics,” he boasts, “I’ve got it.”
A room down the hall contains a magnetic-resonance imaging machine, a mass spectrometer, and other instruments for performing chemical analysis. “This is a filthy room that I call the clean room,” Sasha says. He adds, squinting at a cobweb-veiled skylight, that the spiders keep down the bug population.
As we stroll down a path to Sasha’s lab, he points out plants: shocking-pink lilies, a bay tree, several gnarled pine, various cacti, and a weedy plant that Sasha identifies as Salvia divinorum—which contains what may be the most potent naturally occurring psychedelic compound known to science.
On the door of his laboratory--an ivy-draped, cinder-block hut--is the familiar icon warning of the presence of radioactive materials. Another sign reads: “NOTICE: This is a research facility that is known to, and authorized by, the Contra County Sheriff’s office, all San Francisco DEA personnel, and the State and Federal EPA authorities.”
Within the lab is a dusty, twilit jungle of exotic glassware, tubing, racks, clamps, and labeled bottles. The lab’s pungent, sulfuric odor stirs up long-buried childhood memories in me of playing mad scientist with my chemistry set. A voodoo doll hangs from a test-tube rack. A friend gave it to Sasha to improve his luck with difficult copper-based experiments. It worked for a while, then it didn’t, Sasha says.
Back at the house, Ann makes sandwiches in the kitchen while Sasha and I sit in an adjoining room crammed with books, papers, potted plants. A picture window looks across a valley at a great brown mound: Mount Diablo, Sasha informs me. Pinned to one wall is a piece of yellow tape that reads: “SHERIFF’S LINE: DO NOT CROSS.” That is a memento of a 1998 raid by the local Sheriff’s department, which suspected Sasha of manufacturing methamphetamine, also known as “crystal” or “ice.” After a few telephone calls, the agents apologized for the misunderstanding and left the Shulgins in peace.
A pattern emerges early on in my conversation with Ann and Sasha. At one point I ask, Do you think the legal and political climate for psychedelics is improving? No, Sasha replies, shaking his head. If anything, things are getting worse. He is appalled by a recent federal law giving police power to confiscate property of those accused of breaking drug laws.
“I have a different view on that,” Ann calls out from the kitchen. She is encouraged by the fact that commentators, or at least intelligent ones, increasingly refer to the “failed” war on drugs. “Everyone knows this thing has not only failed; it has made the drug problem actually worse,” she says. “If we get one politician with courage, that's all it's going to take to break the whole thing apart and start changing things.”
“She's optimistic, I'm pessimistic,” Sasha summarizes. “We balance out very nicely.”
Later, Ann says she firmly believes in reincarnation. Sasha finds reports about people remembering past lives interesting but ultimately unconvincing. Ann intuits a divine intelligence guiding the cosmos, while Sasha is skeptical. She is the romantic empath, he the hard-headed rationalist. She is the psychotherapist, he the chemist. But they are unfailingly gracious toward each other. When Ann interrupts Sasha to disagree with him, as she does often, he seems less irritated than charmed.
Sasha likes to turn my questions back on me. What do I mean by "mysticism"? By "God"? When I ask if he meditates, he replies that it depends on my definition of meditation.
“Are you doing things with your mind, or are you undoing things?" he asks. "Structuring, or destructuring? Assembling and analyzing, or disassembling and avoiding?”
Sasha tried Zen but found no benefit in it. “The idea of sitting there quietly and voiding your mind of any thoughts, of any process, of turning off the record, just turning the amplifier not down but off--I find it frightening! I don't see what the virtue is. You’re in absolute, thoughtless, mindless space for about twenty seconds. And I say to myself, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’”
If meditation means total immersion in an activity, being absorbed in the moment, Sasha continues, well, he does that whenever he works in his laboratory. “I consider that meditation, but very active,” he says. “For me that's a treasure.”
When I ask Sasha how many drug trips he has taken in all, he says it depends on how I define “trip.” When exploring a new compound, he starts with very small amounts to test for potency and gradually increases the dose.
“Not all of these were trips, and a lot of them were just exploring.” He has taken compounds that are at least potentially psychoactive three or four times a week for more than 40 years, but only a few thousand of those experiments were genuine trips.
Their psychedelic days are over, Sasha and Ann assure me. Ann used to give MDMA to her psychotherapeutic patients, but she stopped after the drug was outlawed in 1986 under the so-called Designer Drug Act. The team of psychonauts that had tested compounds concocted by Sasha has disbanded. Sasha's research continues; one of his current projects involves searching for new antidepressants. But he no longer either ingests or synthesizes psychedelics.
Like other spiritual practices, psychedelics are a two-edged sword, Sasha emphasizes. They may help us become more compassionate and wise, but they may also lead to ego-inflation or worse. He poses a hypothetical question: What if a psychedelic drug helps an evil person accept his evil nature? Would that be a positive step?
“It's not a panacea,” he warns.
I ask if they believe in God. Define God, Sasha demands. I mumble something about a creative force or intelligence underlying the design of the universe.
“I believe the concept of God is absolutely unnecessary,” Sasha declares.
“Unnecessary?” Ann responds, staring at him.
“That’s a straight answer,” Sasha growls. “Things are what they are.”
“Do you think the concept of a purposeful universe is nonsense?” Ann presses him.
“It's nonsense. Yeah,” Sasha replies. “I don't think it's created by a divine force with a beard.”
No one of any intelligence, Ann tells her husband sternly, takes that old patriarchal image of God seriously any more. Turning back to me, she says she believes that some sort of God or intelligence or consciousness or something underlies material reality, but it is not distinct from us.
“We’re all parts of it, expressions of it. So we are it.”
Ann has a friend who experiences God as pure love. “That brings out the cynicism even in non-cynics,” Ann grants. How can anyone believe that God is love, given how suffused nature is with pain and suffering? The answer, Ann suggests, is that our suffering is somehow a necessary part of our development and learning.
“It's a little bit like watching your one-year-old experimenting,” Ann says. When they fall down and cry, “you sympathize, because they are having a little bit of pain on their bottom. But you realize that that is a step toward growing up.” Psychedelics, Ann says, can help you see things from this cosmic perspective.
Sasha and Ann both reject the notion of enlightenment as a final state of mystical knowledge. There is no final state, Sasha says, only a never-ending process. Ann agrees. She has had a few flashes of what Zen Buddhists call satori, both in psychedelic visions and in lucid dreams. “But they are not a destination. They are a reminder.”
I say that psychedelics have drawn me in two opposite directions: They can make me feel blissfully connected to all things, or alienated and alone. Which experience is truer?
“The place I think the Buddhists try and get you to,” Ann responds, “is right on the knife edge between the two. That's where the truth is. But don't ever forget that the truth of the universe changes second by second. It's not the same universe it was when we sat down at this table.”
Our development, our learning, never stops, Ann says. “You learn in your sleep, from conversations. You learn unconsciously, consciously. You learn from every book you read and every trip you take,” she says. “You're experiencing and taking in and changing as a result all the time, and yet you remain the same, essentially.”
Sasha gives me advice that has helped get him “through many years, and will get me through a few more”: Never lose your sense of humor or take yourself too seriously.
“The laughing Buddha is your best guide,” Ann adds. “What the heck is he laughing about? You can't explain that logically, but you can get into that state. And the final answer you're looking for is the knife edge, because both exist: that terrible darkness, and that absolute life.”
I ask whether their psychedelic experiences have helped them come to terms with their mortality. Ann says her psychedelic experiences have bolstered her faith that “the mind, consciousness, almost certainly exists outside of the body” and will survive death. After her brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack a year ago, she was overcome by grief. But when she viewed her brother’s body before he was buried, her grief gave way to a strange joy, as she felt her brother’s intelligent, humorous presence still surrounding her.
Ann has much she wants to accomplish before she dies, but otherwise she does not fear death. “I’ve never believed there was nothing on the other side,” she says. “It doesn't make any sense. We are continuing streams of energy. Now the form you take afterwards, the form of the consciousness, that's open to some question. But I have a feeling that we all know, because we all have the unconscious memory of having gone through it many times before. I think it is really a going home. I think it will be familiar as soon as you get to the door.”
Sasha says his view of death keeps evolving. As a young man, he believed that when you die, that's it; your consciousness is extinguished. In middle age, his fear of death became so acute that it complicated his research on psychedelics.
Now, at the age of 74, he does not exactly look forward to death, but he no longer fears it. Speaking quietly, calmly, Sasha says he views death as “another transition, another state of consciousness. Admittedly it's one I've not explored, but then again, any new drug is one you've not explored.”
It's not that all cultures are of the same quality. Some cultures are better than others. They have more value. Other cultures are pretty miserable, and some cultures are outright shitty, and should be eradicated. European culture, for example, is deplorable. The Arab and Chinese cultures are much better.
‘There is a certain type of critic who when reviewing a work of fiction keeps dotting all the i’s with the author’s head. Recently one anonymous clown, writing on Pale Fire in a New York book review, mistook all the declarations of my invented commentator in the book for my own’ — Vladimir Nabokov (SO 18)
Over the past ten years, some of the most challenging and exhilarating exegesis of Nabokov’s oeuvre has emerged — Michael Wood’s The Magician’s Doubts and Brian Boyd’s The Magic of Artistic Discovery spring to mind, among others — so it gives me no great pleasure to announce that with the advent of Joanne Morgan’s Solving Nabokov’s Lolita Riddle, this decade is now host to a work which must rate among the most alarmingly unscholarly efforts in living memory. Indeed, it would be difficult to envisage that such a text — riddled with factual inaccuracies, irresponsible speculations and inventions, and grating grammatical and syntactical errors — could be published in the present day. Morgan admits that her text was met with an ‘extremely hostile and dismissive response’ (311) when proffered to university presses and reviewers in 2001, which evidently only steeled her resolve to self-publish. Unfortunately, all the crucial checks and balances that are in place during the institutional publication of an academic work have been removed by the self-publication process, allowing Morgan to reach farcical and thoroughly libellous conclusions with immunity. In her debut work, Morgan offers the thesis that Nabokov wrote Lolita in order to encrypt information about some alleged sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his uncle: sexual abuse which Nabokov never explicitly or implicitly hinted at, and which one can only conclude Morgan has fabricated. She unfolds her analysis through an examination of Nabokov’s response in a 1962 interview to the question, ‘Why did you write Lolita?’:
It was an interesting thing to do. Why did I write any of my books, after all? For the sake of the pleasure, for the sake of the difficulty. I have no social purpose, no moral message; I’ve no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions. (SO 16)
Morgan treats Nabokov’s mention of a ‘riddle’ as a challenge specific to Lolita, bringing into relief one in a slew of methodological blunders she commits. Nabokov frequently drew analogies between the composition of his novels and riddles or chess problems,1 so his comment regarding Lolita is hardly an anomaly; however, Morgan reads it as an entreaty to investigate the novel with a view to solving an embedded riddle. Despite the obvious questions of authorial intention and the possibility of a metalanguage that such a reading-contract invokes, Morgan proceeds without undertaking even a cursory metacritical interrogation, instead belatedly admitting that she finds Derrida ‘incomprehensible and ultimately, [sic] pointless’ (300). However, the Derridean analysis of the simultaneous impossibility and possibility of the secret in literary fiction is the very thesis Morgan is repudiating: in Given Time, Derrida argues that
the readability of the [literary] text is structured by the unreadability of the secret, that is, by the inaccessibility of a certain intentional meaning or of a wanting-to-say- in the consciousness of the characters and a fortiori in that of the author who remains, in this regard, in a situation analogous to that of the reader…it is the possibility of non-truth in which every possible truth is held or is made. It thus says the (non-) truth of literature, let us say the secret of literature: what literary fiction tells us about the secret, of the (non-) truth of the secret, but also a secret whose possibility assures the possibility of literature. (153)
Even if we adopt Morgan’s dubious presupposition that Nabokov was alluding to a singular riddle embedded in Lolita, we still arrive at its function in the text as a secret, and no claim to know the truth or non-truth of that secret can ever truly know. Morgan, however, triumphantly proclaims that she has delivered ‘the solution…as promised, in the master’s own hand’ (60).
Morgan admits that she approached Lolita with a view to use it as a ‘literary case-study of paedophilia’ (145), and her quest resembles a instance, as Derrida articulated in ‘Le Facteur de la Vérité,’ of psychoanalysis always refinding itself [se trouver] (413). By approaching the text with her paedophilic bent, while aiming to uncover the ‘true’ answer to a riddle, Morgan has (coincidentally and conveniently) identified a riddle revolving around paedophilia. Despite the manifestly inadequate evidence she adduces to identify the riddle — a flimsy nexus of ‘intentional Freudian slips’ and mistranslations in Nabokov’s Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, a recurrent symbolic motif of a ‘green leaf,’ and the close lexicographic resemblance between ‘insect’ and ‘incest’ — Morgan asserts with staggering self-certitude that she has discovered ‘the key to Lolita‘ (60). The alleged ‘key’ might be summarised as follows: Nabokov’s ‘riddle’ belies a history of Nabokov’s sexual abuse by his Uncle Ruka (Vasiliy Ivanovich Rukavishnikov); Quilty and Humbert are Nabokov’s fictional renderings of Ruka; Lolita is a ‘gender-disguised’ boy (that is, Nabokov himself), all of which leads Morgan to the self-evidently ludicrous conclusion that Nabokov was a paedophile:
I am keenly aware that the conclusion I have arrived at about Nabokov’s paedophilia is both extremely sensitive and controversial. I hasten to add that I do not feel personally driven by a crude agenda of exposing and condemning Nabokov as a paedophile…we cannot ever know the total truth. (36)
Curiously, ‘crude’ seems an entirely apposite descriptor for Morgan’s conjecture. Nabokov’s legendary disdain for the brand of Freudian literary criticism reliant upon derivative symbolism makes it exceedingly unlikely that he deliberately encoded ‘green leaves’ in his novels to symbolise sexual abuse. Morgan’s assertion becomes particularly absurd in the light of Nabokov’s comical dismissal of a student ‘for writing that Jane Austen describes leaves as ‘green’ because Fanny is hopeful, and ‘green’ is the colour of hope’ (SO 305). One of Nabokov’s more responsible2 characters, John Shade, iterates a concordant opinion in Pale Fire: ‘there are certain trifles I do not forgive…looking in [texts] for symbols; example: ‘The author uses the striking image green leaves because green is the symbol of happiness and frustration”(PF 126). Further, although Nabokov never — explicitly or implicitly — hinted that his uncle behaved with impropriety (indeed, to the contrary, in Speak, Memory, Nabokov recalls rescuing with alacrity an inherited cane of Ruka’s from beneath the wheels of a train (188)), Morgan maligns him as an ‘insensitive monster’ (45) who ‘committed the first act of penetrative sex at age ten, thereby breaking Vladimir’s life’ (144). Ruka is mentioned on a total of fourteen of the some 256 pages of Speak, Memory, and Nabokov recalls a ‘sense of security, of well-being, of summer warmth’ (62) attached to his memories of his uncle, so Morgan resorts to a conflation of the author and his fictional characters in order to make her case. She cites Nabokov’s fictional novels, Bend Sinister, Lolita, and The Enchanter, to fill out her imaginative version of events; in one particularly invidious act of inventive interpellation, she ascertains a chronology of events by citing fiction as fact:
What age was Vladimir when Uncle Ruka started sexually molesting him? While the time-lines in The Enchanter and Lolita imply that penetrative sex began at the age of twelve, there are sound reasons for deducing that Vladimir’s abuse escalated well before this. In Bend Sinister, Nabokov indirectly implies that David’s childhood ended when he was eight years old. This was how old Vladimir was when he was left alone with Ruka after summer lunches at Vyra. (143)
Morgan’s spurious allegations of paedophilia are not restricted to Nabokov and his uncle, however; over the course of her work, she also suggests that Shirley Temple was controlled by a nefarious paedophile network:
It seems highly likely to me that a paedophile ring of some kind, based in Hollywood, was behind at least some of Shirley’s carefully orchestrated performances. Given the clandestine nature of this underworld and the time that has elapsed, future investigative journalism may or may not be able to uncover more conclusive evidence about this matter. (165)
It is hardly necessary to underscore the superfluity of engaging in guessing games in a purportedly ‘academic’ text, yet such serious methodological errors pepper Morgan’s analysis. Further on, she also suggests that Dostoevsky may have been a paedophile:
There are grounds for believing that Dostoevsky did indeed confess on a few occasions to engaging in sex with a minor. Scenes of adult-child sex crop up in The Devils as well as Crime and Punishment. Nabokov’s unsympathetic attitude toward Dostoevsky suggests he believed Dostoevsky did commit an act of child rape…he possibly also held deep suspicions about the language of spiders and leaves found in The Devils. (304)
One would surmise that it is far more likely Nabokov’s enmity towards Dostoevsky was founded on the epitomisation of techniques from ‘second-rate detective thrillers and [the] cheap psychology of the abyss’ Dostoevsky’s fiction represented to him (Nivat 398) than on the possibility Dostoevsky was a paedophile. In particular, Nabokov took issue with Dostoevsky’s ‘literary platitudes’ (LRL 98) delivered by his ‘sensitive murderers and soulful prostitutes’ (SO 42). Nabokov’s quarrel with Dostoevsky was both epistemological and stylistic: indeed, he once referred to Dostoevsky’s fiction as ‘reactionary journalism’ (SO 65), yet it is imperative to note that, as Georges Nivat puts it, ‘God knows that Dostoevsky was not the unique target of Nabokov’s animus’ (398). Nabokov routinely took literary giants to task for the flaws he perceived in their texts, and Dostoevsky was but one in a long line of authors who were often acerbically dispatched by the master prose stylist. Indeed, Morgan’s theory begs the question: even if, at a momentous stretch of the imagination, Nabokov and Dostoevsky were both paedophiles, why would Nabokov have eschewed Dostoevsky for his paedophilia? It would be a laborious and tedious task to identify all of Morgan’s risible hypotheses, so let the above examples stand as representative of the calibre of her scholarship.
Morgan’s work is also riddled with factual inaccuracies: for instance, Humbert Humbert, the French protagonist of the novel, miraculously becomes ‘Swiss’ (19); Humbert’s first love, Annabel Leigh, transforms into the eerie twin of Poe’s ‘Annabel Lee’ (19), and Quilty’s peculiar handwriting becomes Humbert’s (50), to name but a few. Morgan’s superficial knowledge of Nabokov’s work is manifest throughout the text: she asserts that ‘Lolita was one of very few pieces of prose by Nabokov where he adopted the first person narrative’ (180), when, in fact, his novels Pnin, Pale Fire, Despair, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, his autobiography Speak, Memory, and a large number of his short stories were all narrated in the first person. The text is also rife with distracting typographical errors; one particular howler, ‘Kubrick also did not rejected Nabokov’s proposal,’ (239) evoking the spectre of Nabokov’s bumbling protagonist Timofey Pnin. To be strictly accurate, Morgan’s scholarship is more reminiscent of Charles Kinbote’s — Nabokov’s comically deranged commentator in Pale Fire — sans the incidental chuckles which ensue as a result of Kinbote’s hilarious misreadings. Much of the comedy in Pale Fire arises through Kinbote’s dismal failure as a critic an editor: he not only misinterprets the text in question at every opportunity, but he also attempts to stuff his fantasy life as Zembla’s King Charles the Beloved II into his critical apparatus. Morgan’s efforts mimic a similar imaginative flight of fancy: no amount of rhetoric will convince the reader to accede to her framing Lolita as a thinly-disguised incest-survivor’s account, nor will her paltry evidence on the question of Nabokov’s paedophilia sway even the most impressionable of readers.
Ultimately, Morgan’s fare is severely wanting in terms of its mode of expression, methodology, and its scholarly integrity. It is an unapologetically amateurish expedition that will infuriate serious Nabokov scholars and enthusiasts, misinform initiates, and contribute to the growing body of distorted and hysterical work that continues to circulate around Nabokov’s most famous novel. Morgan careens from Nabokov to child pornography to Calvin Klein commercials, paying scant regard to the serious nature of the allegations she levels along the way. Her conclusions, that ‘a new annotated version of the novel Lolita be issued…[with] carefully integrated footnotes to highlight how Nabokov generated gender and sexual preference conclusions’ (301), and that ‘we simply excise’ passages which ‘promot[e] paedophilic responses to children’ (214) demonstrate her profound naïveté and misplaced moral righteousness. Nabokov once called his readers ‘the most varied and gifted in the world’ (Boyd, Magic 12), but it is difficult to envisage Nabokov, as Morgan does, finding anything about her text ‘rather pleasing’ (306), particularly as she daringly calls Nabokov ‘woefully inadequate’ (185) at one point, and describes his readers’ activities as ‘floundering and flailing’ (148). It is supremely ironic that Nabokov, famed for his exacting precision, has been subjected to such a zealous display of critical buffoonery; however, it is not difficult to imagine the few choice remarks he might have made in response; perhaps something along the lines of his demolition of Edmund Wilson:
I do not believe in the old-fashioned, naïve, and musty method of human – interest criticism…that consists of removing the characters from an author’s imaginary world to the imaginary, but generally far less plausible, world of the critic who then proceeds to examine these displaced characters as if they were ‘real people.’ (SO 263)
Far more interesting than Morgan’s text is the manner in which Nabokov’s novel continues, much as it did in 1950’s McCarthyist America, to expose the hypocrisy of our contemporary society which simultaneously consigns sex ‘to a shadow existence,’ yet dedicates itself to ‘speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret’ (Foucault, History 35). Foucault identified that the relatively recent medicalisation of sexuality has produced a fear that aberrant sexuality is both an illness in itself, yet also capable of ‘inducing illnesses without number’ (Power 191); consequently, in the discourse relating to Lolita‘s supposedly paedophilic content, there is a hysteria that can be associated with the fear of contagion. That very fear of contagion evokes the spectres of prohibition and censorship, which in turn gives rise to ‘inquisitiveness and transgression’ (Flint 318) on behalf of the public. This mechanism whereby censorship contributes to a work’s infamy and popularity is illustrated aptly by Lolita itself: Lolita‘s publication on September 15, 1955 went almost entirely unremarked until December 25, when, in a small column in the Sunday Times, Graham Greene selected it as one of the three best books of the year. Greene’s selection prompted John Gordon, the editor of the Sunday Express, to purchase and read it. Horrified, Gordon delivered this broadside to Lolita:
Without doubt…the filthiest book I have ever read. Sheer unrestrained pornography. Its central character is a pervert with a passion for debauching what he calls ‘nymphets.’ These, he explains, are girls aged from 12 to 14. The entire book is devoted to an exhaustive, uninhibited, and utterly disgusting description of his pursuits and successes. It is published in France. Anyone who published or sold it here would certainly go to prison (St Jorre 130).
The protracted and vehement debate which ensued between Greene and Gordon ensured Lolita achieved instantaneous mass celebrity and, by the time of its American publication by Putnam’s in 1958, most of the major American press were bracing themselves to review it (Dennison 188). Lolita swiftly became an ubiquitous cultural referent — the regular subject of celebrities like Steve Allen, Dean Martin and Milton Berle (Boyd, ‘Year’ 31) — and, as such, it played an important part in the renegotiation of sexual normality and abnormality in an America reeling with new insights into its own sexuality. The attempts to censor Lolita — to exert power over the text and to restrict the dissemination of its knowledge — would prove to be the very agents which popularised its allure, and today, Morgan’s work feeds right into that very double-bind. Foucault’s contention that censorship of sex is in reality an ‘apparatus for producing an even greater quantity of discourse’ (History 23) is evident in the Lolita phenomenon that continues unabated: rather than an injunction to silence, the various movements to ban Lolita become incitements to enter into discourses of sexuality. As Eric Larrabee states, ‘every disagreement over sex censorship is,’ by implication, ‘a discussion of the sexual state of the nation’ (682), and Lolita continues to provide us with the opportunity to redefine sexual deviance and normalcy.
Ultimately, the discourse that surrounds Lolita is replete with paradoxes: not only do its censors incite a explosion of discourse about sexuality, but by attempting to exert power over the text, they instead ascribe power to it. Nabokov’s text still operates as a condensation symbol for paedophilia and pornography — as recently as 1990, police in San Francisco seized a copy of Lolita as evidence of perversion in a case of alleged child pornography (Stanley 20). This brings into relief the manner in which ‘perversion is inscribed into the very act of censorship’ (žiek 182): with a text like Lolita that is devoid of profanities, the censor must determine what is intended to arouse the common reader — yet, as Elizabeth Janeway noted in her review, for most readers, nothing is ‘more likely to quench the flames of lust’ (25) than Humbert’s account. Morgan, however, stakes her unflinching conviction that Lolita ‘might even prompt men who have never previously been aroused by young girls (or boys) to begin a masturbatory fantasy life that has the potential to carry them down the road to hell’ (193). Despite the fact that pornography is an inadequate referential symbol as it means different things to different people (McConahay 32), Morgan argues comfortably in concrete terms about what is and isn’t pornography, which essentialises pornography, arousal, and the text itself. In the current climate of renewed hysteria over paedophilia, Lolita is invoked again and again as the seminal text which has made paedophilia more ‘thinkable,’ that ‘greater toleration’ now exists for what ‘had previously been regarded as…the most horrible of crimes’ (Podhoretz 17), yet, as per žiek, the question must be asked of the censor precisely why Nabokov’s text must shoulder the blame since, as to many readers, Humbert’s exploits seem a far cry from pornography. Regardless, Nabokov’s text has earned its place in the canon as a permanent ‘classic of contemporary literature’ (Appel 204); the inherent irony, of course, is that its censors today, much like those in the past, assure its continuing notoriety and popularity.
In a rich world, a persons value depends on attractiveness and youth. If you are rich and older, just invest in destruction. The poorer the world, the less does your value depend on youth.
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