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The 3 Hannibals In My Life: 1994 To 2014


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HANNIBAL

 

I write below, in this somewhat lengthy series of 3 prose-poems, brief sketches of three Hannibals.  They are Hannibals whom I came to know about in some detail in the last two decades, 1994 to 2014, from the age of 50 to 70. This 20 year period involved the last 5 years of my working life as a teacher-lecturer and extensive commitments in Baha'i administration, as well as the first 15 years of my retirement from FT, PT and most volunteer-work, after a 50 year student-and-employment life: 1949 to 1999.

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Part 1:

 

The first Hannibal was a Hannibal Lecter, a fictional character in a series of suspense novels by Thomas Harris. Lecter was first introduced in Harris's 1981 thriller novel, Red Dragon. Lecter was a brilliant psychiatrist and a cannibalistic serial killer in this novel.  This novel and its sequel, The Silence of the Lambs, featured Lecter as one of the primary antagonists.  In the third novel,  Hannibal, Lecter becomes a protagonist. His role is as an  anti-hero in the fourth novel, Hannibal Rising. This novel explores Lecter's childhood and his development into a serial killer.

 

Brian Cox, an Emmy award-winning actor, first came to attention in the early 1970s with performances in numerous television films.  His first big break was as Dr Hannibal Lecter in the film Manhunter. Manhunter was a 1986 American crime thriller film  based on that Harris's Red Dragon.  I have never written about that Brian Cox before. Nor have I written about the Brian Cox who has drunk cheap wine, methylated spirits and aftershave, and who has been in some of what the sociologist Irving Goffman called total institutions: jails, lockups, and padded cells.1  Until that particular Cox was 49, he was a self-confessed hopeless alcoholic.  By 2010 he was a man with a mission. But this is not the Brian Cox I have written about from time to time in several prose-poems. 

 

Part 1.1:

 

The Brian Cox at the centre of some of my little literary pieces was interviewed in Australia by Andrew Denton in September 2008. In September 2010 Cox appeared Downunder on SBS TV. Cox is a particle physicist and a Royal Society University Research Fellow. He is best known to the public in the UK and around the world as the presenter of a number of science programmes for the BBC. In March-April 2010 Cox presented a five part BBC television series entitled Wonders of the Solar System. It was a series that combined experiential adventuring with computer graphics to help explain our nearest neighbours in space.

 

I’m sure there are now millions of viewers like myself who now love Brian Cox. He bridges the gap between our childish sense of wonder and a rather more professional grasp of the scale of things, a professional grasp that I will certainly never have.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Wikipedia; Erving Goffman(1922-1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist and writer, considered "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century".  In 2007 he was listed by The Times Higher Education Guide as the sixth most-cited author in the humanities and social sciences, behind Anthony Giddens and ahead of Jürgen Habermas.

 

Part 2:

 

The second Hannibal is one I have written about briefly in connection with my studies of Roman history. The social breakdown of Hellenic society was first manifest in what historian Arnold Toynbee called a ‘Time of Troubles.’  That time began with the Peloponnesian War(431-404 BC), a war I studied and taught in a Greek history course.  It was a Time of Troubles, says Toynbee, that lasted for 400 years. 

 

Toynbee sites several examples of a new spirit of atrocity that took place during the Peloponnesian War.  These atrocities were “mortal blows,” “suicidal manias” that Hellenic society inflicted on itself.1  They were the first signs of the breakdown of that civilization, argues Toynbee. Toynbee, like all historians, offers us a particular interpretation of history.

 

Part 2.1:

 

In our time, suicidal manias and mortal blows have been inflicted on our society, our civilization, it could be argued. We did this in the years 1914 to 1945: two world wars, the holocaust, the Gulag and it may be that this ‘Time of Troubles’ and their mortal blows will go on. The tempest certainly shows no signs of abating a century after its theoretical start in 1914.  Tonight I watched a two hour TV special on Hannibal.2 I wondered what the equivalent of this Hannibalic war was in our modern age using the Toynbean paradigm. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol.4, OUP, 1962(1939), p.63; and 2 “Hannibal: Rome’s Worst Nightmare,” Southern Cross TV, 8:30-10:30 p.m., April 13th 2006.

 

Rome was conquering all,

conquering that moribund

world; so Toynbee put it in

his 11 volumes of History.1

 

A city state, the centre of emerging

empire, a Greek institution grafted

onto a traditional rural culture and

the world getting more complex.

 

And so it is in our westernizing

world, our spiritually moribund

nation state centre of an emerging

global society.The world getting

more and more & more complex.

 

Just as Hannibal shook Rome to its

boots, so our world as been shaken

by a catalogue of horrors and a ruin

whose magnitude is immeasurable.

 

And so an empire, a one world, came

into being and a Republic gave way2

to Empire as our world will give way

to world Order, but the great, endless

modern puzzle, jig-saw like, has most of

its pieces missing in our post-modernity.

 

1 Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Volumes 1 to 11, Oxford UP, 1962.

2 Keith Richardson, Daggers in the Forum: The Revolutionary Lives and Violent Times of the Gracchi Brothers, Cassell, London, 1976, p. xi.

 

Part 3:

 

The third Hannibal who came into my print and electronic media life in the last 20 years was the Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs.  The Silence of the Lambs was a 1991 American thriller film that blended elements of both crime and horror genres. Starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, the film is based on a Thomas Harris 1988 novel with the same name. The novel was Harris's second to feature  Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.

 

Lecter was given the honour of being the number one 'film-villain' of all time by The American Film Institute.  The American Film Institute also placed the escape scene in this film, a scene with Hannibal Lecter,  as 7th in  The 100 Scariest Movie Moments.  

 

In 2011, ABC aired a prime-time special,  Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time.  It counted down the best films chosen by fans based on results of a poll conducted by ABC and People magazine.  The Silence of the Lambs was selected as the No. 1 Best Suspense Thriller, and Dr Hannibal Lecter was selected as the No. 4 'Greatest Film Character.'

 

Part 3.1:

 

In the film,  Clarice Starling, a young U.S. FBI  trainee, seeks the advice of the imprisoned Dr Lecter to apprehend another serial killer, known only as "Buffalo Bill". The Silence of the Lambs was released on 14 February 1991, as I was just beginning to eye my retirement from FT work and also my life as a poet and publisher.

 

It was only the third in film history to win Academy Awards in all the top five categoriesBest PictureBest ActorBest Actress, and Best Writing. It is also the first Best Picture winner widely considered to be a horror film, and only the second such film to be nominated in the category, after The Exorcist in 1973.  In 1973 I was hired to teach in one of Australia's Colleges of Advanced Education and my study of film had just begun.

 

 

The Silence of the Lambs is considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 2011. To those who dislike horror films, I'm sure this would come as a surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for your response, Turtle. There are several possible discussions that could flow from this apparent blog post: (i) peoples' reactions to the film "Silence of the Lambs", (ii) peoples' comments on the fiction, if anyone has read any of Thomas Harris's books, and (iii) peoples' views on the relevance of Toynbee's view of history as applied to our current time of troubles. I leave these options, and any others readers might like to consider. And i thank you again for your question and comment.-Ron Price, Australia

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