Let no man be called an infidel unless he has harmed another. (Anonymous)
Never thought of, never imagined, another disaster violently descends upon us. The news was wrong, we didn’t get it right. Unprepared, with no time for reaction, we are swept away. Things Ended. (C.P. Cavafy)
The whim to pen this piece of fiction, on a Trilogy in the making, pushed its way slowly into my thoughts. It started to take shape as I prepared for discussion on terrorism during a NATO Science for Peace and Security programme. When the opportunity presented itself I could not possibly turn it down. The acceptance to write this review, call it vanity, even vanity late in my day. An unpublished Trilogy has surely titillated my fancy. I have been pulled into it in search of the Balkans. This region has been referred to both inspirationally as well as ominously as the first and last Europe. The Trilogy is bound up in recent events, based on history and is a hard kettle of fish to swallow; more plastic than fish? It places enormous expertise on the shoulders of an academic, perhaps me, its author jokingly says, but whoever it is, Paris J. M says, he is a much needed expert on Balkan affairs.
As the tormented and tormenting Trilogy struggles to be printed-published the quandary remains, questions lurk, did it happen or not happen, is this fake, and should it be taken seriously. Is the mole’s son on a vengeful and evil quest to infiltrate American intelligence? But please beware; you never know if you are talking to Yuri the father or the son Sasha. If he drinks heavily it may be the father. If he is drinking Slivovitz it may be the son. Life is too frequently trapped within a bottle and escape is difficult. Fortunately, there is more than one Pilgrim.
The encoded duality implicit in the title is of a different order of magnitude from the duel between Pilgrim the American agent supreme, the ultimate winner over the Saracen. The Saracen’s dream is one of revenge and devastation of the USA using smallpox spores stolen from a hidden storage in a high security facility in Saudi Arabia. Unknowingly, smallpox will be infiltrated from Europe and injected into citizens by legitimate and unsuspecting health sector personnel. It is also a different duality to the one in the Americans where The Pair reunite to execute a mission subverting the U.S. government. As children they were indoctrinated into believing that given the opportunity the Soviet Union would have made for a world better. In the pairs’ world, dreams are compromised; marriage and espionage coalesce in their requirements for deception! In, I am Pilgrim the code is simple, smallpox identified-coded as a nuclear trigger. In Trilogy Paris attempts to explain certain oddities, discrepancies by creating the person of Sasha son of the notorious Yuri, but we don’t know where to find either of them, whether they are somebody or nobody. Living a life in code is unexplainable. Sometimes the search for a well hidden code of explanation, becomes impossible, proves impossible in normal life. What cruel obsession is imprinted in the gray matter of an agent provocateur or an ISIS slave that pushes outwards and pulls inward striving to penetrate power to its deepest level, at its highest center or by monstrous behaviors that remove the perpetrator from humanity. Teasing out the goals in Trilol is hard. Understanding a region like the Balkans in which the plot of Tril unfolds, is difficult.
My flirt, if not obsession with this fiction started to take shape during the event in Skopje. There are many competing obsessions. My contribution to the NATO event was a cocktail of health and diplomacy; less diplomatic, more public health. Health’s absence either individually or from the population minimizes life. Failing diplomacy reduces communication between nations. Public health has always given us a universal language but with a false appeal of neutrality. Medicine like disease knows no frontiers. Doctors cross borders for humanitarian reasons. Missionaries often doctors cross cultures. Unfortunately, cultures can be compromised by the well-meaning, humanitarian assistance can be blocked by authoritarian regimes and life giving public health measures can be withheld, to serve the purpose of an instrument of war. Health is deceptively political and it is rarely considered until it is lost. When health projects are supported by diplomacy they can smooth a passage, dampen a coming or ongoing conflict. I’m already talking to myself. During the discussion on security my mind wanders off into the spook’s dark realm where life, in sickness and in health, is grim. When he is transformed into a mole he becomes darkly subterranean. In any case the neurological and psychological problems of the spook need to be addressed if only by the therapeutic bartender. For nneuroses characterize the spook and fill his vast emptiness. They are his well spring of conflict and forest of isolation. They are separating walls between self and other, between fabricated reality and a normal world. The spook never knows which tree he is barking up or in what forest he walks. The rock may dissolve or remain unexplained as life becomes framed in e-truth and the world in fake news. The poles are not melting, guns do not kill and politics become tweeted and re-tweeted.
A mole’s role is always that of a pending victim. Is he a single, double or triple agent? Our brains fight to make sense of it all, constantly jarred by sudden, random replies with sentences echoing in the ears that won’t be heard. A culture of subtle deceit runs through hidden agendas with much back-stabbing. Committees are downsized as real expertise gives way to pseudo-expertise and questionable science. Institutions are headed by Chief Executive Officers whose personal philosophy is at odds with its stated mission. Great men are taken out.
Deadly nerve agents are used against former spies causing collateral damage, and chlorine gas rains down on civilian populations. They lead to a dangerous suspension of diplomacy and the emergence of a new cold war psychology. Some years ago I published a brief piece that touched upon clandestine ways to kill spooks and enemies using radioactive materials, but as things go amiss and they do it kills more ordinary people. Then unidentified criminals stole a container with 200g of radioactive material from a chemical factory in Chechnya. In transporting the carrier for just a few minutes both handlers were killed. The container dealt a death sentence to anyone who touched it. Rapid field test assessment of red blood counts of the two criminals who carried it, showed a drop to one third of normal. The radioactive material was destined for turbulent Kosovo. From 2005 onwards I was often in Prizren, an enchanting but run down Ottoman town somewhat north of the Albanian border. River with hanging restaurants, mountains, woods, mosques, churches, monasteries with damage marks from interethnic conflict. I recall interesting moments with students.There in 2007 we conducted a conference on human security in the Balkans and our conversations touched sometimes upon human trafficking, landmines and depleted uranium.
In what I report herein, and perhaps, fakely, a mole is imagined by its creator. Its mission relates and unfolds to a background set of bizarre events, which to give meaning to is almost impossible. This fantasy goes somewhat against the grain. A review usually follows on from a publication. My review relates to ongoing work of one of my old students, Paris J. M with a running title of Terror in Macedonia. More specifically the working document is a Trilogy in Greek. It contains important council for decision making today. Paris intuitively encodes and underscores how late it is in the day to trim the wings of terrorism. Clipping its wings, stopping it in its tracks is our challenge it is also NATO’s. This is the challenge of the author in his revealing writings as well as for this NATO meet. So perhaps in an unorthodox way I draw your attention to his as yet unpublished and under development most promising Greek Trilogy. I say developing because the author hands me a new and still drying printed page on a weekly basis.
The author’s previous novel Terror in the Balkans opens as the Twin Towers collapse. A third plane is targeting Manhattan crammed with a cargo of radioactive materials. Had it been jettisoned, Manhattan would have been left hot for years. Intercepted by American surveillance it was identified as enemy and hostile, halted and grounded. Days later its two pilots were dead from exposure to radiation. The foreign fighters in American airspace weaken fast as their red blood cell count plummets. Helped by moles within American intelligence the evil perpetrators of utter devastation escape to the Balkans from where they would rise again to redirect their evil plans, now aided by newly and rapidly growing criminal organizations and networks. Future events in the Balkans would spawn global interest as growing tensions between west and east grow. The aggravation could be the start of a new cold wave. With terrorism becoming war the wave could become a new cold war.
In “Terror in the Balkans” we are taken into the realm of treacherous missions and incomprehensible evil following on from a horrendous mountain of dust over Manhattan that embalmed the city in an early twilight. The new Trilogy becomes a symbol, perhaps an omen of mounting evil spreading even greater evil. Why such evil, how such evil? Can it be the work of one double agent? Can one man or a small group precipitate so much hatred? How can such a small stimuli expand into such utter despair? Deliberate duality is encrypted into the title of my fantasy non-review: evil asleep and awake, two sides of deceit, two regional images South Eastern Europe-Balkans; Telling tales or tales told? Are they tales that tell? Do we accept or reject them? They are images anchored in different minds, in left (west) and right (east) brains and their mind sets as well as shifting agendas both for good and bad. It reflects east and west overall and the very best and worst of both. It tells us that a new world narrative is needed.
Volume One of T, (Trilogy is now coded as T) speaks of the returning bear, a metaphor for the revival of old Soviet plans in the service of new red stakeholders and emerging oligarchs aimed at control of the southern Balkans driving for an exit to warm water ports. Reader beware though for the skills necessary to recognize differences between overlapping and coalescing fictions with any Balkan reality may not exist in clandestine regions. Do not forget that accountability is of limited currency when corruption crows and revenge is preeminent virtue.
What more can be asked in this life than to be the model, for a character sketch even if only in fiction? I must say that once upon a time, I wanted to play the practical doctor who miraculously restored hearing to an old man. His sound track was restored after the extraction of a dried and shriveled pea from his ear lodged there for ages. Olive oil helped. His wife was astounded. A French Canadian and a self made scientist, nominated for the Nobel Prize and working for the League of Nations helped neutralize threats to Europe flowing through the Suez Canal. He became the romantic model of the good doctor in a book by Sinclair Lewis. He discovered the bacteriophage and just escaped the axe of Beria. As antibiotics arrived suddenly, his discovery to save the world from deadly bacteria lost its appeal. Now, as a storm of infection gathers over humanity and super bugs duel with antibiotics knocking them out, the good doctor’s phage may yet have a new day.
In the limit there are no laughs and no significant love affairs; no money laundering or wire taps in T. I did look for them. It is a cut and dried recipe; things can be right but they can also go wrong and when they are both we are in the realm of fake intelligence; only talk, much talk out of several sides of the mouth which can even out-spook the spook, the double faced, the sleepers, the moles. There is innuendo, much innuendo, confusion and lies; confusion intermingling with great organization; lies and more lies but agreed upon pacts to do the right thing. But nothing of the sort ever happened. The ticket we have will take us nowhere. It all makes this Trilogy, a true scenario that few will believe.
Terry Hayes. I am Pilgrim
Donald Ray Pollack. The Heavenly Table
Viet Thank Nguyen. Sympathiser
Jeffrey Levett. Inside Balkan Reality: Is there room for NATO?