Friday, March 10, 2006

Writers' Week: 'Look out'

British journalist Robert Fisk, the West's chief witness to the current state of the Middle East, gave the Writers' Week lecture on Wednesday afternoon to a crowd that spread in every direction as far as the tent could reach, with the numbers actually under the shelter of the tent replicated again to its west, south and east by people spilling over onto the Parade Ground lawns, up the slope to the back wall of Government House, and back as far as the book tent.

Describing some of the things he has been witness to, his voice broke several times. I was going to say he lost his composure, but actually, composure and Robert Fisk are two. As anyone who has heard him on Late Night Live will know, he is a man who can talk over the top of Phillip Adams. He has a loud, carrying voice with UK vowels underlying an international sort of accent-absence; you notice not the phonemes but the tone, and the tone is urgent bordering on hectoring. Some of the things he has seen are horrible beyond imagination, and he appears to be a man in urgent need of a longish rest.His sympathies are with the Middle East, his images graphic, and his message about the future grim: 'Look out.'

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