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The 1980s and Britain's not-so-quiet Civil War
The revolution was televised. But because the Tories won the war and the screaming Labour masses had to get to work meeting the needs of austerity measures, the celebration has been muted.

This winter's melodramatic biography of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady, (performed by Meryl Streep) provides a few tantalizing historical film clips, bringing the violence of 1980's strike riots almost to life. But the film is mostly intrusive conjecture regarding the late-life dementia of the still living public figure. To get a better idea of the decade that brought us second wave UK punk bands like the Sex Pistols and the revival of the British ska movement, see the fabulous film Billy Elliot and, only slightly grittier, This Is England.

For a quick BBC overview of the election that changed everything for England:

Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
By Eduardo Galeano
Translated by Mark Fried
Illustrated. 391 pp. Nation Books 2009

If you haven't read Eduardo Galeano, please do! Galeano's writing is always powerful. The vignettes that make up Mirrors are in turns: beautiful, shocking, insightful, evocative. The stories he tells are untold in any other format that I have ever encountered. They are the result of painstaking research into moments in history. Galeano presents the bits of historical wonder he uncovered wrapped in fanciful story. He narrates a complete mythos that is exacting, direct, and, simultaneously, unsettlingly esoteric. He makes bold statements that are as beautiful as prose can be before it makes the leap into poetry.

An example:


Word Smugglers

     Yang Huanyi, whose feet were crippled in infancy, stumbled through life until the autumn of the year 2004, when she died just shy of her hundredth birthday.
     She was the last to know Nushu, the secret language of Chinese women 
This female code dated from ancient times. Barred from male language, which they could not write, women founded a clandestine one, out of men's reach. Fated to be illiterate, they invented an alphabet of symbols that masqueraded as decorations and was indecipherable to the eyes of their masters. 
     Women sketched their words on garments and fans. The hands that embroidered were not free. The symbols were.

Intrigued? So was I. I find that Galeano mentions in each paragraph at least one person or event or movement to which I would like to give a lifetime of further study.