Monday, July 17, 2017

A little exercise in the archaeology of literature: "The Petrel" by Marcelle Tinayre

There was a time, a century ago or more, when reading novels was the normal thing: no TV, no Internet, no radio, a lot of entertainment was done by means of novels and a lot of ideas were passed in that way, too. Of that period, we remember a small number of novels that we define as masterpieces, but there was much more being written and being read. Looking at this "minor" production is a way to perform a sort of an archaeological task.

So, this book by Marcelle Tinayre (1901) appeared in my hands by mere chance and I read it over a summer afternoon: 93 pages (in the Italian translation). As I said, a little exercise in literary archeology for a book that, for us, looks light, even ethereal. Not the kind of book that a modern writer would write but - I can say - one that a modern reader can read.

The story is very simple: the protagonist is a woman, Martha, living in a real place, Château-d'Oléron, a small island on the South-Western coast of France. A simple woman for a simple story. Married to a staunch but not very exciting local doctor, she falls in love with a young Parisian intellectual who visits the island. Their love story produces a child and much repentance on the part of the protagonist who, eventually, stops seeing her lover and doesn't tell anything to her husband. It also includes dramatic descriptions of the local landscape. That's it, more or less.

So, a light story for a light novel, but worth some comments. This is not the work of an amateur. It is the work of a professional writer who completely masters the trade. Marcelle Tinayre has something to say and she knows how to say it. Again, for our modern tastes, her style would appear, well, let's use the term "florid". But we are probably obsessed with a rule that we invented and that states "don't tell, show," as if every narrative text were to be a script for a sitcom. Tinayre doesn't care. She shows a lot but she also tells a lot. The narrative viewpoint is normally focused on the protagonist, Martha, but the author is omniscient and she doesn't shy from telling us what the other characters think while they act in the novel. The result is, as I said, a bit florid but perfectly readable. Tinayre knows how not to exaggerate, she knows how to maintain the narrative flow, she knows how not to lose the reader's interest.

Then, the novel is not just entertaining, it carries a message. Narrative, indeed, is a mirror of the times when it is written and "The Petrel" is no exception to the rule. Tinayre, as many writers of the time, were exploring a concept that had taken a particular importance in their time: that of the infidelity of married women. Of course, that had been the subject of much literature from Sumerian times. But, most of the times, the infidel woman had been the target of scorn and punishment. Even when treated sympathetically, typically the infidel woman had to die at the end of the story (a good example is Dante's "Paolo and Francesca").

Then, there came Flaubert and his "Madame Bovary," a true literary revolution. True, Flaubert's heroine still dies a horrible death, possibly as punishment for her sins. But, clearly, Emma Bovary is not evil, even though she has defects. She is a woman of her times and what she does deserves attention and understanding. It is clear that "The Petrel" is deeply influenced by "Madame Bovary", there are similarities in the plot: both novels tell of a young woman married to a country doctor. And the style of "The Petrel" resonates of Flaubert's, even though less perfect. Finally,  Flaubert's novel is cited in Tinayre's novel, when we are told that Martha's good husband doesn't believe in the existence of women who could be defined with the term "Bovary."

Tynaire's novel came some 50 years after Flaubert's one and it couldn't attain the same notoriety of the precursor of the genre. Yet, as Borges says, human literature is just a single book and every author adds a new chapter to it. In this ongoing effort, Tinayre's chapter is not the least beautiful, rich, and interesting chapter of this big book. And it is an ongoing story of women gaining a space in society that they didn't have before. If long ago a cheating woman was at best possessed by the devil, with the series of stories that started with Flaubert, a lot of things changed. They are still changing and the book keeps being written. And, sometimes, we take a look at a chapter written long ago and forgotten, and we can rediscover it.

Below: Marcelle Tinayre (1870-1948)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Dragon Blade: it takes as much effort to make an ugly movie as to make a beautiful one.

Over the past several years, I have been consistently unable to watch a mainstream action movie for more than a few minutes; all of them being too silly and too predictable for me. So, I thought that the fact that I managed to watch this one all the way to the end makes "Dragon Blade" at least worth a brief comment.

So, the first comment that I can make about this movie is that it takes about the same effort to make an ugly movie as to make a beautiful one. And this one surely took a lot of effort: battles, duels, mass scenes, ornate costumes, all that. The result is as ugly as a movie can be. Slow and unlikely duels, wooden dialogues, silly melodramatic scenes, gratuitous violence, costumes that look like they were borrowed from a cosplay exhibition. What else do you need in a movie to make a movie truly ugly? Yes, make it boring most of the time, and you have it: Dragon Blade.

But there was something in this movie that made it worth watching; a thread that surfaces only at the beginning, to remain hidden but occasionally flashing up during the rest of the movie. It is the different kind of story that characterizes Chinese and American movies. American action movies have the simplest theme you can imagine: good guy finds evil guy and defeats him. Chinese movies have a different theme: good guys organize to fight evil together. So, this movie is a juxtaposition of the American and the Chinese themes: at the beginning you have the Chinese theme of group solidarity that leads to peace and collaboration. It has good moments; naive, sure, but moving, such as when the young boy, Publius, sings something supposed to be the "Roman Hymn" in a sort of Latin. Then, the American theme takes over, the bad guy shows up and the rest of the movie goes trough the rear valve of the bull.

The Chinese movie industry hasn't expressed so far an author equivalent to the Japanese Hayao Miyazaki who has defined a whole century in terms of visual arts. But they might. And, if they do, it will be something to watch, indeed.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Russian Legion - How the Russians saved Messina

One of the very few existing images that show the work of the Russian sailors engaged in rescuing the survivors after the disastrous earthquake that struck the Italian town of Messina in 1908

The earthquake of Messina, in 1908, was an exceptional event for many reasons. One was it size; with some 150.000 casualties, it was one of the largest recorded in history up to then. One curious facet of this story was the role that the Russian Navy played in it. 
Yet, the Russian rescue expedition created an exceptional feeling of gratitude in Italy. There was something in the way the Russian sailors acted that left a deep impact. 
So much that Italian poets engaged in praising Russia and the Russian sailors that went on for a few years after the earthquake. Below, a poem by Tommaso Cannizzaro (1838 – 1921). As poetry, it must be said it is not so great, but it seems sincere. It shows that there is some kind of natural mutual sympathy between Italians and Russians which still exists today (unless propaganda convinces them to hate each other)

The Russian Legion
They were young, handsome and they had
On their face the ray of the stars of the Great Bear
And they jumped into the flames 
As lions into a thick forest.

And they took out of the fire the wailing people
While at their feet were falling
Walls, beams and a shiver took hold
Of the trembling crowd overlooking

Leaning down on the rubble to hear
If a rattle were coming from the bottom
Of living people to help and save,

They were there, and their efforts were blessed
By the merciful sky - Century old history
Wrote their names in its great book.

By Tommaso Cannizzaro, February 19, 1909

Eran giovani e belli e il raggio in volto
a lor della polare Orsa splendea
e si slanciâr dove l’incendio ardea
come leoni dentro il bosco folto.

E i gemebondi da le fiamme han tolto
mentre in frantumi ai loro piè cadea
la trave e il muro e un brivido correa
nel popol trepidante ivi raccolto.

Chini sulle macerie ad origliare
se dal lor fondo un rantolo salisse
di vivi da soccorrere e salvare,

stavano e i loro sforzi benedisse
pietoso il ciel – La storia secolare
il nome lor nel suo volume scrisse.

Di Tommaso Cannizzaro, 19 febbraio 1909

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The commissioner and I. A Debate on Nuclear Energy

This is a post that I had put together in 2011, just after the events it describes. At that time, I didn't publish it in Cassandra's Legacy because it seemed to me that it could have been seen as some kind of bragging on my part. After some years, I found it in the mass of unpublished posts and I thought that I could as well publish it on "Chimeras" in a novelized form, with some modifications that include the concept of "framing" that's becoming popular nowadays. So, if you think that I am praising myself too much, please accept my apologies. But it is the way things went. 

Italy, 2011

The debate on nuclear energy has been raging for months and it has been looking more and more pointless to me. The line that the government has been hammering down has always been the same: it is all decided; the choice has been made, Italy will return to nuclear energy. Yes, they keep saying, you can have all the debates you want and also this silly referendum called by this band of Greens, Communists, and assorted Subversives as if the opinion of the people mattered. But make no mistake: the government is not going to take a step back: Italy is going to have nuclear plants.

So, why did I accept to intervene in a debate on nuclear energy? Well, a friend asked me to come and I hadn't been able to find an excuse to avoid it. Some kind of a call of duty, but what's done is done and now I find myself playing the role of the "anti-nuclear" guy, a definition that I hate.

The debate takes place in a small Italian town where they seem to have a tradition of holding public debates. I am first introduced to the moderator. I know him, he is a physicist, a university professor. I know that that he is one of those physicists who seem to be still living during the "atomic age" of the 1950s and who see nuclear energy as an absolute need for humankind to keep moving along the road of progress. But, if he is the moderator, he should take a neutral position. Or so I can hope.

Then, I am introduced to my opponent; the "pro-nuclear" guy. He tells me he is the "commissioner" of an important government agency. He is in his early forties; an imposing man, wearing a double-breasted suit. His body language tells me that he is very sure of himself; he is not even wearing a tie. Evidently, he thinks he doesn't even need to look too official to win the debate. I note that and I take off my tie as a friendly gesture. He seems to appreciate that. We chat a bit; he tells me that he is a lawyer and he has been engaged in several of these debates. Apparently, he finds that he can make short shrift of the assorted ragtag band of commies and greenies opposing him. Fine, we'll see.

The auditorium is large and it slowly fills up with some 200 people coming from the nearby towns: young and old; several seem to be university students. We start, and I immediately see that it is a trap. The moderator speaks first and is not neutral at all; he is fully and totally pro-nuclear. They are playing on me the game called "the sandwich." I am supposed to speak in between my opponents and one of them will speak last. And, in this kind of games, he who speaks last is the one who wins.

But nobody can determine who will win a battle before it is fought and this one is still to be fought. As the moderator speaks, I can see that he is not doing well. He is lyrical, he speaks about Prometheus, about the nuclear fire, about the manifest destiny of humankind. Not that he is a bad speaker, but he doesn't frame his position: what is he arguing for, exactly? He is out of tune with the audience: they wanted facts and they are perplexed. He doesn't realize that as he keeps going. When he finishes, he receives some weak applause.

It is my turn. I have been looking at the audience and I think I can size them well enough. They don't seem to be politicized or already oriented on the nuclear issue. They seem to be, mostly, ordinary people, just curious about what they will hear.

I start with saying that I am not there to scare anyone, that nuclear energy should not be demonized. Of course, there are risks involved but, overall, nuclear energy has done us much less damage to people than coal and hydrocarbons. And that I think that the attempt of the Greens to scare people with threats of two-headed babies or of cancer epidemics is just plain idiocy. This seems surprise everyone, both in the audience and on the podium. It is completely different than the usual stance of the people arguing against nuclear energy. I take a quick look at the face of the commissioner. He is clearly pleased.

I continue by moving into another subject: my main field, mineral resources. So, I tell them about resource depletion, about the finite amount of uranium in the earth's crust, about the increasing costs of extraction, about the need for increasing amounts of uranium if nuclear energy production were to be expanded. I introduce the concept of EROI, energy return on energy investment and they seem to understand it. I tell them that there are many different evaluations of the EROI of nuclear energy but that, on the whole, it is not better than that of renewable energy and that it might be much worse. I also tell them that the more uranium we mine, the more expensive it is to mine, and that will necessary reduce the overall EROI or nuclear energy. I tell them that the Italian nuclear plants would have to run on 100% imported uranium that should come from countries which are not necessarily friendly to us. I ask them if they think it is wise to engage the country in such a risky adventure: if uranium becomes scarce, where are we going to find the uranium needed to fuel the new plants?

Over the years, I have developed a certain skill in understanding what the audience thinks. And, this time, I can see that the message has passed - the people in the audience understand what I am saying and they are interested. And I also developed a certain skill in passing the message: communicating is mostly about "framing."  That involves not just telling the message in ways that the audience can understand, but also taking a role that the audience can understand. In communication, the messenger is often more important than the message and, in this case, I consistently take he role of the teacher; a role that the audience is familiar with. They know that a teacher is not selling them anything nor he is trying to convince them to vote for some specific party. And so they tend to trust a teacher. It is not role-playing for me, teaching is my job. I just have to be what I am. And it works.

I finish my presentation. Now it is the turn of the commissioner to speak and he is clearly in difficulty. He keeps repeating the line that the government has taken a decision that cannot be changed.  eulogizes nuclear energy, saying that it is cheap and safe. But that's not what the audience wants from him: he should answer to the points I made, but he doesn't know how. It seems that he had never encountered this kind of objections to nuclear, he knows nothing about mineral resources, depletion, energy return, and the like. He seems to have been framing himself as a figure of authority; something like the stern father. But authority, just like respect, has to be gained. It is not enough to be a physically imposing figure. He has to demonstrate that he knows what he is talking about, and he can't. His speech is flat. The audience, clearly, is not satisfied; he finishes his speech and he receives unconvinced applause.

There follows the debate, and people have lots of questions. Their main curiosity seems to be, "if there is really a problem of availability of uranium, how come that nobody told us anything about that?" And, on this, the commissioner totally at loss. At some point, someone asks him about using thorium as fuel, isn't it true that it is more abundant than uranium? He can only answer, "I have technicians who take care of these issues". There is a perceptible gasp in the audience; their faces reveal what they are thinking, "this guy really doesn't know anything about nuclear energy". From then on, it is all downhill for me. The "sandwich" strategy has not worked, the people in the audience are asking questions mainly to me.

It is over. In the evening, we get together for dinner. The organizers are very pleased: the meeting has been lively and clearly appreciated by the public. Much less pleased is the commissioner; actually, he is still shocked. I can understand him: a lawyer to debate a scientist on nuclear energy against? Whose idea was that? But, apparently, in all the previous discussions he only had to debate people who knew nothing better than trying to win the debate by scaring the audience with the perspective of cancer and deformed children. But so it goes, we all live to learn.

As we chat amiably over a glass of wine, the commissioner stops for a moment to think of something. Then he says, "you know, the people who are against nuclear energy, they should be shot". I look at him, he looks at me. "Not you, of course," he says. I just smile. At least, I was right in thinking that these debates are useless.

In March 2011, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster shook the world. The Italian referendum on nuclear energy was held on June 11, 2011 and 94.05% of the voters voted against the construction of new nuclear reactors.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Literature as Archaeology of the Mind: A New State of Un-Consciousness?

"My Antonia" by Willa Cather was published in 1918 and acclaimed as a great novel. Today, nearly a century after, it looks as distant and remote as Egyptian or Sumerian literature

The ancient world is, by definition, past and gone and the voices of those who inhabited the past are forever lost, except in the written form that we call literature. True, some have tried to hear the voices of the ancient in the objects that arrived to us from pre-literate ages; one was Marija Gimbutas who thought she could say that the people of those remote ages practiced a gentle form of matriarchy. Maybe, but that's debatable to say the least.

So, we can explore the minds of our ancestors only from what they left to us in writing. That limits our horizon to some 5000 years in the past; with the 3rd millennium BC being the earliest age from which we written texts of some length that we can decipher. It is literature, in a sense, but also something that's hard for us to recognize as such. The solemn hymns to Inanna that were left to us by the first named author in history, the Sumerian Enheduanna, look baffling to us, even though, occasionally, Enheduanna's voice emerges strong and clear, as if she were here, in front of us.

Just as baffling for the modern reader are the epic songs of the West. Poems such as the Iliad and the Odyssey are still read today, but mainly because they are inflicted to generations of high-school students who couldn't care less. But, if you go in depth into them, you discover their true alienness. Julian Jaynes did just that with his "The Origin of Consciousness" where he maintains that the minds of the ancient were just different from our minds. They were not really conscious the way we are or, at least, we think to be.

I tried my own experience by reading two one-century old books: one was "My Antonia" by Willa Cather (published in 1918), the other "Remembrance of Things Past", by Marcel Proust (published in 1909). It was not an easy task. I succeeded, but it was not only hard but also not especially pleasant. I kept going, page after page, expecting something to happen, but finding only lengthy descriptions of details and more details about the environment in which the characters clumsily move.

Maybe this experience of mine would have pleased Julian Jaynes. My mind is by now focused on the Web experience; to that rapid clicking and changing that makes you wary of any text exceeding the 500 words (and, for some of us, 140 words are enough). The mind of the people writing, and reading, a hundred years ago was different. They had better concentration power, or maybe they simply had less distractions available, so that they would enjoy following the pointless adventures of Charles Swann in Proust, as well as those of Jim Burden in Cather.

A hundred years, apparently, is sufficient to make a piece of literature as remote as a Sumerian hymn. And, as for the case of a Sumerian hymn, perhaps the main virtue of those old novels is their archaeological interest. By reading them, you can have a vicarious experience of what life could be in a world without phones, without radio, without TV, to say nothing of the Internet. A completely different world, a completely different life. People would get their news only from the press and their entertainment mainly from visiting other people's homes.

And yet, it was the kind of life that our ancestors have been living for tens of thousands of years. What kind of life are we living today? Hard to say. What kind of mind is that of people who keep texting all over the day and do little more than sending each other pictures of cute cats? Perhaps, we have reached a new state of un-consciousness that, one day, a future Julian Jaynes will study and wonder about.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The story of Tanetnot, the Egyptian dancing girl

Dancing Egyptian girls from the Nebamun tomb (source)

Some years ago, I stumbled into an Italian translation of the tale of Wenamon, written around the 11th century BCE. The story of the epic of this Egyptian priest made a strong impression on me; so much that I wrote the piece that I reproduce below. Reviewing what I wrote at that time, I think that my interpretation of the story was correct, but it is also true that, today, the Epic of Wenamon (or Wenamun) tends to be seen as a fantasy tale rather than the chronicle of a real travel. That might be, but this little known document remains a milestone of literature. It is, simply, a world apart from anything that was written before (at least for what has arrived to us). Wenamon's story is primarily the story of a human being who - even though a priest - is not a toy for Gods's battles, as, for instance, the protagonists of the near contemporary Iliad are. Wenamon is one of us. And here is what I wrote, trying to retell the story from the viewpoint of the Egyptian dancer whom I call "Tanetnot" here, even though the correct term would be Tentno (tjnt-nw.t). You can find a readable version of the whole story on reshafim 

The story of Tanetnot, the dancing girl
by Ugo Bardi

Of the men of the past, we remember kings, warriors, conquerors, builders, prophets, saints. People of great power, or of great wisdom, or of great riches, or of sanctity. Of those who were not powerful, not wise, not rich and not saints not much is left. Their memory has faded away as their bones crumbled away in some forgotten tomb. But, sometimes, the vagaries of the world and the weirdness of fortune bring to us traces of some were not kings or queens, not warriors, not builders, not prophets. One of them is an Egyptian dancing girl whose name survived the years and was brought to us as "Tanetnot".

She lived long ago, in an age when Pharaohs still ruled the land. We don’t know in which town she was born, nor how she became a dancer. We know nothing about her aspect, and we can only imagine her as one of those figures painted in the walls of ancient tombs. Girls with black hair, large eyes, and sometimes fancy hairdo and makeup. But maybe her blood was not wholly Egyptian, as it is said that at that time in Egypt, as everywhere and in every age, people fancied exotic beauties from far away.

For whom Tanetnot performed, we cannot say. Perhaps it was for the travelers of the barges that went along the Nile; or perhaps for the rich men of Memphis, or perhaps for the foreign seamen of the port of Tanis. At her time, Egypt was no more as great as it had been once. Past were the proud builders of the pyramids and past was the glory of the Pharaohs who had routed the armies of the shepherd kings from the East and of those who had crushed the invasion of the peoples of the sea. Of all this, Tanetnot probably knew nothing, or if she did likely she did not care. But she was perhaps curious to see new things and people, and we know that she traveled. Perhaps she liked to travel, and she must have used a boat, maybe a swift galley, or more likely a slow merchant ship, to leave Egypt. We know that she went to a town that at that time people called Byblos, in Lebanon.

Byblos was a merchant town, a crossroad of trade. At that time it was a rich town, and it may have attracted dancers and performers of all sort. We know that Tanetnot danced for the local ruler, someone whose name has been passed to us as Zakar-Baal. We do not know whether she was a concubine, a slave, or a passing performer for this man who was maybe a king, or maybe just a small warlord. We know, however, that in Byblos Tanetnot met a man coming from Egypt, Wenamon his name, the envoy from the Hall of the House of Amon in far away Thebes.

Now, this Wenamon was a very important man, or at least he thought himself as such. He was there to buy something that was impossible to find in Egypt: lumber for building a ceremonial barge for his temple. His task had not been easy: times were hard and seas not anymore so peaceful and safe as they had been when the great Pharaohs ruled. So, Wenamon had been delayed by storms, robbed by pirates, had to turn pirate himself, and finally had to plea and bargain for months to get the load of wood he needed. Wenamon himself had found all that quite unseemly for an important man as he thought he was. And, as the wood was finally loaded and the ship ready to go, there had come the news that pirate galleys had been seen at the horizon, most likely waiting to pounce on that fat merchant ship as she would leave the harbor. That evening, perhaps as part of the deal that had been worked out, or perhaps to cheer up the worried Egyptian envoy, the ruler of Byblos, Zakar-Baal, sent to him the gift of a ram, some jars of wine, and a dancing girl, Tanetnot.

We do not know how much Wenamon could enjoy his dinner, his wine, and his dancing girl that evening, for he may very well have been worried about the return trip. Nor we know how Tanetnot enjoyed dancing for this priest of Amon, so worried and so self-important. But if she danced, how should we imagine her? In an Egyptian scroll of long ago we can see dancing women. Sometimes, they are dressed in rich attires: transparent linen dresses with ostrich feathers, blue agate bracelets, and golden jewels around their arms and necks. But, sometimes, the dancers are nearly naked, wearing only belts and headbands. How was Tanetnot dressed that night? And what tune did she dance at? Perhaps the envoy watched the dance, or perhaps he paced nervously along the piers instead. We do not know what happened the day after, nor how the Egyptian merchant ship managed to avoid those sleek galleys. But we know that eventually Wenamon made it back to Thebes; otherwise we wouldn't be able to read his report. Most likely, we can imagine, he came back feeling much more self important than before.

And Tanetnot? We do not know whether the gift was intended as a one night lease or more than that. Perhaps she sailed with Wenamon for that uncertain trip back to Egypt. Or perhaps the morning after she just bid farewell to the Egyptian envoy, sure that she would not see him ever again. But when Wenamon was back to Egypt he wrote down a report of his trip to Lebanon. So self important and meticulous he was that he included such details as the ram, the jar of wine, and the name of that girl who had danced for him on the last evening of his stay in Byblos. Later on, he may have remembered Tanetnot once in a while, but quite possibly not very often. As for Tanetnot she, too, may have remembered at times the Egyptian envoy she had spent a night with. Maybe it had been her only chance to get back to Egypt, and she had missed it. But we may be sure that her career during the later years of her life was far from being as brilliant as that of Wenamon. Life is not gentle with fading courtesans.

So, Tanetnot became old and died. She was buried somewhere, her memory forgotten, her tomb lost in the sand, and her bones scattered away. Byblos itself was buried forever in the sand and forgotten, too. And Wenamon, too, important as he was, died. He was buried in some important tomb, but even that tomb was lost in the sand, and with it the memory of that important priest buried in it. But there was that report, a papyrus roll that remained in the temple of Amon in Thebes for many years, perhaps centuries. Then the temple crumbled down, its priests died and disappeared, and the papyrus was thrown away, somewhere in the desert, where it stayed buried for a long time. There, some three millennia afterwards, someone found it. Someone else translated it and published the text it in a book that ended on my desk.

I forget so many names and things that I read. By all means I should have forgotten the story of Tanetnot as well. And indeed I did forget it after a few days. But, this time, something strange happened. One night, while I was traveling in a night train, the name of Tanetnot came to my mind. Maybe it was because the compartment was hot, or because of the noise of the train, or because of something else, but that name lingered in my mind until day came and I found that I had not slept a minute. I had spent the whole night awake thinking of what Tanetnot was like and how she might have danced. It is hard to say how it happened that Tanetnot's ghost came to haunt a compartment of a train of the Swiss railroads going through the Alps three thousands of years after she had died in Lebanon. But maybe, as I said, it was because she liked to travel.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mata Hari: a Victim of Fake News

Mata Hari was executed by a firing squad on Oct 15, 1917. It is still a little early for remembering her a century after her death. But it is not too early to remember that the news of her arrest were leaked to the press in June 1917 and her trial started on July 24th.

Today, we know enough of this story to be sure that the fame of Mata Hari as spy for the Germans was completely unjustified. She was framed, she was just a convenient scapegoat to blame for the troubles and the defeats of the French army in 1917, during the Great War.

It was a kangaroo court that condemned Mata Hari and, in more than one way, she was the victim of fake news. At that time, propaganda was still a relatively new technology that would see much more development in our times. We haven't seen anything yet!