Harry Potter: Has the Boy Wizard Lost his Innocence in the Marketing World?

Potter

London – Exactly 20 years ago, the first book of a new young adult series was published in the UK. The hero was a bespectacled boy wizard called Harry Potter.

Scotland, the author J.K. Rowling’s home country was the first to write positive reviews about “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Major British newspapers soon took note and the series gradually became the most important cultural literary phenomenon in modern Britain, breaking book sales records and resulting in a successful movie franchise, various amusement parks and a number of other lucrative businesses.

Parents were probably the most pleased with the legendary success of the series because it helped children rediscover the love of reading at a time when the internet was starting to emerge as an entertainment outlet and when Britain’s middle class was suffering from an economic downturn.

According to a 2005 study, 84 percent of school teachers believed that Harry Potter indeed improved students’ reading skilled, while 73 percent said that they were positively surprised with the series’ ability to attract students who previously did not care much about reading. The young adult book industry in Britain owes a lot to Rowling in doubling the average number of book pages in the past 20 years. The average was 140 pages, while it later rose up to 290. Publishers were no longer afraid of releasing thick books and stores were no longer worried about displaying them in their windows.

There is no doubt that Harry Potter had a major impact on the consciousness of an entire generation of Brits, who are now grown up and probably have become parents to young adults. Talk of a Harry Potter generation may not really be very accurate because even though the last book of the series was released in 2007, it still attracts waves of new readers each year and new editions of the seven-book series are released each month.

Observers agree however that the books had a political edge that became more prominent as they progressed and as Harry grew up and developed as a character. Each book represented a year Harry spent at the Hogwarts school of magic. The pressing question that should be asked now after 20 years is what impact has the series left?

Pop culture experts’ opinions vary on the matter, but they agree on the importance of this impact.

Some conservatives believed that the books promoted satanic practices, witchcraft and fairy tales. Indeed, several conservative churches in the United States burned copies of the series because they deemed them to be “satanic works” that attracted children to black magic. They described Harry Potter as the “innocent face of the satanic forces of darkness.”

Others however said that the series hold positive religious symbolism, especially in the idea of a chosen savior who will face the forces of evil while following an unwavering moral compass.

Meanwhile, some studies said that young adults who have read the Harry Potter books are generally more prone to empathize with others. They are less likely to make prejudgments when compared to those who have not read the series. A recent American research said that fans of the series are less likely than others to have voted for Donald Trump as president.

Critics of the books however have blamed them for creating “political gullibility among the British youth, who naively divide the wold between progressives and between evildoers.” These youth approach life as if it were a “Disneyland amusement park.” Others have went on to say that the books gave growing generations fake and unrealistic easy solutions and an escape from the daily pressures of living in Tony Blair’s Britain. Other critics said the series was like a young adult version of George Orwell’s dystopian classic, “1984”.

Even though the Harry Potter series turned into a lucrative marketing business, its critics were not limited to the political field, but major literary figures attacked the books, saying that they were a mix of other literary worlds. “Rowling’s only main skill lies in her ability to copy and paste old young adults books,” they claimed. This prompted the author to slam her accusers as “lacking an imagination and who only know a world of cartoons and empty reality television shows.”

Other critics condemned the violence in her books, saying that the Harry Potter world is strewn with the bodies of 158 characters.

Despite all of this, the series, which Rowling famously started writing on a napkin while sitting in a cafe when she was struggling to make ends meet as a single mother, has, thanks to capitalism, turned into a billion-dollar industry. This industry keeps a tight grip on the image rights of the books and the translation of the series into 80 languages.

The industry has however also left no room for the innocent boy wizard.

France’s Cultural Elite Lose their Historic Clout in the City of Light

Sartre

London – Political observers are in almost complete agreement that the social movement that accompanied the recent French presidential elections led to unprecedented changes in the political structure of the country not witnessed since the end of World War II. At the time, Charles de Gaulle assumed power and expanded the privileges of the president, thereby paving the way for what is now known as the Fifth Republic.

It has become clear that the French people have lost patience with traditional politicians and their traditional parties with all of their endless disputes and conspiracies. They have instead turned towards a non-partisan president, who appeared on the French scene about a year ago. He is faced with an opposition that is built on the legacy of the Vichy government and coup leaders of the Algeria war.

Major French politicians were not the only victims of this major upheaval. Along with them fell one of the most important aspects French life, one that has been with it since the French Revolution: the voice of the French cultural and intellectual elite. It became clear amid the domination of the liberals and the extreme right voices that no one in France now listens to what the cultured have to say. The cultural elite have withdrawn with their thoughts and theories into the shadows. They have returned to their universities and specialized centers without leaving a mark on the recent developments.

This is not the France of Jean-Paul Sartre and we are no longer in the position of intellectual leadership of the country, commented French philosophy professor. Sartre was the famed leftist philosopher who led the Paris student marches in 1968. Even when he was arrested on charges of civil disobedience, de Gaulle, who was then president, was quick to issue a pardon and release him, telling his men: “France cannot arrest Voltaire.”

De Gaulle’s stance was the best demonstration that France has always distinguished itself from other European countries in that its cultured elite have affected political and social developments. This elite has stood against popular movements and intellectual currents, often ones to the left of the governing body, and defended the poor, the workers and the marginalized, and even the victims of French colonialism.

These cultural figures can trace their roots back to Voltaire, the searing critic of the institutional elite. He was followed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose thoughts on the social contract paved the way for the French Revolution in the 18th century. Victor Hugo expressed the voice of the miserable and marginalized of the 19th century, while Emile Zola, the 20th century novelist and journalist, faced the highest levels of power in the affair of Jewish officer Dreyfus. He wrote his acclaimed article “J’Accuse”, which landed him in jail, but he later went on self-imposed exile in London. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu spent a part of his life leading railway worker strikes and Sartre, the philosopher, was the voice of global leftist issues in the heart of Paris. Albert Camus inspired the generation of the angry 1960s and Michel Foucault altered the nature of general discussions in France, bringing up issues of reforming prisons and the penal code. Jean Baudrillard was the example of the regular Frenchman who exposed the fraud of capitalism. Even at the beginning of the 21st century, French cultural figures preserved their impact on their country. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy consulted the neo-right philosophy of Bernard-Henri Levy when he decided to take part in the ouster of Libya leader Muammar al-Gadhafi in 2011.

Observers attribute this shift in thought to the wave in turning to the right that is dominating western sentiment and which has left its mark among voters, as it did in Britain and its Brexit and in the United States with the election of Donald Trump as president.

This wave was not born out of nothing, but it was a product of the severe depression that plagued the left cultured figured after years of global socialist experiences in the 1980s. The experiences led to their isolation and popular blocs shifted their attention to right, who turned the social conflict from a horizontal divide into a vertical one. There is no doubt that the major disappointment in the rule of the socialists in recent years, before the election of Emmanuel Macron last week, did not help many French people in avoiding falling for the chauvinist popular right spider web.

A quick scan of French bestselling books gives clear evidence of this. At the top of non-literary books lists were the works of Alain Finkielkraut, author of “The Unhappy Identity”, who argued that France is surrendering to Islamists under the excuse of tolerance and liberalism. Éric Zemmour, author of “The French Suicide,” believes that France has lost its identity and called for a return to the golden age of the past.

Even literature bestsellers are focusing on the right. Michel Houellebecq’s book, “Submission,” spoke of the election of a Muslim candidate as president of France in 2022, sparking wide debate in the country. The neoliberal media in France paved the way for such publications to be the focus of talk shows without offering the position of the opposing view. Propaganda, similar to the one in the United States, is now taking center stage in the city of lights. This will likely create further divides between the true French intellectuals and the popular blocs.

There are still intellectuals and philosophers in France, but it seems that they have lost their position as moral guides of this nation, which is inevitably a personal loss for each one of them. The greatest loser however is the entire French nation, including its governing elite, which in the future will find itself at the helm of a republic without a conscience to deter it.

Bauman … Protagonist of Humanity amid Modernity

London- Humanity has never witnessed a phase full of changes like the 20th century with all its miseries, wars, and failed dreams. The best philosopher to explain this century in all its bad incidents accompanied with slogans of development, modernity, and wealth, was Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017), the Polish philosopher who passed away on Monday in Italy.

Bauman was known as the protagonist of the regular human being facing shifts and institutional complications. He was able to propose his over-complicated philosophy with a simple language so all people can understand it.

Bowman’s philosophic intellect comes from the heart of sociology. He wrote around 60 books and dozens of articles, which were spread in the West among experts and regular people interested in the hard reality they lived in; most of his writings were translated to different languages, including Arabic.

Bauman’s works represent an inclusive criticizing philosophical organism that aimed at understanding the human existence in the 20th century. The Polish Philosopher was brave to accuse the contemporary era and to criticize each and every phase of modernity describing it like the “era of big YouTubes.”

According to Bauman, all the old practices have become useless and failed in coping with the new humanitarian status in the modernity phase, which failed to create new practices to deal with the emerging circumstances.

Despite his constant criticism for modernity, Bauman always avoided frustration that dominated other writers. Yet, he provided a balanced view that was eager to eliminate confusion between reality and imagination.

His criticism approach was influenced by Marx, La Rochefoucauld, and Antonio Gramsci. He used their tools to cope with the Modern State in its bourgeois or communist face.

In his writings, he discussed the labor experience in Britain (1960), modernity, bureaucracy, rationalism, and holocaust. However, his major intellectual project emerged in the nineties after he retired from his academic work; this project known as “the liquid modernity” believed that the flabbiness of identities, the time and place, and modern communities contradict with the power of modernity, which was close to put the end of history, without providing a better understanding for a better life.

On the other hand, Bauman born from two Jewish parents, provided a critical interpretation for the holocaust regardless of historic facts. He refused to consider that this massacre committed by European countries against European citizens was because of the “Jewish matter”. He believed the holocaust was the result of the “modern state” concept, which monopolized violence, power, enforcement measures, and the ability to control life or death.

Bauman was born in a poor family in Poland. His misery drove him toward communist intellect. When Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and by the Soviet Union, in 1939, his family escaped to Russia, where he joined the Soviet-controlled First Polish Army. He was discharged after his father approached the Israeli embassy with a view to emigrating to Israel. Then, Bauman moved to the academic perspective and studied sociology and philosophy.

After his family chose to migrate to Israel, he studied at a university there for a short period. However, he moved to Britain after he criticized Israeli practices against Palestinians.

The Polish philosopher has left our world but his intellectual project will always remain a scientific evidence for people who may seek to dismantle and understand historic shifts within the coming decades.

Former Police Officer Beats Harry Potter’s Author

Police Officer

London- Former policewoman Clare Mackintosh has beaten JK Rowling to the Theakstons Old Peculier crime novel of the year award for her novel “I Let You Go”.

Mackintosh spent 12 years working as an officer in the British police and has decided to leave her career in 2011 to work as a full-time writer. Commenting on the decision of the award’s jury, she said:

“I first came to Harrogate as an unpublished author, so to win this award tonight is a dream come true”; she also thanked her publishers for their trust and support in writing her novel.

The crime writing prize is now in its twelfth year, with previous winners including Val McDermid, Lee Child, Mark Billingham, Sarah Hilary and Denise Mina.

Mackintosh, who will receive £3,000, beat off competition from a shortlist including British and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback between May 2015 and April 2016.

Before winning the Old Peculier crime novel, “I Let You Go” has marked significant presence; it was a Sunday Times bestseller and a Richard and Judy book club winner in 2015. Figures suggest that the novel’s sales have reached 500,000 copy till date, and is expected to increase after authorizing copyrights in more than 30 countries around the world.

At the awards ceremony, previous winner McDermid was also presented with a special prize, the Theakstons Old Peculier outstanding contribution to crime fiction award.

Fellow crime writer Rowling said she was grateful to McDermid for a positive review of Galbraith’s writing, before his true identity was revealed.

Harry Potter author Rowling was shortlisted for Career of Evil, written under her pen name Robert Galbraith, but lost out at the award to Mackintosh with her thriller. Critics said that Mackintosh’s novel was real and has reflected real-life experiences she lived in her career as a police officer.

It is worth mentioning that the final list of the Theakstons Old Peculier crime novel of the year award included four novels written by women versus two written by men; apparently the publishing industry has recognized that the crime is more convincing and tempting to read when written by women, which means it can make more revenues especially that most of the crime novel’s audience in the West are from women.

Recent statistics revealed that 80% of this genre of books sold yearly around the world are bought by women.