The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Culture Corner:
Women Talking & the Duke

Jan 9, 2023

Book: Women Talking by Miriam Toews, 2018

Based on actual events between 2005 and 2009, in a closed, remote old-fashioned agricultural Mennonite society. Over 150 women (including girls as young as 9) were drugged unconscious and raped by what they were told (by the men of the colony) were “ghosts” or “demons.” The women finally catch the multiple rapists, and they are taken away to be tried.

The book does not focus on the crimes, but rather women’s imagined response to the crimes. While essentially all the men of the society are away trying to bail out the rapists, the women spend two days in a hayloft discussing what to do, how to respond to events. The book artfully imagines their debate: across generations, philosophies, religious and social attitudes. The women keep talking until they reach a consensus that, facing their fear of the unknown, can finally bring hope for themselves and their children’s future.

There is also a movie of the same name set to be released this month, directed by Sarah Polley, and starring Frances McDormand and Rooney Mara.

Film: The Duke, a 2020 comedy-drama directed by Roger Michell, starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, $3.99 to stream on Amazon Prime

The Duke is based on the 1961 true story of 60-year-old taxi driver, Kempton Bunton. Much to the chagrin of his wife, he wages a war against injustice and for the common man. He is incensed that in order to watch BBC, you have to pay a fee! The license “police” patrol neighborhoods looking for antennas and fining scofflaws like Kempton.

And to make matters worse, the National Art Gallery goes on TV and brags it spent millions for Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington, millions that could have been used to grant free BBC licenses. People are lining up to see this hyped-up painting, and someone steals it! Was it Kempton? He is accused and goes on trial. Some of the best lines of the movie are word-for-word from his testimony in this “trial of the century.” A wonderful film.