Monday, December 6, 2010


Sometimes you come across a new take on an international saga that makes you sit up and pay attention again. Well it did me anyway. Wikileaks cables as literature, the headline blares.
Slate magazine's Christopher Beam argues that the 250,000 diplomatic cables in the latest Wikileak (I tried to hotlink but the site is 'no longer available') could be considered a new form of literary art.
'Most of the documents don't rise above stenography — diplomat X met with foreign leader Y to talk about Z. But at their best, these cables read like their own literary genre, with an identifiable sensibility and set of conventions,' writes Beam.
'Cables are meant to brief the diplomatic and military communities on a particular issue, whether it's Afghan power broker Ahmed Wali Karzai or Muslim unrest in France. But they're also written to impress the boss back home. State Department officials receive thousands of cables a year. If you're a foreign service officer stationed in Molvania who wants to stand out, writing a colorful cable could be your ticket.Diplomacy requires observation, intelligence, and a keen understanding of people and their motivations. Cables are an opportunity to show off.'
He sites examples referring to Prime Ministers, princes and Middle Eastern oligarches. They make interesting reading....perhaps he's onto something. Check it out.

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