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Week 44: 6 July 2012

Tony White


The Beatification of John C. Yoo

Editor’s note:

At this point the text of Chapter Twelve breaks off. While some versions of The World Turned Upside Down include a much longer, more graphic and elaborate – if not gratuitous – description of proceedings ‘at the Captain’s table,’ the unknown author of the original Mariqueta Cartonera edition evidently chose to spare their readers the need to witness or imagine such scenes by simply ‘turning the tap’ to cut off the text mid-flow. We have followed their lead and would direct the dissatisfied reader elsewhere.

However, the matter does not entirely rest there, for while researching this new publication of The World Turned Upside Down in those parts of the Mariqueta Cartonera archives held at the British Library in Stromness, South Georgia, I came across a number of tightly folded pages which had been inserted into a bundle of what appeared from the nature of the corrections therein to be the anonymous author’s galley proofs.

To my astonishment those few sheets of paper comprised a copy of a copy (at least, and exactly how many generations of duplicate stood between myself and anything that could be called an ‘original’ I cannot be sure) of a transcript of fragments of the so called ‘High Seas Memorandum’ of celebrated 21st century humanitarian and anti-torture campaigner John C. Yoo.

I could scarcely believe what I was reading! Long believed lost, and still suppressed in many jurisdictions, the ‘High Seas Memorandum’ is a candid and impassioned piece of writing, a simple plea for humane conduct and the abolition of torture, which clearly displays Yoo’s almost child-like and now near-legendary lack of sophistry. I have been able to find no reference to this document in the library’s catalogue index so cannot know whether it was placed there by accident or for safe-keeping, whether as a point of reference or because it was intended that Yoo’s words should be published here. The reader may infer as I have that the High Seas Memorandum was intended for publication. We reproduce that transcript below for this reason, as well as for its undoubted historical value and because reproduction is in itself a form of preservation. I believe that to do so honours the spirit and ethos of John C. Yoo himself as well as that of the Mariqueta Cartonera pioneers who risked so much to publish within the harsh conditions of the notorious CBCP Endurance detention centre.

The reader will note that in many places the source being transcribed was either irretrievably worn or beyond legibility. In the interests of clarity and to save both ink and paper I have standardised all such redactions, omissions and/or deletions to a simple 4em* block throughout. It is my hope that this preserves as much of the sense of John C. Yoo’s famously eloquent plea for ‘a statutory prohibition on torture’ as is possible.

‘Wordy,’ Stromness, South Georgia

* An archaic unit of horizontal measurement in print and typesetting which corresponds to the width of a capital ‘M’ in a given typeface.

Tony White

Tony White is best known for his novel Foxy-T, published by Faber and Faber, which the Glasgow Herald called, 'one of the best London novels you'll ever get to read.' Tony's latest book is Dicky Star and the garden rule (Forma), a specially commissioned novella published to accompany a series of works by the artists Jane and Louise Wilson reflecting upon the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. He is currently working on a new public art project for Bristol called Missorts, which is commissioned by Situations for Bristol City Council and will launch in November 2012. Tony has been writer in residence at the Science Museum, London, and Leverhulme Trust writer in residence at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He has given hundreds of readings from his novels and short stories in the UK and internationally at venues ranging from the National Portrait Gallery, London to the Glastonbury festival. Ivy4evr, Tony's SMS-based, interactive drama for young people produced in collaboration with Blast Theory and broadcast by Channel 4 in October 2010 was nominated for a BIMA award in 2011 by the British Interactive Media Association. Tony White has edited and published the artists' book imprint Piece of Paper Press since 1994 and is currently chair of London's award-winning arts radio station Resonance 104.4fm.


‘The Beatification of John C. Yoo’ is an extract from Shackleton's Man Goes South.

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Nowhereisland is a Situations project led by artist Alex Hartley, one of 12 Artist Taking the Lead projects for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad funded by Arts Council England. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the University of the West of England, Bristol; Bloomberg; Nicky Wilson Jupiter Artland; the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Yellowbrick Tracking.

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