Nomadics

Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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Gabo Lives!

April 22nd, 2014 · Obituaries

garcia.marquezI heartily agree with the following extract from Salman Rushdie’s article on Gabriel García Marquez’s in the NYT Sunday Book Review, here:

We live in an age of invented, alternate worlds. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Rowling’s Hogwarts, the dystopic universe of “The Hunger Games,” the places where vampires and zombies prowl: These places are having their day. Yet in spite of the vogue for fantasy fiction, in the finest of literature’s fictional microcosms there is more truth than fantasy. In William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha, R. K. Narayan’s Malgudi and, yes, the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez, imagination is used to enrich reality, not to escape from it.

topics_marquez_190-sfSpan

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Contemporary French Poetry in the U.S. Conference

April 21st, 2014 · Poetics, Poetry, Poetry readings, Poets, Translation

Friday, April 25

Contemporary French Poetry in the U.S.:
Translating, Publishing, Adapting

Location:

Afternoon sessions: La Maison Française, NYU, 16 Washington Mews (corner of University Place)

Evening session: McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St.

There have been strong transatlantic poetic ties between France and the United States since the 19th century. Dialogues continue through the translation, publication, and adaptation of contemporary French poetry in the U.S.

 Organized by Vincent Broqua (UPEC) and Emmanuel Ertel (NYU), the afternoon’s discussions highlight the current state of such crucial relations: French and American poets, translators, and publishers speak about the art of translating French and Francophone contemporary poetry, about the publishing houses circulating French poetry in the U.S., and about the importance of French poetry for contemporary American poetry. Anne Portugal and Pierre Alferi, two major French poets, will be present and will share their thoughts about translation.

2:00 p.m.
Vincent Broqua and Emmanuelle Ertel
Introduction

2:15 p.m.
Charles Bernstein
Contemporary French Poetry in the U.S. 

3:00 p.m.
Cole SwensenTracy GrinnellPierre Joris
Publishing French Poetry in Translation

4:15 p.m.
Pierre Joris
Translating North African Poets

 5:00 p.m.
Talk by Pierre Alferi and Questions to Anne Portugal

8:00 p.m. (note location)
The day will conclude with a reading organized by Double Change at McNally Jackson Books. Readers include Pierre AlferiAnne Portugal,Charles BernsteinCole SwensenPierre Joris, and Tracy Grinnell for the translations of Collobert. The French poets will be translated.

 …..

Pierre Alféri is a French poet and novelist. OXO (Burning Deck, 2004) and Natural Gails (Sun and Moon, 1995) were translated by Cole Swensen.

Charles Bernstein is a poet, essayist, editor, and literary scholar. He is Donald T. Regan Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He has played an important role in fostering French contemporary poetry and his work has been translated in France. His last book, Recalculating,contains translations and adaptations of French poetry.

Vincent Broqua is Associate Professor at Université de Paris Est. He teaches North American poetry and art. A partir de rien: esthétique, poétique et politique de l’infime (Michel Houdiard) was published in 2013. Broqua has translated Thalia Field, Anne Waldman, and Christian Hawkey. In 2000,  he created Double Change with Olivier Brossard.

Emmanuelle Ertel is Clinical Associate Professor in NYU’s Department of French, where she directs the M.A. program in Literary Translation. She has translated numerous American novelists into French, including Rick Moody, Tom Perrott, and Louis Begley. Her book, La Maison des mots, réflexions autour de Carpenter’s Gothic de William Gaddis, was published in 2000.

Tracy Grinnell is a poet and publisher. She created Litmus Press and the journal Aufgabe, which focuses on translation. In 2013, Litmus Press published Murder, Danielle Collobert’s first novel, translated by Nathanaël.

Pierre Joris is a poet, translator, and anthologist. He was Professor at SUNY Albany. With Jerome Rothenberg,  he edited the acclaimed Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern & Postmodern Poetry. Recently he translated and published poets from the Maghreb in Poems for the Millennium. The University of California Book of North African Poetry.

Anne Portugal is a French poet. Absolute Bob was translated by Jennifer Moxley, The quisite Moment was translated by Rosmarie Waldrop, andFlirt Formula was translated by Jean-Jacques Poucel and published by Cole Swensen with La Presse Books.

Cole Swensen is a professor at Brown University. She is a poet and translator. As publisher, she created La Presse Books, dedicated to the translation of French contemporary poetry (http://www.lapressepoetry.com/). She has translated many works by French poets, includingOXO (Burning Deck, 2004) and Natural Gails (Sun and Moon, 1995) by Pierre Alferi.

Double Change is a Franco-American collective. It curates, records, and archives readings of francophone and American poets in France and in the U.S., and edits a bilingual journal: www.doublechange.org

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The NYT & Israel’s Gag Order

April 19th, 2014 · Freedom of Speech, Journalism, Palestine

via The Electronic Intifada:

The New York Times agrees to be gagged by Israel

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 04/18/2014 – 15:17
Majd Kayyal was arrested and held incommunicado by Israel’s Shin Bet.

Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times’ public editor, has written a thoughtful and important piece criticizing the way the newspaper complied with an Israeli-imposed gag order on the case of Majd Kayyal.

But it leaves some important questions unanswered about the Times’ apparent eagerness to let Israeli censors set its news agenda.

Kayyal, a 23-year old journalist and activist and a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was detained incommunicado for five days by Israel’s Shin Bet secret police without access to a lawyer, following a return from a professional trip to Lebanon.

While the Times and other major media remained silent, The Electronic Intifada exclusively published the classified court transcript ratifying his detention and silencing the media.

After the gag order was lifted yesterday, following an appeal by the legal advocacy group AdalahThe New York Times finally published an article on Kayyal, which links to The Electronic Intifada’s coverage.

Gagged

Sullivan’s piece makes a number of important points. First, Jodi Rudoren, theTimes’ Jerusalem bureau chief, considers herself to be bound by Israeli gag orders:

The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past. (An earlier version of this post said that The Times agrees to abide by gag orders as a prerequisite for press credentials, but Ms. Rudoren told me today that that is not the case, although it was her initial understanding.)

Rudoren’s confusion and her willingness to obey authority without asking questions are disturbing. And Sullivan’s piece also points out other contradictions which undermine Rudoren’s categorical claim that she must comply with government censorship. Sullivan writes:

I asked The Times’s newsroom lawyer, David McCraw, about the situation. He told me that he was consulted by Times journalists this week as they considered publishing an article about Mr. Kayyal’s arrest. Although the situation is somewhat murky, he said, “the general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media.” Similar issues arise when America news media organizations cover the British courts, he said. But the restriction in Israel has not been tested, he said.

“I’ve never seen us actually challenge it,” Mr. McCraw said, because no situation has arisen that would force the issue.

Two ranking editors at The Times – the managing editor, Dean Baquet, and an assistant managing editor, Susan Chira (who was the foreign editor for eight years) – told me that they were unaware of The Times ever agreeing to abide by gag orders in Israel.

Transparency

Sullivan also points to The Electronic Intifada’s coverage of Kayyal’s case and cites criticism from me and Yousef Munayyer:

Ali Abunimah, said in an email that “readers have a right to know when NYT is complying with government-imposed censorship.”

And Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center, wrote to me that this seems to go against journalistic principles: “It would seem to me that a story that a state specifically wants to prevent from seeing the light of day is something that should make a journalist’s mouth water. That’s what journalism is all about, isn’t it?”

Sullivan largely agrees with our points:

Waiting a day or two until the gag order was lifted may have done no great harm. Still, I find it troubling that The Times is in the position of waiting for government clearance before deciding to publish.

If the law makes that situation unavoidable, a little transparency would go a long way. Either in a sentence within an article or a short editor’s note, The Times can, and should, tell its readers what’s going on.

And so does the foreign editor Joseph Kahn, who told Sullivan that “in general he agreed with the idea of keeping Times readers informed in that way. ‘It makes sense to do that,’ he said.”

Unconvincing

Sullivan’s article leaves a number of questions that still need answers:

Why does Rudoren believe she is bound by gag orders when two senior editors said they were unaware of the newspaper ever agreeing to be bound by such gag orders?

Contrary to the claim that Israeli gags have never been challenged, I found at least one instance where the Times does indeed appear to openly defy an Israeli gag order.

May 2008 article by Alison Leigh Cowan about corruption investigations into then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert states: “Police have imposed a strict gag order that forbids publication of information about the case in Israel.”

Yet the article goes on to provide Times readers with all the censored information, including the names of witnesses and suspects in the case that the gag order forbid media from naming.

Not all gags are equal

Sullivan’s piece mentions that the Times complies with gag orders imposed by British courts.

But there’s an important difference: while one may debate their merits, the kinds of gag orders typically applied to criminal trials in British (and Canadian) courts are intended to protect the rights of a defendant by ensuring that sensational or partial media coverage does not taint a jury.

One can argue plausibly that the public interest in impartial justice outweighs at least for the period of a trial the public’s right to know certain facts.

Nevertheless, The New York Times itself strongly criticized such gag orders in Canada twenty years ago.

But the Israeli gag order in the case of Majd Kayyal was intended to do the opposite: its purpose and effect was not to protect Kayyal, but rather to protect the Shin Bet’s ability to deprive him of fundamental rights and to do so in near total darkness. Journalists should challenge, not meekly comply with such orders.

Gagged in New York?

Even if it is true – as Rudoren says – that foreign correspondents based in occupied Jerusalem or present-day Israel must agree to abide by gags, there’s no reason why someone in New York could not have written a report on the case.

Ultimately, the Times report on Kayyal contained no information that required a physical presence in Jerusalem (it included a phone interview with Kayyal – and there are telephones in New York).

Indeed, last year, the Times blog The Lede reported on Israel’s so-called “Prisoner X” – the Australian citizen Ben Zygier who died in Israeli custody – despite a strict Israeli gag order that forbade even mentioning that the gag existed.

The Lede’s report appears to have been published before the gag was partially lifted.

(In an update to her post, Sullivan points out another instance where the Timesdid something similar in order to evade a gag in 2010.)

Unwilling to challenge

One must ask what would happen if The New York Times had challenged the Israeli gag in the Kayyal case. Would Israel be prepared to expel Rudoren? Would it shut down the Times Jerusalem bureau?

It’s hard to imagine an Israeli government – even one as extreme and intolerant as the present one – being prepared to absorb the embarrassment such an attack on the international press would entail.

Still, the Times should be prepared to risk it and find out.

But that would take a very different kind of Times bureau – one prepared to challenge Israeli government actions rather than serve as Israel’s chief explainer and apologist. I’m not holding my breath.

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Nina Cassian (1924-2014)

April 18th, 2014 · Obituaries, Poet, Translator

cassianSaddened to hear of Nina Cassian’s passing.  She was a Romanian poet, journalist, film critic and who also translated works of William Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Christian Morgenstern, Yiannis Ritsos, and Paul Celan into Romanian. She published more than fifty books of her own poetry. The New York Times’ obit can be read here.
Born into a Jewish family in Galaţi, they lived in Brașov between 1926 and 1935, when the family moved to Bucharest, where she went to high school. In 1944 she entered the Literature Department of Bucharest University, but abandoned her studies after one year. Cassian travelled to the United States as a visiting professor in 1985. During her stay in America, a friend of hers, Gheorghe Ursu, was arrested by the Securitate for possessing a diary. The diary contained several of Cassian’s poems which satirized the Communist regime and the authorities thought to be inflammatory. Hence, she decided to remain in the US. She was granted asylum in the United States, and continued to live in New York City until her death.

Here’s a poem of her’s first published in Plume:

Purity

Amazing solitude.
Only me and my cigarette,
and this tiny dragonfly
painted in Moldavian monastery blue.

Nothing threatens me,
not even the sun.
The sky is an immense cloud
made of mother-of-pearl.
The lake is an immense cloud
made of mother-of-pearl.
I am the mermaid of the lake.
– I am an infinite melody
like the murmur of the rain.

And I am clean,
like the poem I’m writing.

 

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Rachida Madani: “Walk through the Ruins”

April 16th, 2014 · Live Reading, Poem, Translation

RachidaIn preview of Rachida Madani‘s reading tonight at 6:30 at Silvana 300 W 116th street in New York, here is a poem I just translated for the event from her collection Femme je suis / Woman I am.

Walk through the ruins
that wreck us
and tell yourself that we’re camping
in a crumbling of stones
even if no denunciation
transfers from the sand
to accumulate dune upon dune
     storm upon storm
all the way to the fusion of sand with blood
where the desert ends,
where the dancing corpses of the desert
stop troubling our sleep
sucking our blood crazed with the damned
between two assassinations
two cells
two traps at the corner of a dark street
where we are tellers of legends
        to come
braiding our discoveries in a network of
        obsessions
communicable via contagions of ruins.

We have never come to terms with the desert
we have let camels run loose in it hostile
to the rough sketch of fake towns
built on mirages
where everyone is buried in their metallic
        resonance
serves them as compass
all seeing their city according to their mirages.

Walk all the way to the sonorous extremity of the desert
that serves as a link
between errancy and the right to be a human.
We are nomads until worn down,
have neither tent
     nor palm tree
     nor rest halt in the
     desert’s monstrous night.
Have neither language nor hope
nor anyone
to listen to our bristling voices
glass shards
on top of the walls
     no dream to lose
     no throne to gain
barely a scarlet foam
the result of a long march…

I want you without hope
when you knock on my door
and my door’s caught red-handed
in its absence,
when all I do is stroll
through my obsession
when time brings back to me
        only time
and sand only sand.
But in what cut up fiber inside me
in what abrasion to locate you
when I love you and walk
apart from you
because of too many fractures
through a rugged landscape where you persist
in the erasures’ meanders
alone
standing
struck by
lightning
facing the ruins.
Burned up
uprooted
a knife between the teeth
irrefutable beneath the lightning storm to witness
against what harrows us with a razor
and the crowd you love
beyond the infinite disaster.

The crowd for which you build trenches
on your very flesh
for which you hallucinate
pupils of towns issues of your wounds
and the bloody poems
that slash us
in the desert’s immobility, the crowd.

The crowd made drowsy by a tired
muwashaha, dead deep inside a palace
one booze-sodden night,
that separates us the splinter-crowd,
the crowd…
I sense the haggard beast
that turns a beastly thought
mortally wounded
for having one day by chance
      maybe
— certainly —
caught a raging toothache
and that started to chase its tail
all the way into schizophrenia the crowd…
I am double and unable
to understand why the crowd.

Walk you know how mortal
love is.
I carry us wounded,  at death’s door
to the center of the nightmare
where I love you while selecting the crowd
with my voice crossing out all the closed furrows
that obstruct the walk.
I love you.
It’s a broken tendon
it’s a blocked breath
it’s a strange night
like an exploding vein
I pick up in a sprain
for which I’ll blame
an imagination beyond the possible
if it weren’t this blood itself
this piece of evidence
that acquits me of all imagination
of all sarcasm
and when I say blood
I think of nothing but this country
that I place nowhere
except there where I am arterial blood pressure
harbinger
of certain death
      in rivulets
from my head down to the public squares.
At any rate an intuition
that turns into clandestinity
in my bone marrow
       and spreads the plague.

I love you and am not in the process
        of singing love
I don’t need to encumber myself with a chant.
I do not know how to sing when it’s a matter of
ruins that furrow me.
I howl a country that transpierces me my
body from one end to the other
that pulverizes me
that hurls a desert in my face.

A country
a desert
I am encumbered by a distress
I dissect
     ring after ring
that ends up chaining me
to the dialectic of ruins
only then do I see
this country
do I understand how much my head
is bowl of blood,
how much we need to walk, to march
even separated
even destroyed
even half crazed
hallucinating in the glass night
with the crowd.
I tell you march and I march
neither you nor I
have hated enough
have sowed enough bacilli of the damned
across these towns.

March you have never left me
you will never leave me
as long as there is this semblance of a country
that we want at all costs to be ours
even at the risk of ending up unidentified in the desert’s
infernal infinity.
For you
for me
for all of this earth’s plague-stricken
love is the desert’s
      hallucinated
       excrescence.

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A New Arab Magazine of Experimental Writing

April 14th, 2014 · Aesthetics, Arab Culture, Arabic, Experimental Writing, Poetics, Poetry

Via the incomparable Arab Literature (in English) website:

Makhsin

‘Makhzin’ and the Link Between Multilingualism and Experimental Writing by mlynxqualey

At 6 p.m. tomorrow, the new experimental, trilingual Makhzin will launch its first issue in Beirut. Editor Mirene Arsanios answered a few questions about the project:

ArabLit: Why experimental works? What role do you think experimental and avant garde works play in the literary arts? Locally, regionally, globally?

Mirene Arsanios: Experimental work is a broad term. I understand it, in the context of Makhzin, as writing that doesn’t fit into a genre, be it poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. What is important, in my opinion, is the sense of urgency that drives the writing. Having said that, Makhzin also publishes straightforward fiction and poetry. In the editorial process, rather than thinking traditional/ experimental, we looked for pieces that played with conventions, structures, and narrative voices.

On a personal level, I was always “naturally” drawn towards experimental writing. I grew up speaking different languages, and never felt at “home” in any of them. Experimental writing often explores positions and voices that are not represented in mainstream literature (women writers, queers writers, writers who don’t write in their native language, or that simply don’t have one).

Amira Hanafi witnesses the Egyptian revolution through her female body. Raed Rafei writes about a homosexual man forced to undergo a medical check up. Alex Cuff harvests her material from online forums on pubic hairstyles and ways of shaving. Writers are drawn to experiment with language when available forms seem obsolete, ossified and not fit to express their realities. But again, I would avoid a dogmatic reading of the experimental versus the traditional. Experimental writing can be so many things (so does conventional writing!) depending on your context, city, language. Makhzin also wants to juxtapose what a poet is writing in Morocco and what a poet is writing in NY. Sometimes their writings can be similar, sometimes not. 

 But again, I would avoid a dogmatic reading of the experimental versus the traditional. Experimental writing can be so many things (so does conventional writing!) depending on your context, city, language.

AL: How does this fit into 98weeks’ mission?

MA: In 2010, 98weeks embarked on a research titled “On Publications,” which looked at the history of cultural and literary magazines in the Middle East. We had two focuses: Shi’r magazine and Al Hilal magazine. We also organized a book fair of independent publishers called “Why Do You Publish?” I was interested in publishing, its history and legacy, but also wanted to do something in the present. 98editions stemmed from that research project. We published fours individual chapbooks, which you can see on our website. After that experience, I felt the need to cultivate and broaden our readership, hence Makhzin. 98editions developed into its own independent small press, but it also maintains a connection to 98weeks research. For instance, 98editions will develop two publications around 98weeks’ current research theme, Feminisms.

AL: How did the three guest editors work with you, with each other? Why did you choose them? Did you give them particular instructions?

MA: The editors are friends and people I admire for their work with language and writing. Ghalya Saadawi is herself an editor and a writer. Omar Berrada is a translator and a writer working with literature and art. Lara Khaldi is a curator. I wanted people who were steeped in both art and literature. There were no instructions per se. We all live in different countries so most of the selection process was carried via (long!) Skype meetings. We had different rounds before agreeing on our final selection. Omar and Lara did most of the Arabic selection. We all did the English part, and Omar, Ghalya, and I discussed the French texts.

AL: Were you looking to push boundaries / “red lines,” or did it just happen that way?

MA: There was no particular agenda in terms of pushing boundaries or crossing lines. But since the editors all have an interdisciplinary background (art, literature, curating, theory), the selection was perhaps more flexible, and the outcome more varied then it would be in a strictly literary or artistic magazine.

AL: There is a tradition of multilingual publications in Beirut. How do you decide the balance of languages? Or does it just depend on what you receive? Why Wajdi al-Ahdal in translation instead of in Arabic? 

MA: The balance of language depended on what we received. Percentage wise, most writings are in English, then Arabic, and lastly, French. Concerning Wajdi al-Ahdal; I invited Nada Ghosn, a translator from Arabic to French, to submit a piece for Makhzin. She proposed to translate a short story by Wadji al-Ahdal. I often encounter or discover texts through a translation. While keeping a connection to the original, Nada’s translation also becomes its own text.

I often encounter or discover texts through a translation. While keeping a connection to the original, Nada’s translation also becomes its own text.

AL: How will you be distributing Makhzin? Why print? 

MA: Part of what prompted the creation of 98editions is an interest in chapbook culture, printed matter, and its circulation in a community of readers (global and local). All 98editions publications are designed by Karine Wehbé. Our first four publications each have their own format, developed in close collaboration with the authors. We wanted to insist on the specificity and singularity of each book. We distribute Makhzin in Beirut in bookshops and art spaces; 98weeks, Papercup, Bourj Library, BAC, Ashkal Alwan. Shortly, people will be able to order our publications on line.

AL: Are you accepting submissions for N02?

MA: Very soon!

 

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Reading of Rachida Madani’s Tales of a Severed Head

April 13th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Rachida Madani
w/ Pierre Joris
&
accompaniment by Gnawa Boussou

When: April 16, 2014 | 6:30pm
Where: Silvana  300 W 116th St New York, NY 10026

Silvana hosts a reading of Rachida Madani’s “Tales of a Severed Head” on April 16 at 6:30pm, with Rachida Madani and Pierre Joris, featuring accompaniment by Gnawa Boussou, a traditional Moroccan band based in New York. Rachida Madani, a native of Morocco, has published several volumes of poetry in French, a language she also taught for thirty years.
A lifelong political militant, she expresses her resistance: “not by shouting slogans and waving banners. I fight with my words.” This event is part of a multi-cultural and eclectic experience of English and Francophone poetry. At the close of the “Printemps des poètes” festival in France, New York takes the torch, offering a diverse program of voices, sounds, drawings, and stories in which new poets and established masters use literary panache to express their social and political convictions. This cycle also includes Anne Portugal and Pierre Alféri.

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Uri Avnery — In One Word: Poof!

April 12th, 2014 · Israel, Palestine

April 12, 2014

In One Word: Poof!

POOR JOHN Kerry. This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble.

In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the “peace process”. They broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time announced the enlargement of more settlements in East Jerusalem. The peace efforts went “poof”.

“Poof” is the sound of air escaping a balloon. It is a good expression, because the “peace process” was from the very beginning nothing more than a balloon full of hot air. An exercise in make-believe.

JOHN KERRY cannot be blamed. He took the whole thing seriously. He is an earnest politician, who tried very very hard to make peace between Israel and Palestine. We should be grateful for his efforts.

The trouble is that Kerry had not the slightest idea of what he was getting himself into.

The entire “peace process” revolves around a basic misconception. Some would say: a basic lie.

Namely: that we have here two equal sides of a conflict. A serious conflict. An old conflict. But a conflict that can be solved when reasonable people of the two sides sit down together and thrash it out, guided by a benevolent and impartial referee.

Not one detail of these assumptions was real. The referee was not impartial.  The leaders were not sensible. And most importantly: the sides were not equal.

The balance of power between the two sides is not 1:1, not even 1:2 or 1:10. In every material respect – military, diplomatic, economic – it is more like one to a thousand.

There is no equality between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. A jailer and a prisoner cannot negotiate on equal terms. When one side has total command of the other, controls his every move, settles on his land, controls his money flow, arrests people at will, blocks his access to the UN and the International courts, equality is out of the question.

If the two sides to negotiations are so extremely unequal, the situation can only be remedied by the mediator supporting the weaker side. What is happening is the very opposite: the American support for Israel is massive and unstinting.

Throughout the “negotiations” the US did nothing to check the settlement activity that created more Israeli facts on the ground – the very ground whose future the negotiations were all about.

A PREREQUISITE for successful negotiations is that all sides have at least a basic understanding not only of each other’s interests and demands, but even more of each other’s mental world, emotional setup and self-image. Without that, all moves are inexplicable and look irrational.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, one of the most intelligent people I have met in my life, once told me: “You have in Israel the most intelligent experts on the Arab world. They have read all the books, all the articles, every single word written about it. They know everything, and understand nothing. Because they have never lived one day in an Arab country.”

The same is true for the American experts, only much more so. In Washington DC one feels the rarefied air of a Himalayan peak. Seen from the grandiose palaces of the administration, where the fate of the world is decided, foreign people look small, primitive and largely irrelevant. Here and there some real experts are tucked away, but nobody really consults them.

The average American statesman has not the slightest idea of Arab history, world-view, religions, myths or the traumas that shape Arab attitudes, not to mention the Palestinian struggle. He has no patience for this primitive nonsense.

SEEMINGLY, THE American understanding of Israel is much better. But not really.

 Average American politicians and diplomats know a lot about Jews. Many of them are Jews. Kerry himself seems to be partly Jewish. His peace team includes many Jews, even Zionists, including the actual manager of the negotiations, Martin Indyk, who worked in the past for AIPAC. His very name is Yiddish (and means a Turkey).

The assumption is that Israelis are not very different from American Jews. But that is entirely false. Israel may claim to be the “Nation-State of the Jewish People”, but that is only an instrument for exploiting the Jewish Diaspora and creating obstacles for the “peace process”. In reality there is very little similarity between Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora, not much more than between a German and a Japanese.

Martin Indyk may feel an affinity with Tzipi Livni, the daughter of an Irgun fighter (or “terrorist” in British parlance), but that is an illusion. The myths and traumas that shaped Tzipi are very different from those that shaped Martin, who was educated in Australia.

If Barack Obama and Kerry knew more, they would have realized from the beginning that the present Israeli political setup makes any Israeli evacuation of the settlements, withdrawal from the West Bank and compromise about Jerusalem quite impossible.

ALL THIS is true for the Palestinian side, too.

Palestinians are convinced that they understand Israel. After all, they have been under Israeli occupation for decades. Many of them have spent years in Israeli prisons and speak perfect Hebrew. But they have made many mistakes in their dealings with Israelis.

The latest one was the belief that Israel would release the fourth batch of prisoners. This was almost impossible. All Israeli media, including the moderate ones, speak about releasing “Palestinian murderers”, not Palestinian activists or fighters. Right-wing parties compete with each other, and with rightist “terror-victims”, in denouncing this outrage.

Israelis do not understand the deep emotions evoked by the non-release of prisoners – the national heroes of the Palestinian people, though Israel itself has in the past exchanged a thousand Arab prisoners for one single Israeli, citing the Jewish religious command of “redemption of prisoners”.

It has been said that Israel always sells a “concession” three times: once when promising it, once when signing an official agreement about it and thirdly when actually fulfilling the undertaking. This happened when the time came to implement the third withdrawal from the West Bank under the Oslo agreements, which never happened.

Palestinians know nothing about Jewish history as taught in Israeli schools, very little about the holocaust, even less about the roots of Zionism.

RECENT NEGOTIATIONS started as “peace talks”, continued about a “framework” for further negotiations, and now the talks have degenerated to talks about the talks about the talks.

Nobody wants to break off the farce, because all three sides are afraid of the alternative.

The American side is afraid of a general onslaught of the Zionist-evangelical-Republican-Adelson bulldozer on the Obama administration in the next elections. Already the State Department is frantically trying to retreat from the Kerry “poof”. He did not mean that only Israel is to blame, they assert, the fault lies with both sides. The jailer and the prisoner are equally to blame.

As usual, the Israeli government has many fears. It fears the outbreak of a third intifada, coupled with a world-wide campaign of de-legitimization and boycott of Israel, especially in Europe.

It also fears that the UN, which at present recognizes Palestine only as a non-member state, will go on and promote it more and more.

The Palestinian leadership, too, is afraid of a third intifada, which may lead to a bloody uprising. Though all Palestinians speak about a “non-violent intifada”, few really believe in it. They remember that the last intifada also started non-violently, but the Israeli army responded by deploying snipers to kill the leaders of the demonstrations, and more suicide bombing became inevitable.

President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has responded to the non-release of the prisoners, which amounted to a personal humiliation, by signing the documents necessary for the Palestinian State to join 15 international conventions.  The Israeli government exploded in anger. How dare th

In practice, the act means little. One signature means that Palestine joins the Geneva Convention. Another concerns the protection of children. Shouldn’t we welcome this? But the Israeli government fears that this is one step nearer to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of the International Criminal Court, and perhaps the indictment of Israelis for war crimes.

Abbas is also planning steps for a reconciliation with Hamas and the holding of Palestinian elections, in order to strengthen his home front.

IF YOU were poor John Kerry, what would you say to all this?

“Poof!” seems the very minimum.

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… & Now The English Version…

April 11th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Poet’s Spring 2014

 

poet-spring-2-83080The Cultural Services of the French Embassy presents an eclectic series of engaging events in New York in April, featuring prominent Francophone and Anglophone poets such as Rachida Madani, Pierre Alferi, Anne Portugal, Adonis, Pierre Joris, Ben Lerner, and Anna Moschovakis.  With an insatiable appetite for word play, American poets and Frenchpoètes come together to open up a broad reflection on poetic writing and to embark on a discussion of the role of poetry in the often-converging worlds of literature and politics.

Multicultural events will take place at Silvana, the Poets House, McNally Jackson Books, New York University, the Public Theater, and other acclaimed venues, to unveil the complex and innovative nature of poetry.  Poet’s Springincorporates readings, a round table discussion, a master class, live music, political discourse, and illustration, and is inspired by the simultaneously occurring Printemps des poètesfestival in France.

Highlights include a reading by Rachida Madani of her Tales of a Severed Head, paired with a traditional Moroccan music performance by Gnawa Boussou, a discussion with poetsPierre Alferi, Anne Portugal, Ben Lerner and Anna Moschovakis accompanying illustrations by students from School of Visual Arts and a show by the musician Charlie Burnham and a rare Master Class with Syrian author Adonis in conversation with celebrated American poet Jorie Graham at The Public Theater.

The 2014 PEN World Voices Festival will then kick off in collaboration with Poet’s Spring with an event in which 12 prominent thinkers will bring their rage to the stage for 7-minute orations.

Also check out: http://frenchculture.org/

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Le Printemps des poètes 2014 — in New York

April 11th, 2014 · Book Presentation, Poetry Cuisine, Poetry readings

poet-spring-2-83080

Les Services Culturels de l’Ambassade de France présentent une série éclectique d’évènements passionnants à New York en avril, avec la présence de poètes francophones et anglophones tels que Rachida Madani, Pierre Alferi, Anne Portugal, Adonis, Pierre Joris, Ben Lerner, et Anna Moschovakis.

Animés d’un appétit insatiable pour les jeux de langage, des poètes Américains et français se retrouvent pour ouvrir une large réflexion sur l’écriture poétique et s’embarquer dans une discussion sur le rôle de la poésie dans les mondes souvent convergents de la littérature et de la politique.

Des évènements multiculturels se tiendront au Silvana, au Poets House, à la librairie McNally Jackson, à l’université NYU, au Public Theater et autres institutions culturelles de renom, pour dévoiler la nature profondément complexe et innovante de la poésie. Inspiré du Printemps des poètes, organisé chaque année en France à la même saison, Poet’s Spring proposera des lectures, une table ronde, une master class, des concerts, des discours politiques et des illustrations.

Toutes les informations et les différents évènements : frenchculture.org

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