March 9, 2012 § 3 Comments
by Manash Bhattacharjee
World, take a backseat.
Do not disturb.
I am reading Sebald.
Trees with eyes flit by
My blind face.
I hurriedly drink
February 18, 2012 § 1 Comment
The great Polish poet and Nobel laureate is no more. Katha Pollit of The Nation pays tribute.
Szymborska’s poems are mostly short, and her output was not voluminous—only around 400 published poems. And yet, she is one of the few contemporary poets you can call beloved and not have it be a condescension or an insult. In The New York Review of Books Charles Simic called her poems “poetry’s equivalent of expository writing,” which captures their accessibility, their logical clarity and their interest in facts (especially odd ones), stories, things and people, but doesn’t convey their charm or vitality. Expository writing is, after all, a required class for college freshmen—the opposite of fun, dazzle, originality, pathos. For me, Szymborska’s signature quality is the way she puts tragedy and comedy, the unique and the banal, the big and the little, the remembering and the forgetting, right next to each other and shows us that this is what life is:
After every war
someone has to tidy up.
Things won’t pick
themselves up, after all.
Someone has to shove
the rubble to the roadsides
so the carts loaded with corpses
can get by.
—from “The End and the Beginning”
February 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
February 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
January 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This one is from 2008. Gore Vidal on the BBC’s Hardtalk.
January 17, 2012 § 11 Comments
by Jesse Lieberfeld
I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed intelligence, and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.
Although I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not try to force me into any one set of beliefs, being Jewish was in no way possible to escape growing up. It was constantly reinforced at every holiday, every service, and every encounter with the rest of my relatives. I was forever reminded how intelligent my family was, how important it was to remember where we had come from, and to be proud of all the suffering our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the perfect society of Israel.
January 1, 2012 § 6 Comments
by Huma Dar
In today’s edition of Dawn.com, Jan 1, 2012, the renowned and beloved feminist poet, Fahmida Riaz has an article, “Understanding Manto,“ about Urdu literature’s enfant terrible, Sa’adat Hasan Manto. This year will mark Manto’s birth centenary. Thank you, Fahmida Apa, for writing this moving tribute! Sad indeed is the day when Pakistan cannot or does not publish Manto’s work, uncensored, unedited. Despite justified indignation, knowing our “guardians of morality and piety,” it aches my heart to confess, I am not surprised.
Ironically, the “Indian pirated edition” – even if we overlook the immense ethical difficulties with the issue of piracy, and the direly-needed resources that were (and are) thus withheld from Manto and his family — is still no guarantee of accessing the “original, uncensored text.” Christine Everaert in her book, Tracing the Boundaries between Hindi and Urdu: Lost and Added in Translation (Brill, 2009) painstakingly records many elisions, omissions, and additions in just a few of Manto’s stories as they’re carried from their original Urdu to the [pirated] Hindi versions. Some of these transformations are, of course, to ease the transmission of the literary register in Urdu to Hindi; others to simply make things more palatable for Indian nationalism. (Please especially see the Chapter II of this book for many examples…)
December 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
This lecture marks the centenary of aerial bombardment. More than just a military revolution, this development redrew the legal and moral boundaries between civilians and combatants and spread the theatre of war into cities and domestic spaces.
The lecture is part of a joint initiative of LSE Sociology and the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London.
UPDATE: In case you are having trouble listening to the whole lecture, you can hear it on the LSE website instead.
December 12, 2011 § 7 Comments
By Feroz Rather
With a serene and distant view of the hills of Sierra Nevada, on 9 August, 2011, I sat in a library at California State University Fresno, reading The Simple Truth, a collection of poems by Philip Levine. The day after, Mr. Levine, 83, was being nominated by the Library of Congress the next poet laureate of the United States. The felicitations, however, had made their way to the poet’s home here in Fresno and thrilled the entire community of writers in the Central Valley of California. Brandi Spaethe, a friend and fellow writer in our MFA program, broke the news to me. And while walking this beautiful campus dotted with maple trees, with an ecstatic gusto of a poet-in-the-making, she fell into long recitations of many touching poems from the book.
Philip Levine was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents in 1928, a year before the Great Depression started paralyzing the economy of the US. Levine was educated in Detroit public schools and at Wayne State University, Michigan’s only urban public research university. After graduation, Levine worked a number of industrial jobs, including the night shift at the Cheverolet Gear and Axle factory in 1953, working on his poems in his off hours. In the fall of the same year, he journeyed to the University of Iowa to attend a poetry workshop. In his autobiographical account, The Bread of Time, he recalls: “The attraction at Iowa was Robert Lowell, whose Lord’s Weary Castle had received the Pulitzer Prize.”Afterwards, he became Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. And then in 1958, he came to Fresno and began teaching English and writing at California State University and which went on for 34 years.
November 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Christopher Lydon of the excellent Radio Open Source speaks to Joan Didion, one of the greatest non-fiction writers and prose stylists of the past half century, about her latest book Blue Nights. The book is a follow-up to her acclaimed The Year of Magical Thinking; both are meditations on death inspired by the death of her husband, the author John Gregory Dunne, closely followed by the death of her adopted daughter Quintana.
Joan Didion is reading from her second smashing meditation on death, Blue Nights. And I’m her interlocutor and foil again onstage in Cambridge. With a woman of the considered written word, not the spontaneous spoken word, it’s a tricky job. And it didn’t solve for me the puzzle of Didion’s power. But how could I not share it, or you not respond?
Joan Didion’s a writers’ writer gone suddenly, in her seventies, rock star and phenomenon, meeting a hungry market for introspections on death both sudden, as in the case of her husband John Gregory Dunne and Didion’s 2005 best-seller, The Year of Magical Thinking; or slow and almost unfathomable death, which came to Didion’s adopted daughter Quintana Roo, at 39, and prompted Blue Nights. Six hundred readers bought books and tickets to hear Didion and pack the First Church in Harvard Square last night.