October 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
From the American Masters series. Interviews with Norman Mailer
August 6, 2011 § Leave a Comment
by Amal Amireh
The new Syrian TV drama “In the Presence of Absence,” about the life of the poet Mahmoud Darwish, is giving some Palestinians an ulcer this Ramadan season. The series is being broadcast on several Arab satellite channels, including the Palestinian one. Some objected to the series before it was made because they thought those who were undertaking the project are doing it for profit and are not being faithful to the memory of Palestine’s national poet. Their effort to stop it didn’t pan out and now they are watching in horror as they see their beloved poet miscast, misrepresented, and twisted out of shape. The actor-criminal is one Firas Ibrahim that everyone seems to love to hate. Believe me, voodoo dolls of him will sell like hot qatayef in Rmallah.
They are lamenting that this great poet is being sacrificed on the altar of egos and art-for-profit. They are in a panic that the legacy of Darwish is in danger and that he is being mutilated for an audience that does not know much about him. Some of those objecting to this drama knew Darwish personally: they are friends, disciples, and colleagues. Some are readers who love the man for the poetry he wrote. I feel their pain!
But instead of using the occasion of a bad TV drama to celebrate the Darwish they love, to educate people about his poetry, to write articles that critique the drama they don’t approve of, I’m sad to report that two thousand Palestinian intellectuals are demanding taking the offensive drama off the air. They have even demonstrated in front of Palestine TV to that effect. In other words, they are calling for censorship. Their love for Darwish seems to have obscured their vision.*
June 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Each day over the next week we’ll be publishing one of the six lectures on the theme of ‘Representation of the Intellectual’ that Edward Said recorded in 1993 as part of the annual BBC Reith Lectures.
The second lecture is titled: ‘Holding Nations And Traditions At Bay.’
Holding Nations And Traditions At Bay (30 mins): MP3
June 25, 2011 § 14 Comments
Following is an extract from Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut in which he describes the scenes of ‘obscene brutality’ he witnessed as a prisoner of war in Dresden which inspired his classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
April 22, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Arnold Weinstein is one of the greatest teachers of literature, and I owe my own rediscovery of the pleasures of reading in good part to him. He always brings riveting insights to familiar works, but without the tedious blather of theory. Enjoy this fascinating discussion with Weinstein from Brown University’s excellent Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon.
March 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
Billy Crudup and Margaret Colin enact a scene from Tom Stoppard’s new play ‘The Laws of War‘, which focuses on the abuses of the so-called ‘war on terror.’
February 28, 2011 § 8 Comments
by Ali Gharib
British writer Ian McEwan took a lot of heat for accepting the Jerusalem Book Prize. The literary award is given out every two years at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, an event that appears to be put on by the Jerusalem municipal government.
In response to British writers who criticized his decision to accept the prize, McEwan wrote (with my emphasis):
I’m for finding out for myself, and for dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides.
But there are ways to do both: reject the prize and dialogue and engage, though it may not be to the liking of those who have awarded you the honor.
The lesson comes from Egypt, naturally. I discovered this by finally getting to the back of the book of the February issue of Harper’s. It’s from a retrospective review of two Egyptian writers, Albert Cossery and and Sonallah Ibrahim.
February 24, 2011 § 3 Comments
Can literature inspire revolutions? What role do artists and intellectuals play on the frontline of popular uprisings?
December 19, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Damion Searls discusses the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke with Christopher Lydon on Brown University’s Radio Open Source. Often bracketed with Yeats at the pinnacle of European poetry in the 20th Century, Rilke makes an even better pair with Walt Whitman as the irresistible great poet for everyone. In his essay ‘Looking for Rilke’ (in Stephen Mitchell’s Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke) Robert Hass relates:
When Rilke was dying in 1926 — of a rare and particularly agonizing blood disease — he received a letter from the young Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva. “You are not the poet I love most,” she wrote to him. “‘Most’ already implies comparison. You are poetry itself.”
From The Inner Sky, “poems, notes, dreams” that Damion Searls has selected and translated, we are reading Rilke fragments that can make one gasp on a first hearing. I like specially, for example, these “Notes on the Melody of Things,” which snuck up on me six weeks ago and induced just the sort of trance Robert Hass recounts.