“I’m more afraid of men [in my unit] that I am with the enemy.”
Those were the words that Helen Benedict heard from several female soldiers. The enemy was within. Since March of 2003, more than 160,500 women have served in Iraq. More women have fought and died during this war than in any other since World War II, yet they still account for one in ten soldiers. But behind their noble service and love for their country, many female soliders find themselves in virtual isolation among men. Their seclusion, combined with the military’s history of gender discrimination and the uniquely challenging conditions in Iraq, has resulted in a mounting epidemic of sexual abuse, physical degeneration, and emotional distress among many female soldiers.
Author Helen Benedict uncovers the harsh realities female soldiers face in her latest book The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women in Iraq. Weaving together the poignant and grueling accounts of the war in Iraq, Benedict offers new insight into the lives of women in the military, before, during, and after the war. The Lonely Soldier was released last month by Beacon Press and I recently spoke with Benedict about her latest work.
The second annual Palestine Festival of Literature launches this month where PULSE co-editor Robin will be joining the likes of Michael Palin, Suheir Hammad, Victoria Brittan, Rajah Shehadeh and Ahdaf Soueif as one of the featured writers.
The second Palestine Festival of Literature will take place from 23-28 May 2009.
Because of the difficulties Palestinians face under military occupation in traveling around their own country, the festival group of 17 international writers will travel to its audiences in the West Bank. It will tour Ramallah, Jenin, al-Khalil/Hebron and Bethlehem. To mark Jerusalem’s status as Cultural Capital of the Arab World for 2009, the festival will begin and end in Jerusalem.
Michael Palin will be taking part in the festival this year together with Suad Amiry, Victoria Brittain, Carmen Callil, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Suheir Hammad, Nathalie Handal, Jeremy Harding, Rachel Holmes, Robin Yassin-Kassab, Brigid Keenan, Jamal Mahjoub, Henning Mankell (accompanied by his wife, Eva Bergman), Deborah Moggach, Claire Messud, Alexandra Pringle, Pru Rowlandson, Raja Shehadeh, Ahdaf Soueif and M G Vassanji.
J.M. Coetzee’s award-winning novel Disgrace offered a disturbing insight into the soul of modern South Africa. The screen version does not disappoint and features an outstanding performance from John Malkovich as the disgraced professor whose personal life reflects the turmoil of a country in transition. Dismissed from his university, David Lurie (Malkovich) decides to visit his daughter at a remote farm in the eastern Cape that she shares with a trusted black worker. When they are savagely attacked by three black youths, David is finally confronted by the realities of a South Africa where the old rules no longer apply.
I have been looking forward to this for some time. Coetzee is one of my favourite writers; Diary of a Bad Year, Youth, Master of Petersburg and Waiting for the Barbarians are phenomenal works of fiction. But I have mixed feelings about Disgrace (which, incidentally, was chosen as the best English novel of the past 25 years by top writers and critics). Here is what I wrote in a Facebook review:
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.” Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley, The Ultimate Revolution (44:17): MP3