Afghan women have been in the news again since the Taliban have banned Voice of America, the BBC and Deutsche Welle after women students and teachers protested peacefully in response to secondary schools for girls being shut down. Writing in Afghanistan is once again a taboo craft for women.
As a schoolteacher put it: “The Taliban are scared of an educated girl. When a girl is educated, a family will be educated. And when a family is educated, a nation will be educated. Ultimately, an educated nation will never, ever nourish the motives of terrorists.” www.democracynow.org
Continue reading Review My Pen is the Wing of a Bird, New Fiction by Afghan Women
Saïd Khatibi’s polyphonic novel, Sarajevo Firewood, pays homage to the victims of civil war in Algeria and Bosnia in the 1990s, and gives the survivors a voice. Scarred by erratic memories and traumatic recall – indicative of the psychological wounds of war – writing is a way to come to terms with what happened.
“We might find a mass grave with a café or restaurant in front of it, which changed at night into a dance floor, on which the living took turns to move their bodies while the dead opposite them looked on silently.” Continue reading Review Sarajevo Firewood, Saïd Khatibi
“He stood at the edge of the pavement, exactly on the corner, a full head higher than those around him. Olivia waited for him to dip his head as a sign of respect, but he stood there, very still, his hard blue eyes fixed on the oak coffin. Then he stepped forward and it seemed for a moment that he wanted to touch the coffin, to make the last contact with her grandmother before she was buried. Slowly, he lifted his head back, looking to the sky, then he jerked forward and spat a long stream down the window of the hearse.”
When all else fails and no peaceful solution can be found to end a struggle to control a country or a region, to achieve independence, or to force a change in government policy, warring camps form, families and communities are divided, and the killings and atrocities begin. The time and place and context might vary but the root cause for people taking up arms against each other is always the same: the pernicious polarisation of hate.
Continue reading Review The Settlement, Ruth Kirby-Smith
Andrea Jeftanovic’s Theatre of War takes place over three acts and many scenes, and is acted out on various stages. True to its title, this is theatre in the shape of a novel, with the narrative being revealed to us in fragments, snapshots and scenes, rather than a continuous, flowing chronology. Often, however, of greater importance is what happens offstage, backstage, in the wings, behind the curtains, in the side corridors. The muffled voices, the memories, now louder, now quieter, echoes, dress rehearsals, the rumble of props being moved, the silence of anticipation, of waiting, of remembering.
“The curtain rises on the shadowy dining room of my first home. Some familiar objects: the stone statues and the flattened wolf hide. In the corner sits a table with five chairs; the one at the head wobbles. The wallpaper is stamped with faded rosettes. The spectacle of my childhood begins. Repeatedly changing houses, we are unable to anchor ourselves to any fixed point.” (p. 3)
Continue reading Andrew McDougall reviews Theatre of War, Andrea Jeftanovic
“I owe these lines to a century that cheated and deceived everyone, all those who hoped. I owe these lines to an enduring betrayal that settled over my family like a curse. I owe these lines to my sister, whom I could never forgive for flying away . . .” writes Niza in the prologue to this epic and addictive Georgian family saga spanning the 20th century.
“Carpets are woven from stories”
Germany, 2006. A twenty-eight-year-old visiting professor from Georgia – a small country sandwiched between Russia and Turkey on the Black Sea – has lived in Berlin for several years to escape the weight of a painful family past. When her twelve-year-old niece runs away from her dance troupe “in search of answers” during a trip to the West, she sets off to find the girl who turns up near Vienna. In search of her identity, Niza undertakes to write, for herself and her niece, the story of their family over six generations. “I owe these lines to you Brilka because you deserve the eighth life. Because they say the number eight represents infinity, constant recurrence. I am giving my eight to you.” Continue reading Review The Eighth Life (for Brilka), Nino Haratischvili