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 | MacLehose Press
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 (trs. Paul Starkey) | Banipal Books
“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 | 2QT Publishing, Yorkshire
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 Guest Review | Andrew McDougall | Theatre of War, Andrea Jeftanovic | Charco Press
What can the novels Wild Woman by Marina Šur Puhlovski and Under Pressure by Faruk Šehić tell us about the breakup of Yugoslavia which caused such a tectonic shift in Balkan identity?
Each to their war and its troubled aftermath: one in the domestic sphere, the other out on the field and in the trenches. Both are informed by terror, brutality, power struggles and stubborn memories which refuse to go away. The gender split seems clear: survivors of domestic violence are primarily women and war veterans are mainly men – each to their trauma.
Continue reading Book 2 Review | Wild Woman, Marina Šur Puhlovski & Under Pressure, Faruk Šehić | Istros Books