Friday, January 31, 2020

Arabs, Israel and Terrorism / An Interview with Primo Levi


Primo Levi
Poster de T.A.

Arabs, Israel and Terrorism
An Interview with Primo Levi

Given the tensions in the Mediterranean region, how do you see the issue of the relationship between countries on the northern Mediterranean rim, such as Italy, and those with an Islamic culture on the southern rim, such as Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria? What do you think we should do, think, or write in order to avoid exacerbating these tensions as we have done in the past? Finally, do you think there are some areas where our knowledge is incomplete in this regard?

Knowledge is always a good thing, but our knowledge of the Arab world - objectively speaking - is very limited. This limited knowledge is partly our fault and partly theirs, because it is undeniable that very little good news has come out of the Arab world, or Islam in general, for centuries. They use technology but have not contributed to the digital revolution, they are Marxists without having contributed to a renewal of the ideology. They are, in short, on the sidelines of both western civilization and the communist world. My view is quite pessimistic. I wouldn’t trust any of the leaders right now: neither Mubarak, nor Khomeini, nor Gaddafi. They are all unreliable, ready to jump onto any bandwagon out of their own interests. I don’t think they are just cynical and unscrupulous; they are insecure and ambiguous.

Tanino Liberatore / Women I





Tanino Liberatore
WOMEN I





"Don't Want To Hide," Says Author Salman Rushdie, 30 Years After Fatwa


Salman Rushdie

"Don't Want To Hide,"


 Says Author Salman Rushdie, 


30 Years After Fatwa

Salman Rushdie's life changed forever on February 14, 1989, when Iran's spiritual leader ordered the novelist's execution after branding his novel "The Satanic Verses" blasphemous.


Agence France-Presse
February 11, 2019 10:42 am IST


Paris: 
After decades spent in the shadow of a death sentence pronounced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Salman Rushdie is quietly defiant.

"I don't want to live hidden away," he told AFP during a visit to Paris.
The novelist's life changed forever on February 14, 1989, when Iran's spiritual leader ordered Rushdie's execution after branding his novel "The Satanic Verses" blasphemous.

Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' to be adapted in a series on Netflix


Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' to be adapted in a series on Netflix



June 29, 2018

On Thursday, Netflix announced a new original series based on Midnight’s Children, Sir Salman Rushdie’s seminal work of fiction.
Midnight’s Children (1981) is a literary tour de force that has won multiple accolades, including the 1981 Booker Prize, the Best of the Booker twice - both in 1993 and 2008, and the James Tait Memorial Prize. The critically acclaimed and hugely successful novel is considered by some to be amongst the 100 best novels of all time by the Modern Library. It is considered a groundbreaking example of postcolonial, postmodern and magic realist literature.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The 100 best novels / No 92 / Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)


The 100 best novels

writtein English 

No 92

Housekeeping 

by Marilynne Robinson 

(1981)


Marilynne Robinson’s tale of orphaned sisters and their oddball aunt in a remote Idaho town is admired by everyone from Barack Obama to Bret Easton Ellis
Robert McCrum
Monday 22 June 2015 09.00 BST


E
ver since President Obama identified Gilead as one of his favourite contemporary books, Marilynne Robinson’s reputation has been dominated by her trilogy (including Home and Lila) about the Ames family of Iowa. Yet, almost 25 years before, Robinson completed and published a first novel which prefigures the mood and preoccupations of almost all her later work.
For me, Housekeeping remains her masterpiece, an unforgettable declaration of imaginative and narrative intent. It is also, as many critics have pointed out, the work of an American writer, and Calvinist, intimately at home with the Bible and the great transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Herman Melville (No 17 in this series).
In the simple spirit of these masters, Robinson’s prose, replete with metaphor and simile, is achingly quotable: “To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savours of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing – the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.” There’s no one else in America today writing with such natural inner music.
Housekeeping is the story of two orphans, Ruth and her sister Lucille Stone, living in remote Idaho by the lakeside town of Fingerbone. These abandoned girls are raised by a succession of relatives, and finally their aunt Sylvie, a strange drifter who becomes the novel’s compelling central character. Sylvie commits to staying in Fingerbone to “keep house” for her nieces, though neither believes she will stay with them for long. Ruth says: “I was reassured by her sleeping on the lawn, and now and then in the car. It seemed to me that if she could remain transient here, she would not have to leave.” Sylvie, who is like a “mermaid in a ship’s cabin”, wanders by the lake while the family house goes to pieces. Ruth, our narrator, is at home with her aunt’s transient spirit, and comfortable with solitude: “Once alone,” she says, “it is impossible to believe that one could ever have been otherwise. Loneliness is an absolute discovery.”
By contrast, Lucille wants to escape Sylvie’s spell. In an echo of Robinson’s own divided nature, the Stone sisters, inseparable in childhood, begin to grow apart. Ruth, a natural rebel, goes deeper into her family’s dark past; the more conventional Lucille moves away. Then the Fingerbone community steps in. Sylvie’s guardianship is challenged with the threat that she and Ruth should be separated. Robinson believes in family. She writes: “Families will not be broken. Curse and expel them, send their children wandering, drown them in floods and fires, and old women will make songs of all these sorrows and sit on the porch and sing them on mild evenings.”

So, rather than submit to yet another assault on their strange and transient association, Ruth and Sylvie burn down their house and escape together across the lake. The townspeople, who cannot understand the idea of self-sufficient “homeless” women, decide Ruth and Sylvie are insane and that they must have drowned in the lake.
In the words of an early New York Timesreview, this novel is “about people who have not managed to connect with a place, a purpose, a routine or another person. It’s about the immensely resourceful sadness of a certain kind of American, someone who has fallen out of history and is trying to invent a life without assistance of any kind, without even recognising that there are precedents. It is about a woman who is so far from everyone else that it would be presumptuous to put a name to her frame of mind”.
As a modern classic, Housekeeping can bear any weight of interpretation. Like Fingerbone’s lake water, it has become a mirror in which generations of new readers can find themselves, as if for the first time.


A note on the text

When I interviewed Marilynne Robinson at the Cambridge literary festival in November 2014, and asked her about the genesis of Housekeeping, her account was typically low-key and matter-of-fact, without any of the ostentation you might expect from the author of such an immense literary achievement. She had written the novel, in longhand, for her own pleasure, she said, without much thought about its afterlife, found it taken up by friends, then represented by the New York literary agent Ellen Levine, who sold it without delay to the famous American literary publishing house Farrar Straus and Giroux (which published it in the States in 1980), and in the UK to Faber.
In her Paris Review interview of 2008, she supplied a bit more detail, but not much: “When I went to college, I majored in American literature, which was unusual then. But it meant that I was broadly exposed to 19th-century American literature. I became interested in the way that American writers used metaphoric language, starting with Emerson. When I entered the PhD programme, I started writing these metaphors down, just to get the feeling of writing in that voice. After I finished my dissertation, I read through the stack of metaphors and they cohered in a way that I hadn’t expected. I could see that I had created something that implied much more. So I started writing Housekeeping, and the characters became important for me. I told a friend of mine, a writer named John Clayton, that I had been working on this thing, and he asked to see it. The next thing I knew, I got a letter from his agent saying that she would be happy to represent it.”

What she, modestly, did not say to me was that, unknown as she was, an early rave review in the New York Times ensured that the book would be noticed. “Here’s a first novel that sounds as if the author has been treasuring it up all her life, waiting for it to form itself,” began the critic, Anatole Broyard. “It’s as if, in writing it, she broke through the ordinary human condition with all its dissatisfactions, and achieved a kind of transfiguration. You can feel in the book a gathering voluptuous release of confidence, a delighted surprise at the unexpected capacities of language, a close, careful fondness for people that we thought only saints felt.” Broyard’s awed enthusiasm was soon echoed by many critics and readers.
From the first, the reviews of Housekeeping were united in their admiration for the luminous subtlety of her work, and her powerfully simple, almost Biblical, way with language. This passage, typical of Robinson’s prose, introduces a new, timeless, and utterly distinctive voice into the magical polyphony of the American novel: “Cain killed Abel, and the blood cried out from the ground – a story so sad that even God took notice of it. Maybe it was not the sadness of the story, since worse things have happened every minute since that day, but its novelty that He found striking. In the newness of the world God was a young man, and grew indignant over the slightest things. In the newness of the world God had perhaps not Himself realised the ramifications of certain of his laws, for example, that shock will spend itself in waves; that our images will mimic every gesture, and that shattered they will multiply and mimic every gesture ten, a hundred, or a thousand times. Cain, the image of God, gave the simple earth of the field a voice and a sorrow, and God himself heard the voice, and grieved for the sorrow, so Cain was a creator, in the image of his creator.”

Marilynne Robinson
It’s well known, possibly notorious, that Robinson’s next work of fiction,Gilead, did not appear for almost 25 years. Again, when I interviewed her about Gilead for the Observer at her home in Iowa in 2005, her literary voice was undimmed, its concerns as deep-rooted, and the simple magic of her prose as potent as ever. Once again, she displayed an impressive detachment from the process of writing. It hadn’t, after all, been a 25-year struggle; she could write quite quickly; her favourite writing clothes were loose trousers (“pants”) and a sweatshirt – she “dressed like a bum”; the new book had come to her more or less fully formed, the fruit of an accidental vacation, and so on. Who knows how much of this is true? Robinson does not like to give much away. She mainly shuns the literary circuit. Perhaps this is why some American writers, especially, have fallen over themselves to pay tribute to her work.
Barbara Kingsolver writes: “I honestly believe reading [Robinson’s] prose slows down my respiration and heart rate, bringing me to a state of keen meditative attention. This novel is a marvel of carefully measured revelation.” More remarkable, perhaps, it Bret Easton Ellis’s acknowledgement that “it’s so beautifully written, the prose gives me the chills when I read it… it’s very meditative and very – a very different experience from most contemporary novels.”
In 2008, Barack Obama let slip that Robinson’s fiction, especially Gilead, was among his favourite reading. She, in amused confirmation, has joked about getting Christmas cards from the White House.
At the moment, she is planning another volume in her Ames/Gilead sequence.


Three more from Marilynne Robinson

Gilead (2004); Home (2008); Lila (2014).

THE GUARDIAN



THE 100 BEST NOVELS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH
007 Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
014 Fair by William Thackeray (1848)  
031 Dracula by Bram Stoker  (1897)
035 The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
036 The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904)
039 The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells (1910)
040 Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1915)
041 The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)
042 The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
043 The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)
044 Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Waugham (1915)
045 The Age of Innocence by Edith Warthon (1920)
046 Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
047 Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)
048 A Pasage to India by EM Forster (1922)
049 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loss ( 1925)
050 Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

The 100 best novels / No 91 / Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)




The 100 best novels

writtein English 

No 91

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)



The personal and the historical merge in Salman Rushdie’s dazzling, game-changing Indian English novel of a young man born at the very moment of Indian independence


Robert McCrum
Monday 15 June 2015 05.45 BST


A
mong the many turning points in the constant remaking of the English novel – the dazzle of Sterne (No 6 in this series); the quieter, witty genius of Austen (No 7); the polyvalent brio of Dickens (No 15); the vernacularbrilliance of Twain (No 23), and so on – the appearance of Midnight’s Children in 1981 now stands out as a particularly significant milestone. Salman Rushdie’s second novel took the Indian English novel, revolutionised it by marrying the fiction of Austen and Dickens with the oral narrative tradition of India, and made a “magical realist” (the label was still in its infancy) novel for a new generation. This emergent global readership would find, in a story set in Bombay, a work of contemporary fiction that mashed up tales of east and west into a self-confessed fabrication narrated by the highly symbolic figure of Saleem Sinai, an Indian boy born on the stroke of midnight, 15 August 1947, a boy whose distinctive nose seems like a miniature embodiment of the sub-continent whose history has just taken him prisoner.
Saleem sets out his stall as the narrator in the novel’s third paragraph: “I have been a swallower of lives; and to know me, just the one of me, you’ll have to swallow a lot as well. Consumed multitudes are jostling and shoving inside me…” And so, off we go.




Saleem, whom Rushdie inhabits for his own purposes, is a character with many unusual powers, especially a psychic connection to all the other children born as he was, at the very moment of modern India’s birth. An equally important, and sometimes neglected, element of the novel is Rushdie’s angry response to the repressions of the 1970s “Emergency”. With Saleem, the personal and the historical become indistinguishable, and Rushdie makes a further duality when he exchanges his narrator for a second baby, an alter ego who expresses Saleem’s dark side. All this is described in Indian English prose that pulsates between the tumultuous and the fantastic.
A page of Rushdie is a rich, jewel-encrusted tapestry of allusions, puns, in-jokes, asides, and the unconsidered trifles of popular culture. Some readers may find this diet close to indigestible, but Rushdie’s charm, energy and brilliance, with his sheer joie de vivre, justify the critic VS Pritchett’s verdict (in the New Yorker) that, with Midnight’s Children, “India has produced a great novelist… a master of perpetual storytelling”.


A note on the text


The making of Midnight’s Childrenbegan, by Rushdie’s own account, when he travelled to India in 1975, a return home sponsored by a £700 advance for his first novel Grimus, a quasi-science fantasy experiment that flopped badly. But his next novel would be different. “I had wanted for some time to write a novel of childhood,” he said in 2005. But it was not until this trip that he began to conceive “a more ambitious plan”. He would take Saleem Sinai, a minor character from an abandoned novel entitled The Antagonist, and link him to the totality of Indian independence by somehow making the history of modern India “all his fault”.
The idea was one thing; the writing would be something else. “I was broke,” recalls Rushdie. “The novel in my head was clearly going to be long and strange and take quite a while to write and in the meanwhile I had no money.” Having briefly been a copywriter for Ogilvy & Mather, he now rejoined the agency on a part-time basis, and settled down to write the book he was beginning to callMidnight’s Children, having rejected Children of Midnight as “banal”.
By mid-1979, he was done. The typescript was sent to his friend and editor Liz Calder at Jonathan Cape where, in the best publishing tradition, the first reader’s report was brief, hostile and dismissive: “The author should concentrate on short stories until he has mastered the novel form.”
Thereafter, wiser readings prevailed. The novel was bought by both Cape in the UK and Alfred Knopf in the US. Calder, says Rushdie, saved him from “two bad mistakes”. There was an offstage “audience” character who was “redundant”; and there was a knot in the novel’s time line. Rushdie was persuaded to drop the character, and restructure the story chronologically.
On publication in the spring of 1981, the reviews were good, and the novel’s reception generally enthuiastic. But then, once the book appeared in India, there came the first of the political controversies that have tormented Rushdie throughout his literary career: Mrs Gandhi sued him for a single defamatory sentence about her relationship with her younger son Sanjay. The case never came to court; and eventually the offending sentence was dropped. Now that Mrs Gandhi and her “Emergency” are history, the text becomes less topical, but more timeless. Rushdie himself says that “Midnight’s Children is a product of its moment in history, touched and shaped by its time in ways which its author cannot wholly know.”
In its own time, it has been an acclaimed prizewinner, winning both the Booker prize in 1981, and “the Booker of Bookers” in 1993 and again in 2008. Chosen for the BBCs “Big Read” in 2003, its status as a contemporary classic seems assured. Rushdie himself has written, with appropriate modesty, that “if it can pass the test of another generation or two, it may endure”. Posterity awaits.

Three more from Salman Rushdie

Shame (1983); The Satanic Verses (1988); Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990).

THE GUARDIAN




THE 100 BEST NOVELS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH
007 Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
014 Fair by William Thackeray (1848)  
031 Dracula by Bram Stoker  (1897)
035 The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
036 The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904)
039 The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells (1910)
040 Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1915)
041 The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)
042 The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
043 The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)
044 Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Waugham (1915)
045 The Age of Innocence by Edith Warthon (1920)
046 Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
047 Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)
048 A Pasage to India by EM Forster (1922)
049 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loss ( 1925)
050 Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)