Does ‘World literature tour’ have to mean boring?

So much of the worst that groups of people do to designated enemies stems from knowing too little about the Other. So much of the reason why this tendency is so hard to change is that most attempts at filling in the gaps come across as ‘improving’ and crashingly dull.

A recent addition to the old Fighter-poets thread with which this experiment in blogging began contained a link to Robert Fisk writing in The Independent about Irish soldiers who died in tens of thousands in World War I — and how little that did to moderate either Irish anger with Britain, or anti-Irish prejudice in England:

I was brought up on tales of German U-boats skulking around Irish ports to receive fuel from anti-British villagers. But I spent three months visiting every village on the Irish west coast and researching the Irish Coastwatching service archives and I can attest that no U-boat – ever – put in to an Irish port.

Before Pearl Harbour, the Japanese were seen by Westerners ‘as physical and mental defectives: too nearsighted and prone to vertigo to fly a combat aircraft.’ The Allies assumed that ‘“our little brown brothers” could not independently design and manufacture high-performance combat aircraft nor fly them in complex combined operations.’ So says Jonathan Shay in Achilles in Vietnam, mentioned in an earlier blog on Class in War. He adds that Japanese prejudice against the Allies caused a symmetrical underestimation – leading them to leave ‘important papers behind in the field, on the assumption that Westerners would never figure out how to read them or how to crack their codes. Because Westerners were so soft, the logic ran, the Allies would agree to a compromise peace when confronted with the pure spirit of Japanese self-sacrifice.’

Will we ever make a serious dent in this variety of bone-headedness when xenophobic parochialism is so much more common than friendly, energetic curiosity about foreigners? Those of us who have blogged on The Guardian’s books site in the last two years have seen how post after post about books from foreign countries is virtually ignored – even when these works win prizes like the Man Booker.

The Guardian certainly deserves some praise for persistently trying to start conversations about exotic literature. But it’s hard not to wonder whether its own editors have their hearts in the campaign every time they roll out a new edition of their World Literature Tour (WLT). Bloggers are simply invited to recommend notable literary works of a particular country. They tend to list these like robotic accountants, rarely describing the books or the themes for which authors are best known, or supplying any context, such as the history of the region’s literary tradition.

After noting that the illustration for the WLT to Australia was a Melbourne street scene twenty years out of date, Matilda, an Ozzie blogger, remarked about the recommendations:

And the first suggestion: “I think joining world literature to Australia is a very good idea.” Oh dear.

My own reaction, exactly, to most of the thread. Someone replying to her said that the offerings were mainly

rather like recommending Margaret Atwood in a discussion of Canadian literature

The contrast between the potential, on that site, for amusing expository threads throbbing with life – drawing on the Guardian’s reputation and global reach – and the superficial and dreary inventories that most WLT blogs actually generate, is staggering.

Why not introduce each country not just by mentioning its name but with a question. Off the top of my head, I’d suggest: what are foreigners’ typical misconceptions about a people – and which books by those people are the most enlightening and enjoyable or admirable correctives? Which books by a country’s inhabitants (a) confirm and (b) challenge the clichés about it? . . . Why not mix the book talk with snippets of travel writing? – with scraps of local colour for a backdrop, like a Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas street market in German-speaking countries mentioned in a letter I received the other day, or Moscow preparing for the Russian Orthodox Christmas a few days from now?

. . . And why not have some of the introductory articles written by a native – or a Guardian correspondent on the spot – and others, by below-the-liners who regularly write interesting posts about or from certain countries? For instance, StevenAugustine in Berlin, Sean Murray or DesmondSwords or SuzanAbrams in Dublin – from where Suzan has also been telling us about the Middle-East and Southeast Asia. Then there’s Ishouldapologise/ISA/Philip Hall who, in his memoir-in-progress, blogs engrossingly, often grippingly, about South Africa, where he partly grew up – and has unwittingly been answering questions I’ve had for half my life about the split between the Boerevolk and South Africans of British descent.

It hardly matters that none of these bloggers are literary authorities, as far as I know. The GU editors who usually write the WLT introductions could certainly make no such claim. Whatever hair-raising mistakes the blogger-contributors made would only stimulate enjoyably rude threads drawing attention to, and arguing about, the errors and oversights.

Of course any other newspaper or blog could show the Guardian how to do a better job by introducing a WLT rival. I only mention that publication because this site began as a breakaway from its below-the-line discussions about books – and as a protest against its censorship policies.

Advertisements

70 Comments

Filed under Editors and editing, The blogosphere, The Guardian

70 responses to “Does ‘World literature tour’ have to mean boring?

  1. Wordy,
    Just as an example:

    From what I remember since I was last on the Guardian Books thread a while ago now, a staff member of GU who wrote about a tour to Egypt knew nothing at all about the country’s writers with the exception of Naguib Mahfouz who had won the Nobel Prize of Literature & Alaa-al Aswany whose work is published in the USA/Britain besides being overly-commercialised.

    But Mahfouz drew his foremost inspirations from a few fellow-writers he particularly admired, even being inclined to follow closely what they had to say through fiction, and their respective styles in incorporating these fiction. He allowed several popular writers in his circle of close friends and cafe culture scenarios and I believe, several cafes with heavy literary discussions were often involved in Mahfouz’s life. Mahfouz learnt from those he knew had something to teach him.
    Basically Egyptian writers (and this as an example) are currently very popular throughout the Arab world.

    Following closely behind their tracks in the New Age would easily be Beirut, Lebanon and Tehran, Iran.

    The best part is that while the United Nations and the USA continues to pick a bone with Iran over political upheavals, there are many European countries who have opened their doors to Iran’s Persian manuscripts and old world culture. There are currently several different working translators in Iran, translating ancient Confucious ballads and many other remarkable world stories, that we would never have expected, for instance.
    This alone, has brought Iran a lot of goodwill. In the open media, we tend to read only of political issues.

    It’s just that several of us don’t feel inclined to find out more. Then as with the Egypt thread, you get one or two of the usual posters who because they’ve only read Mahfouz, say that he is the only well-known one, worth reading and knowing. And that’s not true at all. The reality stays that Mahfouz will continue to be the ‘solitary’ and renowned author to the poster’s otherwise limited knowledge on the subject and who may never have explored anyone else beyond the Nobel winner.

    So every other writer is dismissed with an air of cynicism and pomposity. And sadly nary lies the fact when we actually attempt to learn from each other especially with world literature.
    I think this is a severe injustice to Egypt’s rich and flourishing literary scene. But this was my observation – one of many of late on the threads, which made me feel that I was better off studying world literature on my own through my travels and also a pursuit of my favourite bookshops and libraries. Then at least my knowledge is lived out, is sure and safe and not about to be openly scorned by someone who say, has only ever read Mahfouz or perhaps to be more honest, not even read, but merely heard of him.

  2. Oh Wordy, I must include Zonky, who is now known as The Bearded Lady. She has travelled in the Arab world especially Morocco and Turkey, lived in Egypt for a year – when she was missing from the Books Thread – and is planning to return to Istanbul in the near future.

  3. Suzan I think what you say is true for almost anything. The ability to remember Sunday Times colour supplement coverage of something passing for knowledge of the subject. Flaubert had it down pat with his dictionary of received ideas.

    Isn’t it also down to a competitive approach to assessing such things? Jean-Luc Godard makes Fassbinder look like Gone With The Wind etc. etc. It doesn’t matter whether they have a different approach to the same subject. It seems to be about awarding them points like a football league. Time Out in London used to be very good at that sort of thing.

  4. I don’t know, Alarming.

    As to what I had said above, it seemed more to be the case of ‘the blind leading the blind’, starting with the GU staff who wrote about a world literature tour to Egypt while admitting she knew nothing about it.

    *******
    Wordy, I also had another thought which hopefully appears kinder.
    Many books on world literature especially from the Indian sub-continent sell very well worldwide indeed. But those thousands of buyers and readers from around the world aren’t the regular posters on the GU threads.
    It’s comforting too that international literature has made huge steps forward.
    For instance, in February, Emirates in conjunction with Foyles Books, UK and a few other Arab sponsors are holding the United Arab Emirates’ first ever International literary Festival. There’s been a fair amount of publicity over it already.
    In attendance will be Margaret Atwood, Simon Armitage and Rajaa Alsanea for Girls of Riyadh among many other authors.
    Again the many spectators for such an event wouldn’t be those from the books thread. Maybe we’re looking at the disinterested attitudes to foreign cultures, from a very small group of people. I think so.

    Anyway, here is the homepage link to Emirates’ Literature Festival.

    Emirates/Festival

  5. wordnerd7

    @Suzan, an exploration of the reasons for this could have made a superb introduction to the WLT on Egypt:

    === Basically Egyptian writers (and this as an example) are currently very popular throughout the Arab world. ===

    Bit by bit, you’ve been changing my views of the Middle East — adding subtle new shading and a lot more substance. I can’t say that anyone above the line at GU has ever done anything like that for me — about any part of the world.

    You and @alarming are both right in your disagreement — in different ways. And my saying so isn’t a cop-out. ; )

  6. wordnerd7

    Also, @Suzan, I’m sure you are right about @Zonkladim/TBL. An usually lively character — so a blog about Turkey by her would be a treat.

    One of my reasons for suggesting that below-the-liners we already know would be good as cultural ambassadors is that that would cut down on the alienation factor.

  7. wordnerd7

    @alarming, I looked it up . . . . . . really, the best of best ways to introduce people to poems is to pop up with the perfect one for a subject or occasion –

    [. . .]

    Grishkin is nice: her Russian eye
    Is underlined for emphasis;
    Uncorseted, her friendly bust
    Gives promise of pneumatic bliss.

    [. . .]

    The sleek Brazilian jaguar
    Does not in its arboreal gloom
    Distil so rank a feline smell
    As Grishkin in a drawing-room.

    [. . .]

    : )

    http://www.bartleby.com/199/22.html

    I meant, earlier, that you are right – people’s expectations, for expertise, have only sunk. But @Suzan is right to lament the decline and fall and demand higher standards. . . I’d give the GU books blog eds credit for not pretending to know more than they do in their WLT intros — but why don’t they let other people do an incomparably better job?

    . . . And I hope that some other people will recommend below-the-line literary ambassadors — as @Suzan did. Never mind that I have no idea of what the recommending could lead to . . .

  8. Hi Wordy,
    There are so many faces to Arab literature alone. For instance in Beirut, there are a number of 30 something writers, now living in the West but creating their stories made up of romantic entanglements or other emotional upheavals, set against a very different history to the rest of the world. The award-winning DeNiro’s Game by Rawi Hage who now lives in Canada is an excellent example of Lebanon’s New Age writers.

    I’d love to give you some links but can only manage it tomorrow. Wordy, translated Arab literature is also often philosophical.

    Zonky has a blog:
    She calls it:
    http://www.thebeardedlady.wordpress.com.
    I’m sure she’d love your encouragement. She writes strange and quirky tales.

    Zonky is British but lived in Egypt all of the last year – which is when she went missing from the books blog and has an affinity for Turkey to where she’s also travelled and worked.
    Thanks for being so super, Wordy. 🙂

  9. Wordnerd Sometimes the non-expert can give a fresh or unexpected slant to a subject but too often ( especially in the theatre blog for some reason ) the critic mistakes their enthusiasm for something with thinking this is the first time said thing has been done. Or as in the World tour series it becomes evident that someone has been “lumbered” with the task of highlighting a particular topic of which they know only a little.

    But on the other hand so many of these blogs seem like opportunities for the below-liners to recommend favourites so as times get tough I wouldn’t be surprised to see the above-line content shrinking further being replaced by requests for lists.

    What a good poem that Eliot one is. I learnt virtually nothing at school and a brief period at a tech college when I started but didn’t finish an English O level but that poem has always stuck with me.

  10. BaronCharlus

    I find it impossible to keep up with the classics I’m yet to read without factoring in current English-language lit, without then factoring in international literature. Where do you begin? Stick a pin in a map? I suspect one needs to find a means of specialising, like Suzan or Des, zoning in on a region that – for whatever reason, personal or aesthetic – strikes one with greater force than any other.

    I’m a slow, although I hope thorough, reader; so I find lists of recommendations on blogs rather overwhelming. I also tend to have one eye on my own current work and whether a new piece of reading will offer anything in terms of thematic/atmospheric inspiriation. On which subject: Suzan, is your volume of ghost stories going to be available for readers in the UK?

  11. wordnerd7

    @Suzan, what kinds of romantic entanglements are these thirtysomething Lebanese writing about — generic bodice rippers, adapted for the local scenery and cultural fauna, or more literary (anti-)romances, like Andrei Makine’s or Julian Barnes’ Talking it Over?

    Links are always valuable, but I love the chance in this medium for book conversations like wine-tastings — little sips from a book or two, by the recommender, for some idea of style and approach.

  12. wordnerd7

    Oh please don’t say lists, @alarming, think of my robotic accountants . . . [shudders].

    About,

    === the critic mistakes their enthusiasm for something with thinking this is the first time said thing has been done. ===

    I see what you mean, but because this is an interactive medium, any mistake is surely another blogger’s chance for a witty putdown, on the way to correction. Think of a certain Mancunian gleefully seizing on a description of @MeltonMowbray as a ‘braised shirt’ by a commenter too far from Paris and long-ago French lessons, hélas. ; ( . . .In the old days of print-only criticism, readers would be stuck with the misinformation.

    It’s always amazed me that Eliot, such a famously dry old stick, could be so wickedly amusing. I wonder who the real-life inspiration for Grishkin was.

  13. wordnerd7

    === I find it impossible to keep up with the classics I’m yet to read without factoring in current English-language lit, without then factoring in international literature. Where do you begin? Stick a pin in a map? ===

    @BaronC, I’m sure you speak for most of us, there . . . and I’ll have a bit more to say about that later.

    But my reading choices have always been directed by my curiosity, and so much of that is stimulated by questions about people who intrigue me. . . Naturally, some of these are now about our comrades on these blogs.

    . . . Something funny that occurred to me a few days ago was that for years and years, I couldn’t force myself to read about three trouble-spots in which people have for my entire life seemed to enjoy being stuck in kinds of chronic conflict I find emetic: South Africa, the Middle East and Ireland. But, because these places are obsessions of some of the most engaging and congenial people I’ve met, ethereally speaking, I am now reading regularly about all of them.

  14. wordnerd7

    . . . sorry, that should have been, ‘the Irelands’. : )

  15. ISA

    Don’t we all follow paper trails? And where do you pick up the paper trail? Well close to hand.

    The rule is. When you find a book that fits you must buy it, whatever the circumstances.

    Follow the example of Yeats and the Golden Dawn. And so I have come across quite a few books.

    Pick your books when they are ripened.

    We can read the Kite Runner, but Juan Rulfo is quite unknown in Britain – which is natural, isn’t it.

    On the other hand there is universal literature. Now I wouldn’t recommend Martin Amis or Ian McEwan to a Mexican, but I would recommend Doris Lessing. I would read Gide or Tolstoy.

    So it’s not really about reading World Literature, but about reading universal literature.

    The odd question, for Susan then is, is Mahfouz universal?

  16. wordnerd7

    Excellent question about Mahfouz, so far unread by me.

    === Pick your books when they are ripened. ===

    Strange to say, but that’s absolutely right.

    ===Now I wouldn’t recommend Martin Amis or Ian McEwan to a Mexican, but I would recommend Doris Lessing. ===

    Yes, I can see why. She is to a far greater degree a universalist . . . on the other hand, the way she spells everything out in The Golden Notebook makes that book too much like a documentary in prose, and too little like, say, Antonioni. . . I far prefer her leaner, more graceful and — for me — immeasruably more affecting — The Grass is Singing.

    Which brings me a more general cause for hand-wringing: are we doomed to read only literary documentaries in trying to learn about each other’s cultures and linguistic treasures?

  17. ISA

    Wordy,

    Did I tell you that’s how I met Doris Lessing.

    I hadn’t read any of her books except the science fiction ones: Shikasta and Momoirs of a Survivor and then Briefing for a Descent into Hell and the Sirius Experiments.

    And then I picked up the Grass is Singing because we were to study Russian together. And I read it and it really annoyed me for some reason. I think it was the flaccidity of the main character. The women. Why did she just relapse. And the charicature of black sensuality.

    And so the next day I saw her and burst out. Were you happy with what you wrote? And she said something like she would have written it differently now. And after that I got to know her.

    I still suspect The Good Terrorist might have been partly inspired by our friendship. I said some stupid things.

    But she must have known a lot of alienatedand politicised people like me. Her characters were awful unsympathetic composites made up from lots of closely observed splinters of different people.

    I saw where she wrote, still writes. She has a beautiful view of Hampstead cemetary and the rooftops of Golder’s Green.

    She claimed to be illuminated, in a Sufi way. Which was very interesting. I was reading about how Shakespeare was a Sufi in spirit too.

    She did, and does, have a wonderful aura. She reminded me of my mother.One of those people that just grow more and more beautiful with age.

    Honestly, there are people like that. Have you met any?

    I also have a thing about spiritual animals. Dogs. Cats. My test for a spiritual animal is that they should weigh a lot more than their size and that their eyes should speak.

    And everyone talks about Nick Drake, so I didn’t want to like him, but I do of course. One song – called Black eyed Dog. There is something about a black dog we have in our collective unconscious, just as we have a space for a big black bird, a raven and white stags and robins.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=vDnDxvVjBic

  18. wordnerd7

    @ISA, . . . I wrote a reply that was too long and rambling, then removed it so as not to get in the way of other people reading your remarkable post. I’ll answer after giving some of them a chance to react first.

    . .. just about this, for the moment:

    === My test for a spiritual animal is that they should weigh a lot more than their size and that their eyes should speak. ===

    : ) !!!

  19. BaronCharlus

    @isa

    Or Robert Johnson’s Hellhound on my Trail, another great ‘psycho-pomorphic’ conjuration of despair.

    Where I’m from, you grow up hearing about Shuck, the devil dog. He has eyes as pig as dinner plates but can slip aup a drainpipe to get to you. He haunts the coastline and woodland. If you see him you’ll die by next day.

    @Wordn,
    How did you get on with Blind Willie Johnson?

  20. wordnerd7

    @BaronC — was let down by the wretched shipper, I’m afraid, or you’d have heard all about my reaction, by now — thank you for reminding me that I have to make a fuss. . .

  21. wordnerd7

    Hmm, no one’s saying anything, so:

    wordnerd7
    Submitted on 2008/12/31 at 3:49am, axed, . . . and reposted . . .

    All I do is leave this desk to go on a trek squish-squishing through mud and melting snow, … and @Phil, what do I find on my return but a treasure on the blog’s doorstep for all of us reading here. Thank you couldn’t possibly do it justice.

    I long ago guessed that you had exactly such a recollection of her in you — from your silence on all the GU threads on the subject.

    === I think it was the flaccidity of the main character. The women. Why did she just relapse. And the charicature of black sensuality. ===

    Yes, yes, I see. But isn’t your reaction — almost exactly like my own — part of what Kafka meant by his advice about words like an axe for the frozen sea inside? Though I cannot remember details of the plot because it’s been years since my last re-reading of TGIS, I do perfectly recall the book’s atmosphere and the intensity of my response to the story. . . And isn’t that the most important part of what makes that book great for so many?

    But, . . . but, . . . your account of your confronting her with such frank dissent, and her unruffled response, only adds interest to Doris Lessing and her oeuvre.

    Claims of spiritual distinction ordinarily shrink people so small in my estimation — instantaneously — that there’s nothing left of them. Instead I’m left shaking my head in bemusement about her Sufi announcement, since nearly everything else about her is so admirable — including, as you say, the grand beauty of her style of ageing. I don’t have to search for the photograph of your mother (much younger than DL) in the shocking pink shirt — because it’s indelibly etched on my mind — to say, yes, you are right, she radiates the same quality precisely.

  22. ISA South African choirs have always struck me by the way the individual members live in poverty, despair and immense difficulty but the singing always transcends their ( for want of a better expression ) material situation. They seem to be expressing real joy not only in the sound but also in the way they sing. It’s very difficult to describe this without resorting to ” natural sense of rhythm/ a happy smiling people” stereotypes but I’m always intrigued by the contrast between the art and the life.

    A South African bloke I worked with said that the music you hear on CD’s and see on TV was the tip of a huge iceberg in Africa – always liked the contrast in that description too. For every Black Umfolosi choir touring in the West there were 2 dozen more of the same who never made the right contacts.

    My brother had 2 Siamese cats which have always been the embodiment of evil for me – these 2 always reminded me of how Hollywood often depicts villains. The really nasty one, who is courteous and suave never does anything physically unpleasant – he leaves that to the slighty thicker henchman.

  23. ISA

    I am amazed that you know what I mean Wordy. Have you met an animal like that. Why are they so heavy?

    This is my little New Year’s cri de coeur Wordy.

    How difficult it is to love those close to us as they deserve to be loved.

  24. Hi Wordy,
    I have my carefully thought out answers for you, Isa & Baron.
    But it may be long.
    Shall I post it here or under long posts or how does it all work? 🙂

  25. wordnerd7

    Such leaping to conclusions, @ISA. Are you by any chance a gazelle?

    . . . If understanding is the same as helpless — affectionate — laughter, then of course I do, and perfectly. . . Not animals, Phil, but some babies I’ve held. In an interesting example, the boy in infant twins at a Christmas dinner about two decades ago, was exactly as you describe, but the weight of the girl twin fit the estimation of my eye. But can I be sure that he was more spiritual? I suppose I could track down the parents and find out. . . But you are closely related to twins yourself. Did you notice any such difference?

    === How difficult it is to love those close to us as they deserve to be loved. ===

    Yes. . . and in a different way and degree, those far away — hence this blog that you’ve put on a higher plain.

  26. ISA

    You are right about South African musical culture Alarming. But I don’t mind Siamese cats.

    But going back to Wordy’s theme: In parrallel, the incomprehension of world musical culture.

    You put on some Danzon or musica Ranchera and there is little response from a Brit unless you stick them in a Mexican restaurant.

    Journalism pisses me off too. It always, by it’s nature, has to touch base with the common place. In other words, when my brother did a story on Mexico he had to take pictures that people in Britain would recognise as Mexico – pollution, policemen toting guns etc. I took him to task for that.

    So I get the best political commentator in the whole of Mexico: Carlos Ramirez, to write a piece for the Guardian on the death in an aeroplane accident of the Mexican Secretary of State and the anti-drugs Czar and…

    …the Guardian refuses it. Why? Because his article didn’t refer to the commonplace knowledge Brits have about Mexico. Are these advanced lessons in journalism or on keeping people in the dark.

    Wordy,

    Lessing didn’t claim to be illuminated, I elicited it from her. The influence of Sufism is apparent in her books. She has avoided talking about it, but has referred to it.

    I was reading something or doing Tai Chi at the time (1983).

    “When you are illuminated,” I commented, “apparently you feel it from your stomach. I wonder if this is true.”

    “It is true,” she said, and her hand moved over her own abdomen briefly. It’s the core of your being.

    At the same time Lessing found people who idolised authors ridiculous.

    “They expect us to have the answers. It’s nonsense.” she said and looked a little exasperated.

    “Why do they think authors will have solutions to all these complex problems?”

  27. wordnerd7

    . . . d’oh! . . . a higher plane . . .

  28. wordnerd7

    === Lessing didn’t claim to be illuminated, I elicited it from her. ===

    Phew, a heroine mercifully redeemed . . . thank you. . . Now does the feeling-it-in-the-tummy part fit your spiritual animals theory, is the question.

  29. wordnerd7

    === Because his article didn’t refer to the commonplace knowledge Brits have about Mexico. Are these advanced lessons in journalism or on keeping people in the dark.===

    Groundhog Day.

  30. Hello @Suzan, I’ve only just noticed your question.Why not just paste it in here to begin with — and then if it’s alright with you, I might leave its head here and put the tail in Long Posts — ? .. . I’ve been looking forward to your answer to @ISA’s question.

  31. ISA

    I am looking forward to Susan’s post.

    Perhaps the subtext is I need to lose weight after Christmas.

    Goose. There is so little meat on a goose. I was looking at the bones of the goose. These ain’t chicken or turkey bones. Geese fly and fly well and far. Thier bones are heavy and aerodynamic. And the all the smaltz must be for the long flights from Mexico to Canada.

    Look up Wordy!

    My son is badgering me to shave and go of to Kingston. Tere is in Leamington Spa with the girls.

  32. ISA so I can add the ability to fool intelligent people to the list of Siamese cat’s crimes then?

  33. Tomorrow ok, Wordy? I’m rushing for time just now.

  34. Oh by the way, Baron, thanks so much for asking about my ghost stories. Don’t think, England no but my book will be available over Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble & Borders etc roundabout April or so. I’ll let you know. Plus, I’ll also be given complimentary copies.

  35. Hi Isa,
    Believe me when I say I can’t wait to answer your odd question! 🙂

  36. wordnerd7

    @alarming: === fool intelligent people to the list of Siamese cat’s crimes then? ===

    Surely that’s always been the whole point of them? Think about it, their perfect imitation of the cry of a needy human that still can’t walk?

    . . . Lovely @Suzan, of course we’ll wait for as long as we have to. But you did say it was already written . . . grr . . .and if worried about its length, you can just put the start here and paste in a link to Long Posts?. . . If you keep us waiting too much longer, though, I’m going to have to insist that you come bursting out of a giant cake and then we’ll all assault you with lashings of premium clotted cream. . . You know that it’s not impossible that this post will have to move down a slot to make room for the New Year. . . . ; ) . . . hurry, hurry . . . !

  37. BaronCharlus

    Happy new year, folks

    May 2009 steady the road and make joyful our stumble towards enlightenment (or at least adjust the scenery to taste).

    Many thanks for the illumination, diversion and occasional fencing practice.

  38. [ With her permission, I’m putting @Suzan’s answer to this question of mine, and three other generous and richly informative posts in the Long Posts section, here.]

    @Wordy: Suzan, what kinds of romantic entanglements are these thirtysomething Lebanese writing about — generic bodice rippers, adapted for the local scenery and cultural fauna, or more literary (anti-)romances, like Andrei Makine’s or Julian Barnes’ Talking it Over?

    ******

  39. I would also like to share my thoughts on what Baron had asked about pinning a location to read world literature and I would like to answer Isa’s question but will do it a bit later in the day.

    Sorry Wordy, I may take up two more comment boxes but that’s all. 🙂

  40. wordnerd7

    @BaronC, and the same to you . . .

    I’d love to see you expand the intriguing bit between brackets here:

    === make joyful our stumble towards enlightenment (or at least adjust the scenery to taste). . . . ===

    Would that be be on Second Life, then? . . . : )

    @Suzan, you _did_ leap out of that cake! — alternating layers of the very best halva and Turkish delight, I see . . . Well, you’ve proved that you’d be absolutely the right person to set up a chat shop — to borrow Des’s term — on what used to be called the Near East. I almost feel as if I’ve started the new year there … But, even from the little I’ve been able to digest so far, I think that a key to my improved WLT would be intense interactivity. Bloggers would be able to say . . . ‘Stop! for Egypt, @Suzan, would you please go back to — say — what happened between papyrus scrolls and Mahfouz,’ etc. . . I’m assuming that most of these readers will, like me, be hopeless ignoramuses about the details of literary traditions of these places.

    I’ll come back to your posts when I’ve had some time to read them properly, and will follow your suggestion that I put them in Long Posts: _thank you_.

    I’d like people to be able to find @BaronC’s Hellhound and Shuck the devil dog . . . and Doris Lessing – and know you understand this.

  41. Oh dear Wordy,
    Sorry for all that rambling.
    Well, I’ll try to keep this last bit clipped.

    For Baron
    who asked where to start…or to stick a pin on the map
    I think for me, reading different kinds of world literature has been a spiritual evolvement…. an enlightenment and a calling where specific countries that owned certain stories have reached out to me with a definite yearning voice, rather than me go to find them, to be acquainted. I’ve never been interested in a culture until it has sought me…it’s almost reverential in the sense that as a curious reader, I can’t turn back.

    I see this as being different to picking up a book sparked off by spontaneity or a mood. The former is far more bewitching and life-changing. Who would fancy that I would even have looked the way of the Middle-East or be studying Persian or Arabic, so keen am I right now to be reading classical texts. It is literally the sacredness of the situation that longs for me to specialise in it. Who knows what else is there in the years to come?

    And yet, all my other books that I have loved from childhood don’t leave me either , not the British classics or contemporary fiction or the South Asian literature…I suppose it’s like a mother with children…who loves her brood but there is always room for one more child.

    ******

    For Isa, I will include this with preferring the words world literature. I suppose to each his own but I have definite reasons not to sum foreign cultures up as universal.

    I have developed an analytical mind of late, Isa, which you all may have noticed to be completely humourless and dull…it is the intensity of what I write that makes me so clumsy to banter on this blog and elsewhere.

    The word universal to me is vague. In fact, it betrays the distinct fascination afforded by each different culture and the myriad of exoticism provided by and associated with these cultures…that sets them apart, one from the other. In the case of the Middle-East, I would say the different personalities that mark for a varied sensuousness.

    To be universal is to engulf everything into a fold… a fog, a mist of supposed love and peace; it is a contrived form of idealism.

    Do I really feel this way…that all countries could be matched into one? No, and so to call my passion for different cultures, universal would be hypocritical on my part. And this is me talking about me, here.

    But because of this intensity, when I say world literature I am able to visualise mentally straightaway, a charted progress of my own reading journey…of the countries I have thread, of those I have not, of the cultures I may have experienced…I see things clearly & devoid of emotion so that emotion does not run away with me and this is tied to my own spiritual evolvement with books. Perhaps being called to a certain culture in the way I explained to Baron earlier, is peace and love enough for me…that I don’t need to link them all up together.

    As for Mahfouz, would I call him universal? No, not at all. I would say that his accolades would be considered universal by recognition. Everyone can identify with the Nobel Prize of Literature, but with Mahfouz’s tales themselves, I doubt.

    In the same too, for Salman Rushdie, his former fatwa is what makes him universal, over his fiction.

    I think Jhumpa Lahiri, one of India’s most famous diaspora writers in the US would be considered universal for her fiction. Readers worldwide know of her. Her themes could be applied to anyone in the world.

    Plus, the Indian population has a strong migratory culture, ready to absorb the Lahiris of this world, whereas the Egyptian culture is still a minority.

    But IsaIsa, most definitely, I did agree with what you said here:

    The rule is. When you find a book that fits you must buy it, whatever the circumstances.

    Let us be kind to each other that all of us see the world differently, even in the crowning of its sensibilities and the ticklish notions of its titles when it comes to books. 🙂

  42. Oh..just to explain when I said spiritual evolvement above, it didn’t mean religion but something so sublime that may have aligned itself to a similar sacredness.

  43. This has been an extremely pleasant spot to roost, lower the tone, digress and shoot the breeze.

    Let’s hope pleasant roosting, continued lowering of tone, unexpected digressions and taking random pot shots at the breeze continue long into 2009.

    My new year resolution is to camouflage the 5 points I usually and repeatedly make even further so that they appear as fresh as a daisy to those reading them.

  44. BaronCharlus

    @Suzan

    Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I’m inspired. Also, I know the experience of being chosen by a particular strand of art at a particular time – often unexpectedly; of being led into something unknown only to discover its perfect place within what one has always been (if that makes any sense!).

    Very interested to read your book when it’s available. Will keep an eye on your site. I’m on the hunt for new (to me) visions of the supernatural. British writing so often falls back on a Christian cosmology which I find rather limiting for my own writing.

    Also struck by ISA’s observation that some artists feel more universal than others (loved the image of recommending Amis to a Mexican, for some reason).

    @Wordn
    My scenery comment meant merely that, even if we can’t hope for enlightenment, may the world be generous enough to improve the scenery to suit us as we make our way. Although, yes, I now see the spooky SL connection.

  45. BaronC Marina Warner writes very well on the supernatural ( it’s not fiction though so I don’t if it’s exactly what you’re after ). “No Go the Bogeyman” is the book. It’s a bit of an academic chew at times, there’s plenty of Christianity on show but she has a fine mind ( Lord did I really just write that? ) and if you ever see an exhibition curated by her advertised drop everything and go and see it. I’ve seen 2 big shows she put together about Metamorphosis and Angels and Devils which really set the mind spinning and fizzing in a hundred different directions. Unlike many she give the art of curation a good name.

  46. Hi Baron,
    It would be a pleasure to send you a copy once the book’s out. My stories aren’t exactly fiction. 🙂

  47. wordnerd7

    @Suzan, extra-good wishes for the success of your book . . . a primitive, superstitious part of me won’t let me say more than that.

    @BaronC,

    === (loved the image of recommending Amis to a Mexican, for some reason). ===

    I did, too. But you might not be thinking of the same kind of south-of-the-border person. @ISA has married into the super-educated and -sophisticated part of that society, whose members do not stray north in large numbers — in my experience. . . . Actually, I think that all lovers of machismo have a soft spot for Martin.

    @alarming,

    === Let’s hope pleasant roosting, continued lowering of tone, unexpected digressions and taking random pot shots at the breeze continue long into 2009. ===

    A perfect reading of hopes and intentions . . . thank you for that. . . And if you, with your special connections, have early warning of a Marina Warner exhibition, I hope you’ll let us know. It could take a lot of arranging for me to follow your advice — but I’m all agog; . . . couldn’t be more curious to see what you mean.

  48. WN Sadly I have no special connections re: Marina Warner but her exhibitions are in well known spaces – Science Museum in London and Manchester City Art Gallery in respect of the 2 I saw . If I hear of a new one I’ll certainly let this blog know.

    She illuminates a theme with collections of objects, music and literature which illustrate or add a new way of thinking about the subject ( usually the latter ).

    The collections are incredibly diverse e.g the Metamorphosis show featured speeded up film of dead animals decomposing, a photo essay about voodoo rituals in Haiti, 17th century satirical prints about how husbands could alter their nagging spouses, old German woodcuts about vampires and werewolves, a film of someone making glass eyes, taxidermy hoaxes of mermaids made to fool European explorers, sound tapes of music made from the sounds of organs in the human body and many other treats.

    Sorry if this sounds like a press release but what is really good is how all these objects also fire off each other and forge new connections in your mind.

    Unlike many curators you feel she opens up a theme rather than forcing it into a particular shape.

  49. BaronCharlus

    @Suzan

    Thanks you!! I’m very excited. And this:

    ‘My stories aren’t exactly fiction. :-)’

    Has me intrugued and a bit scared.

    @Alarming
    Thanks for the tip, will investigate. Things turning into other things is one of my favourite themes. You also touch on an interesting point. I have no problem with Christianity (in art, anyway). Quite the opposite. The lives of saints in Renaissance art, the Gothic cathedrals, Norfolk’s Saxon towers, Dylan’s gospel records, Tallis, sacred harp singing, etc; devotional expression can (im0) often access colours and thoughts that more intellectual routes fall short of. It’s just that the Christian cosmology in supernatural fiction seems so orderly, almost reassuring. Nothing of the cthonic, chaotic stuff, quite outside human morality that, for me, is where our animal fears lie. After that, a lie down for me.

    @Wordn

    re the Mexican; I don’t think I had a particular racial image in mind (despite having watched the Wild Bunch a day or two before). It was more the prospect of Amis’s inward cynicism meaning much to someone from a nation of such dizzying extremes (not that I’ve been there).

  50. wordnerd7

    @alarming,

    === 17th century satirical prints about how husbands could alter their nagging spouses, ===

    Now they talk them into plastic surgery and are astonished when, after a second honeymoon, they find that the re-sculpting hasn’t made any difference to the relationship, after all. . . every bit as batty.

    === Unlike many curators you feel she opens up a theme rather than forcing it into a particular shape. ===

    Yes, this fits my impression of her over the years from various bits ‘n’ bobs written by or about her. She was at university with someone important to me and I like everything he said about her, but somehow that’s always distracted me from getting hold of her books.

    Did you notice that @carolru has said on her Rubaiyat blog,

    === Our brains seem ‘hard-wired’ to create enemies or dangerous ‘others.’ ===

    Though the research shows that she’s right, I don’t think that this is true of everyone. Reflecting on who we have here, I think there’s almost no one like that – except for one or two of us in certain moods that tend not to last. . . Marina Warner has an Italian mother. A mixed heritage and/or moving between different cultures when young seems to guarantee very different brain wiring – in all but the kind of person who never seems altered by living abroad, for whom I always imagine a head full of cold porridge.

  51. Baron C I broadly agree re; Christianity in art. Giotto’s chapel in Padua is an incredibly uplifting experience – much of it abstract because of the intense blue ceiling and the ingenious. inventive dove-tailing of the pictures with the architecture and ( errrm ) interior design. But also because of the humility that the artist has put into the compositions and depiction of the story of christ.

    My particular betes-noir are lapsed Catholics droning on, too often their agonies make me adopt LA speak – get over yourself dude! I feel this mainly because there’s just an implicit and unchallenged sense that what they are going through is a universal theme but if you’ve not been brought up in the faith it too often falls on deaf ears.

    Of course it can be done well, Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist had me – a non-believer- looking out my window fearful of the fate in hell that awaited me.

  52. wordnerd7

    @BaronC,

    === It was more the prospect of Amis’s inward cynicism meaning much to someone from a nation of such dizzying extremes (not that I’ve been there). ===

    Now I do hope @ISA, if he’s around, will come in on that . . . Have you read Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes? Though I’m by no means an expert on either writer, I’d guess that they’d have no trouble at all reading Amis as we might . .. I just wiki-ed Fuentes and this certainly fits what I’ve just said to @alarming:

    === Due to his father being a diplomat, during his childhood he lived in Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Washington, Santiago and Buenos Aires. In his adolescence, he returned to Mexico, where he lived until 1965. ===

    The majority, in most countries, seem to have a hard time with Otherness — but everywhere, there are exceptions. Sadly, not necessarily where you’d expect, however. . . I’ve been astounded by the narrowness of specialists in some part of Abroad, for instance.

  53. wordnerd7

    == the narrowness of specialists in some part of Abroad, for instance. ==

    eg., professors of Asia Studies, . .. Sinologists . . . Pacific peoples, and so on . . . What’s seriously odd is the way experts on particular regions so often take on the prejudices of the people/s they specialise in understanding — against other groups. . . The way ‘old Africa hands’ and their subcontinental equivalents can each be snippy about India or Africa. . . Quite the opposite of what you’d hope — that they would be cultural bridges and smashers of unfriendly preconceptions.

  54. BaronCharlus

    @Alarming
    Interesting you mention Giotto. I visited Assisi on my birthday this year; his frescoes in the upper basilica are humane and very pro-life (a phrase that should be reclaimed, if ever there was one).

    I’m always disappointed when a friend from a Christian-based culture, as we broadly have in the UK, dismisses a work as irrelevant because it uses Christian iconography to express joy (or very human fears) whilst leaping upon the perceived superior ‘spirituality’ of any other – more ‘exotic’ – set of aesthetics (Buddhist, Hindu and Rasta iconography always seems fair game for the tourists). And yes, Joyce’s Hell is up there with Bosch for authentic terrors.

  55. === I’m always disappointed when a friend from a Christian-based culture, as we broadly have in the UK, dismisses a work as irrelevant because it uses Christian iconography to express joy (or very human fears) whilst leaping upon the perceived superior ’spirituality’ of any other – more ‘exotic’ – set of aesthetics (Buddhist, Hindu and Rasta iconography always seems fair game for the tourists). ===

    You can count me in, here. . . But then some of them are the lapsed Catholics @alarming has just described . . . more than one good friend of mine over the years, but no less baffling for that . . . when the subject is Catholicism.

  56. BaronCharlus

    @Wordn

    I confess I haven’t read Paz or Fuentes and will, with haste, defer to your wider knowledge (and ISA’s, in anticipation). 🙂

  57. wordnerd7

    Well, I’d defer to @ISA’s . . . certainly not mine. ; )

    Something funny, completely off-topic. WordPress tells bloggers about sites linking to your blog. Does anyone know what ‘Guardian Sitelife’ is about? This link came up a few minutes ago and when I clicked on it, I was denied access: http://sitelife.guardian.co.uk/ver1.0/CMW/Overview/AccessDenied.rails

    What can this possibly mean?

    . . . And one last thing for @BC — should inspiration strike, I hope you’ll consider adding a line to Mirage . . .

  58. wordnerd7

    Since the link is _about_ denying access, and I never tried going to SiteLife, why has it come up on this blog’s dashboard?

  59. Baron C Add Candomble ( Afro-Brazilian ) to the list of Western-appropriated fashionable religions. I think it’s the lack of one single monolithic “he-who-must-be-obeyed” deity that appeals plus the music can be pretty good. Otherwise it’s as bonkers as Rastafarianism, it being a syncretic religion invented in the 19th century I think to shoehorn old African beliefs into the dominant Catholic religion so that they still appear to be Catholic.

  60. BaronCharlus

    @Alarming,

    Thanks for the tip. I love the iconography of these things. Especially the Catholic habit of, as you say, ‘shoehorning’. Saw St Francis’s tomb in Assisi. They couldn’t have made a more pagan earth-tomb if they’d buried him in a long-boat covered in clay phalluses (well, maybe…). Magical.

  61. Baron C Misericords are a very interesting avenue to explore – Christian in intent and context but the artists created some very earthy images . I wonder if they got away with it because they are situated in places below eye-level, you need to crouch down to see them and thus are easy to overlook? Chester cathedral has some very good examples.

    Was touring in Portugal in late September last year and a church in Alcobaca had stone coffins of the king and queen balanced on dogs with human faces. Not quite sure of how that fits in with the prevailing religion.

  62. Thinking further – maybe the positioning of yer actual misericord is precisely so that the artists can illustrate the more base desires that lurk just below the surface. The hunchedposition you have to adopt to see them emphasises their unhealthy status in a Christian society.

  63. BaronCharlus

    @Alarming

    Shame you’ve just got back from Amsterdam. There are some splendid, earthy examples of misericords in the Oude Kerk. Many of Norfolk’s country churches boast monpods and other mythic beasties.

    I don’t think their hiddenness is an issue. They were often used when closed. There is a small lip on some designs that would allow older monks and priest to sit/stand against during long services. Also, the prevalence of green-man and scatalogical imagery in the bosses of Norwich cathdral would suggest that, in that region at least, much of this pre-Christian earthy imagery was very much out in the open (although those low enough to be visible are in the cloister, which would never have been a public space). Like the British Museum’s ‘hidden’ museum of erotic artefacts or the disguised sensual pictures in the Soame museum, the monks, as literate elites always do, perhaps considered themselves wise enough to be armoured against temptation in ways that laypeople weren’t. Fat chance, obviously.

  64. Baron I was wondering if you knew Borges Dictionary of Imaginary Beings ? An inventory of chimera, dragons and other less well-known mythic inventions. The Chinese theory about mirrors is one that I find particularly good – there was an independent universe behind the mirror glass but because of some severe transgressions they were doomed to have to mimic our world for eternity. Being Borges of course it’s more than just a dry plod through some facts.

  65. ISA

    I am fascinated by Susan’s great delving into arabic literature. Blessed indeed are the cheese makers. By that I mean. here are people who like chees. There are people who love cheese and know about all its varieties and then there are people who take the trouble to find out how cheese is made and they become true experts in cheese and then finally, there are the blessed cheesemakers. Susan is obviously one of them.

    I’m busy house hunting, so haven’t been about on Wordy’s blog for a few days but look there’s ATF. Great.

    Wordy, I am less well read that I should be in Latin American literature. @thebookofsand is the expert.

    But Octavio Paz’s book the Labyrinth of Solitude launched a thousand thesis. One of them was the doctoral thesis of my wife’s sister, who lives in Barcelona. And it was about the concept of Mexican identity in Mexican literature.

    The famous phrase from Paz is that all Mexican’s are “unos hijos de la gran chingada”. In other words. Mexicans are traumatised sons and daughter of the great rape.

    The Spanish father raped the indigenous mother.

    And so when I asked what Rocio actually thought about the concept of identity. This is what she said – Sorry Des – that it is a complete fabrication. That everything that comes through narratives and informs us, bardic or otherwise, about our identity, is a complete concotion.

    But nothing wrong with that. I think this is a natural response to the void. Art is a great response to the void.

  66. wordnerd7

    @ISA, I — no speaker of Spanish, alas — have been practising a pitch-perfect recitation of

    === The famous phrase from Paz is that all Mexican’s are “unos hijos de la gran chingada”. ===

    . . . they do something special with the ‘d’ in ‘chingada’ in the version of the language spoken here.

    I just have this nagging feeling that that phrase could come in handy, in a pinch. Hardly a week goes by without my running into someone Mexican, and er . . . statistical probability says it’s only a matter of time before I find the perfect use for it, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

    Wonderful cheese-maker post . . . Blessed are the Phils, for without them, this blog wouldn’t be half so sumptuously unpredictable.

    Well Rocio is all wrong, of course, but she sounds like a woman with whom I’d enjoy an extremely long conversation. Have you ever heard of Mircea Eliade, Rocio? I would ask. And even if he did unquestionably spout some nonsense, I hope, Rocio, that you’ve read your Jung on the ‘collective unconscious’ . . . This assumes that she’s someone who enjoys friendly disagreement laced with teasing and laughter and isn’t made huffy and pout-y by exuberant exclamations of ‘Nonsense!’ . . . There was someone like that here yesterday: she came with her husband for a glass of wine and they left nearly nine hours later. What a conversation we had.

    I’ve just re-read you on Doris, remembering that I had exactly the same London view as hers, for a year — but from a garret.

  67. ISA

    Perhaps I am over simplifying Rocio’s response. I think she was so sick of her Phd that she was reacting against the idea that narrative forms identity. In the sense that narrative claims to freight in some sort of intrinsic (extrinsic?) truth.

    Paz was well known for his poetry. When I was actually among students of literature at the University of Vera Cruz they referred to Paz in hushed tones as “El maestro”. But Paz had come a little too close to the PRI establishment and so in a way he sold out and his legacy was a little discoloured.

    But later on when people told me that in order to understand Mexicans I should read the Labyrinth of Solitude, they were usually quite young and not a little gauche.

    Rocio is an intersting woman. She used to be the centre forward and chief goal scorer of her school team. Think what that must have meant for such a macho society. The whole family used to go to her games.

    She excelled as the whole family of Mexican Pronghorns excelled and got her Phd suma cum laude from the complutense in Madrid.

    And now she is running a charity in Barcelona port for people marginalised by society. Male and female prostitutes grown too old to ply their trade, reformed drug addicts of all kinds and she has a workshop where they come to assemble factory objects or do handicrafts for the day of San Jordi or whatever.

    On the day of San Jordi (23rd of April), which also happens to be both Shakespeare and Cervantes’ birthday, there are huge bookfairs and women get a present of a red rose.

    There is a small wildflower flower that grows on the rocky Costa Blana coastline that is purple and has a cross (I think it is yellow) marked on its petals that is also the flower of the saint.

    Volunteers come and help Rocio get these people organised, and come expecting to receive gratitude and a warm fuzzy feeling and receive nothing but complaints from the people they are supposed to be helping.

    Miguel, Rocio’s husband demonstrated against Franco in the 60s and he looks a little like Cortez. His parents were Andaluz, but he’s both Catalan and Andaluz.

    I am sure she has read Jung and Eliade whatever, but the Europeans come from such a different tradition. The whole structuralist thing. And very often I find, they take the life of the intellect far more seriously.

    Think of the demands the Baccalaureate places of young minds. Far more stressful and maturing than the demands of Anglo-American culture – with the honorable exception of the Irish literati of course – a very well travelled and erudite bunch.

  68. ISA

    By the way, In his book I think Paz said Mexicans were “Hijos de la chingada” (dental slightly de-voiced /d/).

    Be careful.

    If the person you are talking to hasn’t read Paz then what you are actually saying is that Mexicans are f***ing b****rds.

  69. wordnerd7

    @ISA, someone should tie you to a chair and leave you there until you’ve written about everyone you know. These are recollections positively dripping with colour and fascination . . . I’m not sure I haven’t already met Rocio and her husband in one of Almodovar’s more uplifting productions. . .

    === Be careful.

    If the person you are talking to hasn’t read Paz then what you are actually saying is that Mexicans are f***ing b****rds. ===

    Must you ruin my fantasy of a perfect putdown? : ) can’t for the life of me see how such different meanings for the same set of words computes . . . but my post was only a gentle windup, anyway, since I’ve heard the word ‘chingada’ recur in long streams of abuse, wondering what it meant. . . Maybe that was in Y Tu Mama Tambien – or construction workers fighting near some window or other of mine.

    === Paz was well known for his poetry ===

    Because simple, I feel as if it translates well – but only someone like you would know if that’s true.

    === She used to be the centre forward and chief goal scorer of her school team. Think what that must have meant for such a macho society. The whole family used to go to her games.

    She excelled as the whole family of Mexican Pronghorns ===

    Astounding. . . Are you telling us how brave you are?

    === And very often I find, they take the life of the intellect far more seriously. ===

    My impression is that the most intelligent take it both more and less seriously. They absorb and understand the Anglo-American perspective, then push it to one side . . Something like Ginger Rogers’ point about not just being able to dance well, but backwards and in high heels.

  70. wordnerd7

    @ISA — from Mircea Eliade’s diary:

    ===
    2 December 1960

    I was saying last summer, half-joking, half-serious: it is useless for the UN to send troops to the Congo if it doesn’t at the same time send some historians of religion familiar with archaic myths and ‘primitive’ millennialist ideologies.

    I repeated the same thing every time I had the opportunity: no fruitful dialogue is possible as long as the white partner in the discussion does not understand the mythology (camouflaged or not) of the ‘native’ that he wants to help today (after having oppressed and exploited him for centuries). The history of religions and religious ethnology are of a much more urgent usefulness in the politics of today than economics or sociology.

    ===

    I couldn’t agree with him more — even if Rocio might not, and yet there’s not a snowball’s chance of the advice being followed when everything remotely religious is treated like leprosy. . . Thank you so much for putting that link for this site into the Andrew Brown blog. I saw what you did, but haven’t yet had a chance to read the thread.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s