Lebanon is a chaotic and at times absurd place, where power can run for only a few hours, rubbish is ignored and traffic doesn’t move. But a new generation of Lebanese is emerging, reshaping their cities and country despite their past conflicts and incompetent politicians. The uncertain future is almost more exciting than its ancient past.
Diary pages with Immigration form. The people at the border couldn’t of been nicer.
This collection of photos and diary pages traces the country from Tripoli in the north to Tyre in the south.
Thomas Bernhard by Michael Horowitz, 1976. Source: revistacaliban.net
“If one disregards the money that goes with them,” says the narrator in Wittgenstein’s Nephew, a more or less real-life avatar of the writer Thomas Bernhard, “there is nothing in the world more intolerable than award ceremonies.” Berhard goes on to describe his experience with literary awards and how they “do nothing to enhance one’s standing”—also the subject of a dedicated little book of his, My Prizes: An Accounting—revealing the depth of his contempt for the institution, for Vienna’s “literary coffee houses”, which have a “deadly effect on the writer”, and for the compromises and dishonesties required by the writerly life:
I let them piss on me in all these city halls and assembly rooms, for to award someone a prize is no different from pissing on him. And to receive a prize is no different from allowing oneself to be pissed on, because one is being paid for it. I have always felt that being awarded a prize was not an honor but the greatest indignity imaginable. For a prize is always awarded by incompetents who want to piss on the recipient. And they have a perfect right to do so, because he is base and despicable enough to receive it.
For a Third World writer inevitably enraged by the tastes, biases and ulterior, including politically correct motives of Third World award juries, the effect is one of liberation. So even in grand old Austria this happens! It is also one of recognition. Here, dead since 1989, is someone who not only knew the truth but wasn’t afraid to say it, going so far as to integrate it into the fabric of his art.
Youssef Rakha. A stock photo of a woman in niqab is made up of versions of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy’s iconic picture, her act of protest of 2011.
Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. – Plato, BC 427–347
Always I have and will Scatter god and gold to the four winds. When we meet, I delight in what the Book forbids. And flee what is allowed. – Abu Nuwas, AD 756–813
The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence; by asking this question one is merely admitting to a store of unsatisfied libido to which something else must have happened, a kind of fermentation leading to sadness and depression. – Sigmund Freud, 1937
The revolution is for the sake of life, not death. ― Herbert Marcuse, 1977
Eros is an issue of boundaries. – Anne Carson, 1986
“Hi, I’m writing a piece on Arab porn and would love to get your input…”
“Why would I be relevant to Arab porn?”
“Porn meaning explicit web content, or sexual self expression in general.”
“I see. Well, okay. I’d like to read what you’re writing but I don’t want to contribute. Not because I’m against the idea. I just don’t feel like revealing anything at this point, or I don’t have anything to reveal. I don’t want to explain myself or my sexuality or whatever.”
A. Abbas, Pakistan, 1988. Source: magnumphotos.com
Return of the Prodigal Muslim
Everybody knows the Enlightenment is dying. I don’t mean in the hells from which people board immigrant boats. It was never very alive here in the first place. I mean in the heavens to which the boat people seek suicidal access.
They end up drowning less for the love of the Postchristian West, it would seem, than out of despair with the Muslim East. Blame politics and economics, for sure. But could it be that all three phenomena – despair, poverty and dictatorship – are rooted in the same cultural impasse?
Today Brexits, Trumps and, let us not forget, the Islamic Invasion of Europe are spelling an Endarkenment all across the North, confining progressive and egalitarian principles to intensive care units. And I’m wondering what that could mean for despairing Muslims in the South.
I’d rather fight a war tomorrow than think my son might have to do it one day.
This sentence, which I know to be true, does not belong to me. It does not emanate from me. It inhabits me because I am part of this living planet. It originates in the deepest strata of life, in the mechanisms that regulate the way life is handed down from being to being, from generation to generation, across time. It does not make me any more courageous than the moderately frightened – or more heroic than the moderately selfish – man that I am.
Maidan Shar, Afghanistan. November 2001. The Frontline: Kabul had been liberated and the Taliban had fled. The frontline had shifted some 60 km south of the capital. It was very quiet, apart from sporadic gunfire. In truth, no one knew what lay beyond. No one knew where the Taliban had gone. Time would tell they they were still there.
Kabul, Afghanistan. November 2001. The Price of a Battle: Two Taliban fighters await their fate in prison, having been captured defending Kabul when their positions were overrun by victorious Northern Alliance soldiers.
Kabul, Afghanistan. November 2001. Children play in the liberated city.
Baghdad, Iraq. April 2003. US Marine: When it became clear that to stay in Iraq was going to be much harder than it had been to get there.
Near Hilla, Iraq. May 2003. A History of Violence: Shortly after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, mass graves from the Saddam era started to surface in various parts of the country. The Mahawil mass grave near the ancient city of Babylon contained the bodies of over 3,000 Shias killed during the 1991 uprising, which followed the first Gulf War. It was the largest one found.
Eastern Iraq. May 2003. The Search: A US marine searches a local man at an improvised check-point. But what would have been useful to find – the history, the fear, the hatred, the faith, the desire for revenge or victory – none of it could be found in this way. Yet only those things really mattered, only things that cannot be kept in a man’s pocket or hidden in his socks would shape the years to come.
Baghdad, Iraq. April 2003. Out of place: A US marine guards a tiger that had belonged to the Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday. Two very deadly creatures, the largest predator and a human soldier, both somehow out of place.
From the Miraj Nama of Shah Rukh, 15th century, showing the Prophet Muhammad astride his Buraq. Source: studyblue.com
The mere idea of contributing to the Charlie Hebdo colloquy is a problem. It’s a problem because, whether as a public tragedy or a defense of creative freedom, the incident was blown out of all proportion. It’s a problem because it’s been a moralistic free-for-all: to express solidarity is to omit context, to forego the meaning of your relation to the “slain” object of consensus, to become a hashtag. It’s a problem above all because it turns a small-scale crime of little significance outside France into a cultural trope.
Charlie Hebdo is not about the senseless (or else the political) killing of one party by another. It’s about a Platonic evil called Islam encroaching on the peaceful, beneficent world order created and maintained by the post-Christian west. Defending the latter against the former, commentators not only presume what will sooner or later reduce to the racial superiority of the victim. They also misrepresent the perpetrator as an alien force independent of that order.