Stilts, Hair: Discrete Autobiography by Noor Naga

TAIWAN. Wuri. 2003. My niece (left), on a new suspension bridge.

Chien-Chi Chang. Taiwan, 2003. Source: magnumphotos.com 

Stilts

  • The house sat on stilts. These were the marshlands of South Carolina, where even the birds slept on tall, lanky wooden sticks to keep their plumage dry. When mama wasn’t looking, Tito and I snuck down to wade knee deep in the muck. We terrorized the egrets out of their stroll. We trapped in buckets the legged tadpoles that were not yet grown enough to jump. They drowned each other while we watched. With gummy feet they stepped on each other’s open eyes and threw their bodies against the high, plastic walls for hours. When mama finally came looking for us, we let the live ones go. But even back upstairs it was not quite an inside. The wood hummed with mites. There were spiders knitting in the cupboards. There were ants in the bathroom, lizards blinking from the walls, and once, out of a bag of rice, there bloomed a cloud of baby moths. The kitchen spun with their dizzy dust-magic until the first one fried itself on the bulb. It fell dreamily. I was six when mama found my first diary, filled with pencil drawings of all my animal friends. I gave each of them small droopy genitals like mine.

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The Whisper of the Infinite: An Interview with Niall Griffiths

In the mid-Seventies, Niall Griffiths — aged 11 — left Toxteth, Liverpool with his family to Australia. His mother was too homesick to become a “Ten Pound Pom“, however, and the family went back to Liverpool only three years later. As a teenager who wanted to write, the future author of Sheepshagger (2001) felt constricted and insulted by the “posh” monopoly on education and literature. He left school for Snowdonia in Wales, where he had ancestral connections and developed a feeling for the landscape. Stump (2003) having won both the Welsh Books Council and the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year awards, it is often as a Welsh writer that Griffiths is celebrated, although he equally qualifies as Scouse and, as a writer of “progressive fiction” peopled with the dispossessed and the disaffected, he also belongs in a vernacuar Transatlantic tradition. Griffiths eventually graduated from the University of Aberystwyth, where he now lives, having spent many years working with his hands and hopping from the North of England to Wales, traveling across Britain, or beyond.

Niall Griffiths. Source: natgeotraveller.co.uk

Niall Griffiths. Source: natgeotraveller.co.uk

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You seem to make a distinction between Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, not so much in your work but in the way you describe the English (it’s one of the few things that bind people from the former colonies back here with the Celts: hatred of the English). This might sound like a silly question but in the grander scheme of things, from the global perspective, do you think there remains a true cultural difference over and above class?

In some ways, yes, in others, no. . . I mean, this is a united kingdom supposedly but divide and rule has always been in operation, due largely to the entrenched class system. So in opposition to that, I believe that a docker from Swansea should recognise that he has more in common with a docker from say, Hull, than he does with a middle-class professional from Swansea. That said, England still remains the biggest and by far the most powerful country in the UK, and he fact that Wales and Scotland are ruled by London will always be a source of anger for as long as it lasts. It’s the richest country too, and a certain strata of it tends to see Wales and Scotland as its playground. No attention is paid to the different cultures; they’re simply countries where the rich English can holiday in their second homes. This situation is even worse in Cornwall.

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Mohab Nasr: Please, God, give us books to read

EGYPT. Alexandria. On the ledge of San Stephano beach. 1993.

Harry Gruyaert, Alexandria. On the ledge of San Stephano beach, 1993. Source: magnumphotos.com

Somehow

I was a teacher;

somehow

I considered that natural.

For this reason I began to bow

to words I did not say;

and to communicate my respects to my children.

I tried to make them understand that it was absolutely necessary

for someone to read,

to review with his parents—

while he hurls his shoe under the bed—

how exhausting and beautiful respect is:

that they have no future without words.

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حوار محمد شعير في الأخبار البيروتية

خمسة كتب لا يسهل تصنيفها: بين رواية وشعر وأدب رحلات وتصوير فوتوغرافي. هكذا يبدو يوسف رخا (1976) «خارجاً على دولة الأدب» على حدّ تعبير القاصّ هيثم الورداني. يفرح رخا بالتوصيف: «فيه بلاغة. لأنّ الأدب بالفعل تحوّل إلى دولة أو مؤسسة فيها كل الملامح القمعية». يحاول صاحب «أزهار الشمس» كسر حالة التخصّص في الكتابة. «لا أجد فرقاً بين القصة والشعر. حتى حين أكتب للصحافة. المهم أن يكون لديك شيء تقوله. أن تجد إيقاعاً مناسباً للكتابة وتترك فراغات يملأها القارئ». بدأ رخا الكتابة بمجموعة قصصية هي «أزهار الشمس» (1999). ثم توقف خمس سنوات، كان يكتب خلالها نصوصاً بالإنكليزية، قبل أن يعود ليكتب «بيروت شي محل» (كتاب أمكنة ـــــ 2005)، و«بورقيبة على مضض» (رياض الريس ـــــ 2008)، ثم «شمال القاهرة غرب الفيليبين» (الريس ـــــ 2009). تنتمي الكتب الثلاثة إلى أدب الرحلة. وأخيراً، أصدر رخا نصوصاً نثرية وشعرية في«كل أماكننا» الذي صدر منذ أيام (دار العين ـــــ القاهرة). لكن لماذا كانت فترة الكتابة بالإنكليزية؟ يجيب: «بعدما صدرت «أزهار الشمس» كنتُ أشعر بأنّ هناك كتّاباً أكثر مما ينبغي في الثقافة العربية». في تلك الفترة، سافر إلى بيروت لكتابة نصّ لمجلة «أمكنة»، فإذا به يكتب نصاً ليس قصة أو قصيدة أو رواية، بل ينفتح على كل ذلك، ويستفيد أيضاً من منهجية الصحافة. نص بيروت أراد من خلاله رخا فهم الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية، وهو ما قام به قبلاً صنع الله إبراهيم في روايته «بيروت بيروت»، فما الفرق بين العملين؟ يجيب رخا:

استمر في القراءة

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