Anna Iltnere: Sea Library

Childhood drawing by Anna Iltnere. A house by the river with blooming water lilies.

Before going to sleep I walk down to the river for a swim. With my nostrils slightly above water, I watch the ducks moving among the water lilies. The lips of invisible fish blow circles into the surface on the other side. Cut grass and cold dew stick to my bare feet as I walk back. I wash them away, kiss my boys goodnight and climb into bed to read and to dream.

If I wake up before the others, I push my bike out of the garage and cycle to the morning sea, three miles away. It’s a gulf, to be honest, but we still call it the sea, the Baltic Sea, a tiny inner pocket of the Atlantic Ocean — where it hides what’s dearest, I imagine. There’s almost no salt in the Baltic Sea, they say, but my tongue still tastes it on my lips and my skin  when I leave gravity behind with my clothes on the shore and surrender my body to the waves. When I’m dressed again, I explore the white sand with my fingertips and put a couple of stranded splinters, tiny dark brown pieces of driftwood, in my pocket, stamp souvenirs from my own little journeys traversing same paths every day. I am a sea librarian now.

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Youssef Rakha: You Will Still Hear the Scream

Reading “Correction” in Cairo

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.

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Sargon Boulus: An Album سركون بولص: ألبوم صور

سركون بولص: مواليد ١٩٤٤؛ توفي يوم ٢٢ أكتوبر ٢٠٠٧


“We knew that he was a wonderful poet (and also a painter for some time),” Marilyn Jossens wrote of Sargon Boulus (1944-2007), known to her and other San Francisco friends as Sergie. “We appreciated the fact that his soul was in the human condition, and in Iraq/Assyria and other areas of the Middle East, but I doubt many knew much of his life in the U.S.” She had noticed a piece recounting my first encounter with his voice. It took a long time for Marilyn and me to get in touch after she offered to share her photos of Sargon, the record of a life well lived, which I have opted to present as a montage rather than chronologically. I was glad to inform Marilyn of the fact that Sargon’s translation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet from English to Arabic has already appeared with the Cologne-based Al-Kamel Verlag, along with his translations of Allen Ginsberg and Ted Hughes.

Below, in lieu of captions, are extracts from Marilyn’s letters:

حصلت المدونة – بالصدفة البحتة – على هذه الصور الفوتوغرافية للشاعر العراقي سركون بولص في سان فرانسيسكو وألمانيا من جاريه وصديقيه المقربين مارلين ولاري جوسنس، وتتضمن المجموعة صوراً من فترة تتجاوز العشرين عاماً يظهر فيها أحياناً مع الزوجين صاحبي الصور وابنهما، ومع رفيقة حياته الألمانية “إيلكه” وبنتها وحفيدها. تقول مارلين إنه حرص على تصوير وجهه في أيامه الأخيرة قبيل وفاته في ألمانيا يوم ٢٢ أكتوبر عام ٢٠٠٧.

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