Archive for March, 2007

Out: Fulbright Symposium

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Posting will be light to non-existent for the next three days while I travel to Rabat for the annual Fulbright Symposium. Come again soon.


Gayle Brandeis Recommends

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

inlanguageoflove.jpg“Diane Schoemperlen’s In the Language of Love: A Novel in 100 Chapters is structured around the 100 stimulus words from the Standard Word Association Test. Each of these words– words like “soft”, “mutton”, “priest”, “red”, “needle”, “thirsty”–becomes a jumping off place for Schoemperlen to explore the different forms of love (as child, as mother, as wife, as lover) in her character Joanna’s life. While such a structure could feel like a gimmick in the wrong hands, Schoemperlen uses it to frame a strange and beautiful meditation on the wayward ways of the heart.”

gayle_braindeis.jpgGayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write and The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel, which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change. Her second novel, Self Storage, was recently published by Ballantine.

Foiled Attack

Monday, March 12th, 2007

A suicide bomber blew himself up and injured three other people at an internet cafe in the neighborhood of Sidi Moumen, here in Casablanca. According to the BBC:

The blast happened after the man began a dispute with the cafe’s owner, who refused him access to jihadist sites. Another man, with the bomber at the time of the blast, fled after the explosion but has now been arrested by police, reports say.

“The man used to come to view jihadist websites and the dispute was prompted by the internet cafe owner’s decision to prevent him this time from viewing such propaganda material,” one official told Reuters. Police say it is unclear if the device was detonated by design or went off by accident during the argument between the two men.

The attack took place on the anniversary of the Madrid bombings. Several news sites have put forth the theory that the bomber was at the internet cafe in order to get instructions about his target as it seems inconceivable that he would aim at a place in the slum. The investigation is still ongoing. Last week, Moroccan police arrested a suspected terrorist by the name of Saad Houssaini, who is alleged to be the “chemist” of GCIM.

NBCC Winners Announced

Friday, March 9th, 2007

The National Book Critics Circle awards were announced yesterday in New York, and I was especially pleased to find out that the judges selected Kiran Desai’s excellent The Inheritance of Loss. (That was the novel I voted for, by the way. None of the other books on the ballot I cast made it!) You can see a list of winners in all the categories at the NBCC blog, Critical Mass.

Critic’s Response

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Tom Lutz has an essay in Salon about the recent crop of books by novelists on what and how to read, which he sees as the by-product of a rift between writers and critics:

Over the past 15 years, I taught an average of a semester a year at the University of Iowa, the home of the famous Writers’ Workshop. When I started the writers were on the fourth floor and the critics on the third. I often had a Workshop student or two in my graduate courses, and I would bring the creative writing faculty in to meet my undergrads. By the time I left two years ago, that had long ceased. A durable and unbreachable wall had been erected between the writers and the scholars. They looked at each other not as allies in a common project, but as enemies. Now the Workshop has moved across campus and the divorce is final.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say I have since gone over to the other side myself and teach in a creative writing program. But I still don’t understand, frankly, why people hate literary scholars for having a professional vocabulary while remaining perfectly content with economists’ using “devaluation” or philosophers’ using “existentialist,” or physicists’ talking about a “projective Hilbert space endowed with the Fubini-Study metric.”

You can read the piece in full here. (You’ll likely have to watch an ad to access the piece, unfortunately.)

March 8

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

On this International Women’s Day, I want to pay homage to all the Moroccan women who have worked for so long, under difficult circumstances, to bring about gender equality, justice, and progress for their country. This post is in remembrance of our ancestors and grandmothers, our pioneers: Fatima Al Fihriya, who built the world’s oldest university in Fes, Al-Qarawiyyin; Touria Chaoui, who flew her plane over occupied Casablanca in order to distribute independence tracts; Malika Al Fassi, the only female signatory of the Independence Manifesto; Saida Menebhi, who died in prison for her political ideals; and all the female victims of the Years of Lead.

With admiration for the work and sacrifices of, and examples set by, Leila Abouzeid, Ghita El Khayat, Aicha Belarbi, Aziza Bennani, Fatima Benslimane, Bouchra Bernoussi, Rahma Bourquia, Zakya Daoud, Fatna El Bouih, Aicha Ech-Chenna, Nawal El Moutawakil, Nezha Hayat, Dr. Hakima Himmich, Latifa Jbabdi, Najat M’jid, Fatema Mernissi, Soumaya Naamane Guessous, Zoulikha Nasri, Halima Ouarzazi, Badia Skalli, Hinde Taarji, and all the other activists whose names do not appear here.

With respect for the men who have joined in the fight for gender equality: Mouhcine Ayouche, Abdelkader Ech-Chenna, Aziz El Ouadie, Moha Ennaji, Chakib Guessous, Lahcen Haddad, Yusuf Madad, Lekbir Ouhajou, Noureddine Saoudi, and Ahmed Zainabi.

And with hope, for the new generation.

There’s A Shocker

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

aussaresses.jpgThe smiling old man in the photo on the right is General Aussaresses, and, according to Le Monde, he has recently admitted that he had FLN leader Larbi Ben M’Hidi hanged in 1957, during the Algerian war of independence. The French government has always maintained that Ben M’Hidi committed suicide. But then again what would one expect from lawmakers who, in 2007, were still having a serious debate over whether French colonization of Africa was “mostly positive“?

Photo credit: AFP/Joel Robine

R.I.P: Henri Troyat

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

As has been widely reported, French author Henri Troyat has died. I remember spending long summer days as a teenager reading La Lumière des justes. My sister (a big fan of historical novels) always liked him. I’ll be honest, I barely remember his work now. Here’s the Guardian obit.

Second Chance(s)

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

secondchance.jpgZbigniew Brzezinski, who, in his capacity as National Security Adviser during the Carter administration, bears a fair share of the blame for what is happening in Afghanistan, has a new book out, called Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower. As the title suggests, it’s an analysis of American foreign policy under George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

In her review in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani calls the book “compelling” and says Brzezinski’s analysis of the last 20 years of foreign policy is “dispassionate” and “sobering.” She ends the review with a direct quote:

“Nothing could be worse for America, and eventually the world,” [Brzezinski] writes at the end of this unsparing volume, “than if American policy were universally viewed as arrogantly imperial in a postimperial age, mired in a colonial relapse in a postcolonial time, selfishly indifferent in the face of unprecedented global interdependence, and culturally self-righteous in a religiously diverse world. The crisis of American superpower would then become terminal.”

You can read the piece in full here.

Wretched Bookstores

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

The other day, I needed to track down a copy of Frantz Fanon’s classic The Wretched of the Earth for a project I’m working on. Given the book’s subject matter, and the fact that I am in a francophone country, I thought it would be simple enough. I was wrong.

Bookstore #1
Me: Good morning, could you tell me if you have Les damnés de la terre in stock?
Clerk: Les années de la terre?
Me: No, no. Damnés, you know, like damnation.
Clerk: No, we don’t have it.

Bookstore #2
Me: Good morning, could you tell me if you have the book by Frantz Fanon, Les damnés de la terre in stock?
Clerk: How do you spell the author’s last name?
Me: F-
Clerk: As in Fatima?
Me: Yes. A-N-
Clerk: As in Nathalie?
Me: Uh, yes. O-N.
Clerk: Sorry, we don’t have it.

Bookstore #3
Me: Good morning, could you tell me if you have the book about colonization and decolonization, Les damnés de la terre, by Frantz Fanon, F-A-N-O-N?
Clerk: Our computers are down at the moment, but I will write down the author and title and call you back, all right?
Me: Thank you.
Clerk: Okay, so you want Les damnés de la terre by Frank Fanon?

I called the Institut Français, to see if they had it. The phone rang and rang, and no one picked up.

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