Sunday, 7 October 2007

Word worlds

I had planned this weekend three months ago, when I had first heard about programme of "Internazionale" conference in Ferrara. Internazionale is a strange magazine from Italian standards. Most Italian newspapers and magazines are very introverted, in the sense, their main focus is on gazing at their own belly buttons. At the most they look towards USA and to a lesser degree towards, some of the European neighbours. Rest of the world does not exist except as a stereotype or in times of disasters. Internazionale publishes only translated articles from around the world, and not just from English language magazines and it is the only magazine that I now try to read regularly, except for Hans (in Hindi).

They had announced this weekend of roundtables, meetings and debates with many of the well known journalists and writers that appear regularly in the pages of the magazine. I had made elaborate plans that started with daily train journeys to Ferrara and listening to the worlds of some of the authors that I like to read, from morning till late evenings.

Let me start by the last discussion of yesterday evening that is still relatively fresh in mind.

The theme of the discussion was the space between narrative and reporting of what is happening around the writers when they write. The question posed was, is your fiction all immagination even if you are surrounded by bombs, injustice, poverty and all those other things that ask for denouncement? The participants were Arundhati Roy from India, Efraim Medina Reys from Colombia, Elif Shafak from Turkey and Laila Lalami from Morocco. It was moderated by a too verbose Goffredo Fofi (picture below - all the pictures are by my own).

After reading many of her writings, I had imagined Arundhati Roy speaking but the real Arundhati was very different from that imagination. I am sure that if I transcribe her speech (which I can, since I recorded her speech on my Ipod, but right now I can't as I have too many other things to do) it would sound like all other speeches, full of anguish and poetry and yet listening to her was different because it also had rawness of emotions and occasional groping for the words, that is missing from written speeches.

Among other things she spoke about the meaning of writing in English for her. She also spoke briefly about Kashmir and maoists and Narmada river in India. Some bits of her speech, like talking of Indian military in Kashmir as an occupation force, made me a little uncomfortable, even if I agree that stories of what is happening in Kashmir have not been told in India. Her contention that knowledge/information, too much of it, may be stopping us from facing the issues, was intriguing, but then many of the issues that she touched upon require a lot more depth and understanding.

Elif Shafak spoke about her moving from a country to another, about her roots up in the air and about the need to write to escape from the boring reality of every day life. Laila Lalami told about the straightjacket of "Muslim women writer" and stereotypes about what non-western writers can write (Arundhati called it cooperated moderate Muslim).

Yesterday I also watched a documentary "Lest we forget" of Jason da Silva, about stories of Asians and Arabs in the aftermath of 9/11 in USA. Plain clothes men banging at the door, taking away the "suspicious looking Muslim who has been reported by a neighbour", wives and children in anxiety not knowing what is happening to their husbands and fathers, persons being deported after months of prisons without any news to their families, the film was like hammer blows about all those lives that are seen just as numbers or news-stories as long as they happen to others and that we justify so easily in terms of terrorism, law and order, security and nationhood. The story of Berny from India, with a Canadian passport, held in Chicago airport because they felt that her passport was false and sending her back to India after cutting & cancelling her passport, was scary since it touched on the very roots of our own sense of security. Right now, we may feel "oh, it is something that affects those Muslims, I am a Hindu so this does not affect me..". Once the prejudice and racial things starts, it touches everyone and every thing.

Day before yesterday there were interesting discussions about Chavez and Lula, the two faces of the left in Latin America, discussing them were Mino Carta/Brazil, Cristina Marcano/Venezuela and Ugo Pipitone/Mexico. I also liked the discussions about blogs, internet and censorship in China by Pierre Haski and the Chinese dissident student leader, Cai Chongguo (in the picture below). And the discussions by the European correspondents of newspapers living in Rome about Italy and italians.

Today is the third and the last day of this initiative and there are some nice speakers planned for the day, but I am too tired to go. I guess that I am too old to stand for hours in queues, get pushed around with huge crowds and then listen to long debates, standing up... I will like to, but my body aches.

So I will wait for the next issue of Internazionale to read it all. It will be less fun but much more comfortable!


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful new look of Kalpana,Gudda.Love it!


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