Monday, November 28, 2005

Turning to literature..

The past few days I’ve become increasingly aware of the need to return to reading literature; to have my being filled with acute observations from elsewhere lives, to nourish the vegetation that populates the landscape of my imagination. If we stop reading literature, we attenuate. I have been attenuating..

So I’m now going through the Somalian writer Nuruddin Farah’s Blood in the Sun trilogy (Maps, Gifts, Secrets). The first text Maps is difficult to begin (as with many of Toni Morrison’s works) – the language is treacle thick, and the time is non-linear, cycling and spiralling back on itself. But something remarkable is unfolding: the story of the geography of conflict (the war between Ethiopia and Somalia) and how it plays out and tears the seams at the most intimate level.

In an effort to get a clear sense of the frame of events, I read the interview with the author at the back of the book. From what he says, what drives him is depicting strong women (in homage to his mother, a well-known Somalian oral-poet). He is the archetype of a male feminist writer. It’s worth quoting a slice of a paragraph of his strikingly refreshing thoughts:

“I’ve said elsewhere that everything I’ve written is a tribute to the strength and wisdom with which my mother inspired me during my young years. Besides I tend to be attracted to strong women who can take the authority of their voice and use it effectively in order to defend their position, if only because I see women as a symbol of the subjugated self in everyone of us. I take it as given: that in every man there is a woman, and that in every woman there is a man, that there is a child in every adult. And that it is necessary to create the space in which everyone is free. I take it as given, too, that the society as a whole cannot be described as “democratic” until every man, woman and child is liberated from the constraints of male-stipulated system of subjugation, especially of women. To achieve this, you need strong women.”

What a beautiful hymn to emancipation..


the flying monkeys 3:13 pm  

I am happy to report that I was wrong and it always stimulates me to discover new examples of my own stupidity, to realize that I may not know half as much as I may think. I have never heard of him but the trio appear interesting and I have ordered copies. Thanks a lot for this Jeremy!!!

Grace,  3:00 pm  

I was trying to remember which one of those books I read. It's actually one of the other trilogies (variations of an african dictatorship)- Sardines. I can't remember the book much (will probably reread it) but I remember being struck by the female protagonist's independence and ease with the world. Even her husband (who she seperated from) was very open-minded and receptive to equality in their marriage. Mr. Farah is really a unique african male writer in his understanding of the subtleties of patriarchy. Which brings to mind something Sherif Hetata (Nawal Sadaawi's husband) said, about how he came to realise that the little things he thought shouldn't be such a big deal (like not sharing housework with Nawal) were of utmost importance because women are always giving up those little things, even in supposedly progressive relationships.

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