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Articles tagged "Home"

From “Qibla”

(Night. Nadie, an Indonesian domestic worker, lies beneath a mosquito net with Granny, the woman she was employed to look after.) GRANNY:  Mosquitoes. NADIE:       I put up the net. There can’t be mosquitoes. GRANNY:   Mosquitoes! NADIE:       Argh! You’re doing this on purpose! GRANNY:   Ha ha! It’s my pak . . . pak . . . (She slaps a mosquito with each “pak.”)...

Sage on the Mountain

In “Sage on the Mountain,” Vietnamese writer Đỗ Bích Thúy reveals the little-seen world of a Tay ethnic minority village in the northern province of Ha Giang near the Chinese border.  The protagonist, Dzin, has returned to visit her aged mother, a war widow who feels caught between the old ways and the new.  Ma and my nephew, Sinh, met me at the fork where the trail turned up the slope that led to the house on stilts. It perched...

from “Kumait”

He couldn’t help but see the school; from the time he had left the bus at the township’s station, he had never thought of going any other way. His feet felt at home on the township’s roads. So be it. Why should he take any other route? When he drew near the school, he paused opposite it, turning his back to the river. A giant willow tree rose from the center of the school’s courtyard. He really didn’t want any of the township’s residents to spot him,...

From “Suit in the Soil”

The cab driver was in the mood for conversation, but his passenger wasn't. So the tape deck came on and Angela Dimitriou started work at seven-thirty in the morning. Side by side in a silver twin frame on the dashboard, the singer and the Virgin Mary kept the driver company. He was a thirtyish, scrawny man with a huge mustache and big brown eyes, a frappé in a special holder, and a well-cared-for car with good tires that was now leaving the olive groves behind, climbing the...

From “Paris–Athens”

To my father I. Silence I don't know when I started to write this book. I know that today is the 9th, I'm looking in my datebook: Sunday, November 9th, 1986, St. Theodore's day—no, I'm off by a week, today is only the 2nd, All Souls Day. I would have preferred to start on the 9th—Theodore is a Greek name. Oh, well; the Day of the Dead isn't bad, either. Actually, I didn't begin this book today. A year ago, perhaps. Perhaps twenty-five years ago,...

The Neighborhood Phone

As often happens in my life, gifts, the things I wish for, always materialize when I am thinking of throwing in the towel, when I give up and let life pass through me. For seventeen years I had dreamed of what my return to my country would be like, the places I would visit, the people I would meet, how I would feel, and certainly that indescribable smell of home that would sweep through me. Instead, nothing was as I had imagined it would be. I spent the first fifteen days in the...

from “Agaat”

The first time you slept with Jak was the day after he came to declare his intentions to your parents. He was eager to get away that morning after the engagement, eager to get away from under your mother's eyes after the sermon he'd endured from her the night before, and especially eager to get his hands on you. You knew it, Milla Redelinghuys, you played him. How did you experience him then? Can you really remember it? Don't forget the keys, Ma called. She jingled...

Hai Phong

Yellow lamps, prostitutes' eyes Lines of sad provincial poems On a farewell afternoon, yellow leaves are falling Ocean winds have no ports or borders Ocean clouds go their own way Like dates, the harbors have no names In the Lap River the tide rises Fishing boats go and come Someone waits at the Binh ferry for someone A smile is blurred by cement-plant smoke The people of Hai Phong are like sea-wind and sun Off they go, with the dawn Their footprints cover the...

Sun in an Empty Room, 1963

In this bedroom devoid of furniture and unpolluted the action is set. It is filled with sunlight admitted by the window and my footsteps resound as if someone were walking with me. I stand up straight, my eyes intent on something (on what is clearly unimportant). Floating in the nuptial glow of afternoon (the sun already waning) I noted the presence of a shadow, a pulse, a breath. It's just me: tending to be invisible, I rediscover myself and leave a sign. The...

The House

Here I wanted my house built. It was to be tall, permanent, made of stone and light. Of porous black basalt brought from Mesquita. The roof-tiles made with mud from Riboque, red as the heart of the hibiscus flower. There would be a vast glass window to give it a certain public air. The backyard would be smooth and round open to all paths. Upon the ruins of the dead city I laid the plans for my house standing proud against the sea. Right here. I even dreamt of a dock...

Spring

The departure came in the month of March, when the thaw opened up the passes, which in our mountains were like gateways toward the countries of central Europe. They would go on foot, with the tools of their trades in a sack slung over their shoulders with two pieces of rope, or with the other essentials in a wheelbarrow that they pushed along. That's how our mountaineers started on their way to Prussia, Austria or Bohemia to work in exchange for marks or coronas which then gave them...

Pallida Turba

Translator's Note: Three great waves of political cataclysm surged over a city already accustomed to periodic inundation by the black waters of the river Neva: the October Revolution, the purges of the 1930s, and the Nazi blockade decimated the population of St. Petersburg. Vera Nikolaevna was born in their wake, a few years after the Second World War, in its Soviet incarnation: Leningrad. Although her family lived in a communal apartment, the building on Vasilyevsky Island had in...

Is This Home?

In the days prior to my return I had decided to assume a cool demeanor and contemplate my country as a tourist might, and not as a rapturous and homesick returnee. I wanted to hold the moment in my hands, examine it, and write up the experience. And I wanted to minimize, to the extent possible, any emotional entanglement on my part, so that I could see things clearly. I've gotten tired of emotional entanglement . . . My entire life has been full of that. Now I am an old man who wants...

Deprivation of Liberty

Out of the hundred thousand or more stories that happen in Berlin on a daily basis, why tell this one? Let's say it's indicative of a general trend. The story's main character is Anita Paschke-thirty-two years old, blond, slim, single, and a mother of three. Minor characters making an appearance are Ströhler, a waiter, Schälicke, a second lieutenant with the East German People's Police, and Siegfried Böttger, the director of a state-owned enterprise,...

Mrs. Saniya’s Holiday

Under the beam of light that fell from the one window of the room, darkening the rest of this particular place, Abla Saniya, the seamstress, starts up her machine aware of making use of the last thread of daylight before darkness takes over the room. Abla Saniya turns on the electric light whose cord comes through the same window, for which she pays five pounds every month and which she takes great care in collecting, since her income melts into the smiles of her youngsters and the...

The Fatherland

Do not despair, my friend: The light that shines on our land will remain chaste. We still have time. Maybe next year, the year after- it will be enough. We will see the new face of Eban smiling over our lives. This land is good and its history teaches us we must not despair. This land is happy. Look, see the girls painting their cheeks? This land is continuously giving birth. Yemen is a happy country, the people die standing tall: they will not cower,...

At the Foot of an Almond Tree

What is the particular sadness felt by anyone who attempts, after years of absence from a region where he once lived for a long time, to stop and observe-without being seen or recognized-the ordinary unwinding of life? I am trying to understand this particular sadness, while contemplating the heap of gray and black houses of my native town from the top of this hill. I got off the train a little while ago and, not having any luggage, was able to leave the station quickly. Upon arrival,...

You Shouldn’t Make It Too Easy for Them

I was only nine at the time but I still remember the day we found out that the reservoir project was going ahead and that our house was going to be submerged by the waters. There was no turning back. All the appeals and official requests had been exhausted and we didn't have to wait until Father had come into the kitchen to know that the final decision was in favor of the reservoir. Outside it was raining and the plodding of Father's wet shoes down the corridor told us to get...

The First Breaths of Freedom

Haven't you missed the sun and rain and streets? During those long nights, didn't you dream of these paths as you were eating ful and smoking? And how often did you torture yourself with thoughts of entering an old tavern? And dream of a man with vague features, your hand in his, your mouth open toward the sky welcoming the first showers of rain as the smell of clusters of jasmine and bitter orange blossoms linger everywhere. Dreams to which you bid farewell and welcomed back...

Family Picture in Havana

Mom and I are alone once again the same as it was at the end of the forties. Alone, in a house that's not our own, we tell each other last night's dreams (in hers two old people are always crying in mine I've just missed a train, a plane or maybe a horse-drawn carriage.) Alone, my mother and I bereft of Dad's protection, who did not, is not and won't ever come back and then too because her youngest son lives in another country and my oldest daughter has...

Homeland as Exile, Exile as Homeland

Iocasta: What is an exile's life? Is it great misery? Polyneices: The greatest; worse in reality than in report. Iocasta: Worse in what way? What chiefly galls an exile's heart? Polyneices: The worst is this: right of free speech does not exist. Iocasta: That's a slave's life—to be forbidden to speak one's mind. (Euripides, The Phoenician Women; author's translation) Writers in exile often face the question of why they left their countries, and whether this...

At Home in Exile: An Interview with Shimon Ballas

This interview appeared in slightly different form in Keys to the Garden: New Israeli Writing, edited and translated by Ammiel Alcalay (San Francisco: City Lights, 1996). Ammiel Alcalay: Starting with education, practically and in a wider sense, how were you formed as a writer? Shimon Ballas: One has to go very far back, to early childhood. I was always attracted to writing. I connected it to stories told at home and I used to try and write them down for myself. I was always a little...

Berlin Bolero

"What a slimeball!" She pressed the glass against her cheek again. "And you go along with him. All this time you've been so stubborn. Then somebody like him comes along and . . . I just don't get it!" Robert spread his fingers. He wasn't sure he would even feel the wart if it didn't rub against his middle finger. At first it had felt like a scab, now it was more like a crumb of toast. "Four weeks at the most," he said, and glanced up briefly. She was still leaning...
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