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Articles tagged "Oppression"

Encounter

Don't you hear—the door of the next compartment just opened? It has to be a ticket taker. Who else gets the words out like that? Everything so clear and distinct: —Gutten Tag, geben Sie mir bitte! Feverish, tense, you try to calm your rapid breathing. Your glance fixes sideways at the dark, shining window. Only, you can't see the landscapes coursing into the night. You're in an express, an intercity. —Den Fahrschein Bitte! You pat your pockets as if...

from Biography of Ash

There, where my body seemed to lay a great distance from me, I put my hand on my leg, on my fingers, and I couldn't tell they were mine. My thighs. My legs. My waist. Everything was dry and withered. It was the dryness that scared me. Every time I placed my hand on a part of my body, it was as if I had placed it on a piece of damp wood. By the third day after I had been blindfolded, it seemed to me that I was one of the walking dead. I began to notice that my body was becoming...

Friends

A warden takes me by the arm as I slip on my blindfold and step out of the cell. I'm led down several corridors and seated down somewhere as a door swings shut behind me. I raise my head to peer out from underneath my blindfold, and see I'm facing the wall, in a concrete cell with no windows. Half an hour goes by and I realize I'm trembling with increasing intensity, the muscles in my lower abdomen undergoing unfamiliar jarring motions. In mythico-historical allure,...

from Second Sentence

February 1979 started with heavy snow, a biting wind, and the baying of the Alsatian kept by the guards to foil escape attempts. Superstitious prisoners claimed that the dog's howling at night augured the death of a senior politician: this would be followed by a turn in our own luck. Others said it foretold a death inside the camp. Most ignored such old wives' tales and knew that the dog was either sick or in heat. Nevertheless this howling struck terror to the heart, especially...

from Cell Block Five

It took me some long months to realize that I was incarcerated. My dreams had suddenly ended. Like Zoroaster I awoke from a lengthy slumber to discover rudely and bitterly that justice does not always favor innocence. Indeed, it occasionally takes the other side and adds to the number of victims and martyrs. In the final analysis this meant one thing for me: I might rot away inside this penitentiary without anyone noticing my existence. It seemed to me that they might not release me even...

To Offer My Heart

The thundering chords of the Ninth Symphony filled a room where the only tapestries were crowded shelves of books and where music mingled with the sound of waves slapping against the terrace. Marcelo Monteroni's home was one of those large old houses in the Punta Gorda neighborhood of Cienfuegos that looked out on the bay. Now, Marcelo, in his old age, was sitting motionless in a wicker chair absorbing every note with the same degree of exuberance—perhaps even more—that he...

from “A Nation behind Bars”

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The author is Sudanese. This excerpt is a translation from Watanun Khalfa al-Qudban (Beirut: Dar Al Saqi, 2002, ch. 17, pp. 46-52). It takes place in the early to mid-1990s, a time when foreign fighters were entering Sudan hoping to strengthen Islamic law in the country. I would like to thank Diana Abouali and Hussein Kadhim of Dartmouth College for their insightful comments and suggestions on this translation. Rust in the Back of the Head 1 A silent prison....

Mint Flavored Hiccups

To Jean Genet I was anxiously staring at the walls in a room with drawn dark curtains. Father lay on the bed, his blind eyes peering into the ceiling, his hands searching for the pillow beside him. When he didn't find me there, he yelled my name. I rushed to him and lay beside him. He wrapped his arms round me and we both cried. In the morning he insisted, "We haven't slept together in one bed since you were forty days old." Later, without uttering a word, a guard came in...

The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons

Mehrabad Airport, Tehran. Air France, flight 726 I hate this life of constant wandering, these eternal comings and goings, these middle of the night flights, dragging along my suitcase, going through Customs and the final torture, the humiliating body search. "Take off your shoes, open your handbag, let's see inside of your pockets, your mouth, your ears, your nostrils, your heart and mind and soul." I am exhausted. I feel homesick—can you believe it? Already homesick. And yet...

from “May the Sun Shine Tomorrow”

1 Malik Ben weighed 300 pounds on the day he decided to have his name removed from the Yellow Pages. Lugging all that weight around day after day had gotten to be a chore, which is what prompted his second resolution: to go on a diet. Malik had dark features. Black hair, which took on a reddish sheen-a kind of auburn he rather liked-whenever he spent too much time in the sun. Brown eyes, the same shade of brown as in the paintings of the old Dutch masters. Pupils that sometimes glowed...

The Headhunter

The Future had reacted to Garza's victory with disbelief and resignation. The editorial page during the weeks following his inauguration was devoted to voicing outrage over the series of illegal arrests that were taking place. That morning would show how well founded their fears were. Foul weather besieged the editorial office; the receptionist shivered, the Culture editor clamored for central heating and the city reporters took advantage of the cold to dress up in coats apparently...

A Letter to Ernesto Sábato

Author's note Ernesto Sábato's novel Abaddón el exterminador (1974) includes a dense epistolary chapter addressed to a virtual fellow writer, which begins "Dear, distant young man..." This response (published March 20, 1984, in the Romanian literary monthly Vatra) borrows ideas, themes, and even expressions from that and other novels by Ernesto Sábato, using them as references for a publicly declared solidarity. But the "open letter" to...

The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt

If he hadn't been who he was, I never would have married again. I had everything: a child, a job, my freedom. And suddenly there he was . . . clumsy, practically blind, wheezing. Letting someone into your world with so much baggage—twelve years in Stalinist camps, they took him as a boy, sixteen years old. . . . With the burden of that knowledge . . . the differences. That's not what I'd call freedom. What is it? What's the point? Admit that I only pitied him? No. It...

Sunset over Barren Mountains

Ha Jin has this to say about Gao Ertai's work: "Among numerous memoirs by Chinese authors, In Search of My Homeland stands out as an eloquent testimony to the violation and destruction of humanity. This revered scholar of aesthetic theories has written not only about his personal suffering in the remote labor camps and the political persecution he and his family experienced, but also about the fates of many common people. His style is fortified by concision, elegance, restraint, and...

Two or Three Things from the Past

I So hot then red trucks loaded with burning tongues forward forward again disappearing deep down inside escaped students rolling toward hometown Ah the summer of the era schools closed theaters closed weeds in parks loudspeakers over the basketball courts a revolution full blast in Mandarin only teenagers on the bank of an ancient river felt the call they opened their pants took hold of that little thing that had always brought them pleasure like cavemen drilling on a piece...

Eagles

One stands on the mountains of my country as if on a grave. An abandoned grave; no one knows who lies buried there. During the winter nothing is visible. In spring when the snow has melted, the graves emerge, but they are quickly covered again with wildflowers. It is as if nature were afraid that the graves might be discovered. When mountain climbers come across such a grave they start singing songs against the dictatorship. They approach the grave, singing. They set down their...

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