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Articles tagged "Politics"

The Ape

I used to think it an exaggeration that Latin American dictators were always depicted as apes in cartoons. Until one day . . . On the railway track, hundreds of soldiers appeared in their camouflage gear, several armored cars blocked the crossroads, and up in the sky hovered two of those birds. It was Sunday. A football match was being played out in the field, there were drunks in the cantinas, and a sweet marimba was playing at a party. All of a sudden, everything felt like a Monday....

Candy

After leaving the Pajero at the district headquarters, the personal assistant and I headed out on foot. A village road. Dirt and dust. A horrid stench. Shit and dung. Why had the villages become so filthy? I was walking to my village. People always complain that we leaders forget our villages after winning the elections. I was returning to silence that complaint. This was the first time I was returning to the village after winning the elections and leaving for the capital. I felt as though...

The Sound Words Have

Once there was a town where no two people spoke the same language. No one used the same words for anything. And yet everyone understood everyone else and they all lived together in peace and harmony. Until recently, the locals were cheerful, cordial, and— though it’s hard to believe—talkative. The town was in a nameless region deep in central Europe. The place had no name because it was so remote that it was usually represented on maps as a black hole. That is, if it was...

Ride of the Valkyries

For Vasco Szinetar The president sits in the backseat of the car and watches confusedly as his wife struggles to climb in. Her clothes are cumbersome, extravagant, even though she dressed in a hurry. He remembers when she used to dream of wearing such elegant garments, when she was still a bit young to put them to much use: that night in the cinema where Elizabeth Taylor was the girlfriend and Spencer Tracy the confused father; where Orson Welles was the powerful magnate and Libertad...

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,...

Oh, Those Chubby Genes

Three homeless citizens were sitting on Budapest’s Liberty Square, watching television. By the corner of the American Embassy, policemen with automatics were shuffling in place, as always, blowing into the plastic coffee cups held up to their lips and looking at the sky, the Good Lord’s grainy, melancholy TV monitor. The phenomenon was first spotted at 9:30 by Corporal Henrietta Kis who, for reasons of her own this time, glanced into the bomb-surveillance mirror and was glad...

Womb

My name is Nagari. Thirty years of age. There is no need to explain; I understand. . . . That evening, after my bath, my hair still wet, I heard a pounding on the door of my rented room. Three men had come to pick me up. From the sight of the jeep waiting out front; from the low hum of its engine, as light as the evening air; and from their voices,  polite but firm, I knew what was happening. The three men took me to a cold building with slippery  floors. A long corridor...

The Trial of Jean-Marie Le Pen

By the time it starts the Blistier trial has already been known for months as "the trial of Jean-Marie Le Pen." Civil rights groups were the first to call it that, but by now the phrase, borne along on waves of public indignation, is showing up in all the headlines. Shouldn't the leader of the National Front be held responsible for the murder committed by one of his brainwashed teenaged supporters? Shouldn't Le Pen appear before the court, at least as a witness? Pierre Mine is...

The Many Masks of Max Mirebelais

Roberto Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas presents itself as a biographical dictionary of American writers who flirted with or espoused extreme right-wing ideologies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is a tour de force of black humor and imaginary erudition. The novel is composed of short biographies, including descriptions of the writers' works. All of the writers are imaginary, although they are all carefully and credibly situated in real literary...

from “Serve the People!”

The novel is the only place for a great many of life's truths. Because it is only in fiction that certain facts can be held up to the light. The novel it is, then, for this particular truth. The story I'm about to tell, you see, bears some resemblance to real characters and events. Or—if I may put it this way: life has imitated art, re-rehearsing the plot of Serve the People! Wu Dawang, Sergeant of the Catering Squad, now General Orderly for the Division Commander and...

Encounter

I have a feeling that it is a mistake to go to the party at Mr. M.'s, especially under the circumstances. Things have tightened up once more. Again scarves have to be pulled down all the way to the eyebrows and legs covered in thick, black stockings. Again the loose-fitting, ankle-length smocks have to be worn. They are once again slashing women's bare legs with razors and shaving the heads of young boys or publicly flogging them in city squares. And yet no one is really scared or...

Käte Frankenthal, an Activist Physician

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The Rooster’s Egg: A Fable of Ancient Thebes

It is hard not to read this story as a lesson about the arbitrary nature of power and attendant reversals of fortune. Some historical background: Akhenaten, originally Amenhotep IV (1353-1335 B.C.), was the "heretic" pharaoh who officially rejected the traditional Egyptian pantheon, and instituted a new, monotheistic religion, centering on the worship of the sun disk, Aten. However, as modern Egyptians reading this would know, the priests of Amun in fact got the last laugh: after...

Egyptian Literature Today

As the largest Arabic-speaking country (at 70+ million inhabitants and counting), Egypt, with its teeming capital of Cairo, plays a disproportionately large role in the intellectual and cultural life of the Arab world. From the pan-Arab nationalism of the 1950s and 1960s to the Islamist movement of today, Egypt has always been at the forefront of new ideas in the region. But while Egypt is very much part of a greater Arabic-speaking literary and cultural milieu, Egyptians are also keenly...

I Don’t Want Anyone Coming around to Save Me

I don't want anyone coming around to save me So, whoever is sending me those nice thoughts, those smug little messages, --take it elsewhere. Cut off the oxygen now. I don't want to suffer the agony of the mask. And that black paint from the stone path is not going to hide my fatigue nor my headstrong, parsimonious way of putting up with it. The gauze, the tight gauze, saves just the burns on the surface of my skin So there is nothing to do about the...

from Love Will Wilt in Too Much Sun

As was often the case between the man and the woman, they'd spent the morning hours in delicious intimacy, accentuated by their bodies seeming to fortuitously brush against one another, furtive flirtations in the guise of apparently frivolous jokes. Everything went wrong as the afternoon drew to a close when Elisabeth, returning from having run the many errands the newspaper generally required of her, found Zam busy writing a fax and incontestably in the state that she disliked the...

Hysteria

"I really didn't do anything," a woman sobbed. "I didn't even go near a factory. I've never once been to a strange rally," the woman shouted. "I have no interest in who died from self-immolation or in who jumped from the roof of a building or why," the woman wailed, pulling out her hair. "I didn't do a thing except sit like an animal. Who brought me here? Why am I being locked up? My uterus is a piece of rotten iron. I can't even give birth to a son who...

from The Ministry of Pain

Like the desert the northern landscape makes for absolutism. Except that in the north the desert is green and full of water. And there are no temptations, no roundnesses or curves. The land is flat, which makes people extremely visible, and that in turn is visible in their behaviour. The Dutch are not much for contact; they are for confrontation. They bore their luminous eyes into those of another and weigh his soul. They have no hiding places. Not even their houses. They leave their...

from The Asylum Seeker

One evening, after weeks of something like forty jars of vitamins and dozens of liters of strawberry juice, the Bird asks: "Would you mind if I got married?" In that marrying, Beck sees his enemy's final victory. They were man and wife already, without having to get married. "Why?" he asks. "Why get married? It's been fine, it will keep being fine for years." "Not to you," she says, "to someone else." Someone else, two words that pretty much sum up their relationship. It...

from Reina’s Flight

The President Has Mystical Visions." This was the headline in the Heraldo. Mr. Camargo had been convinced that the Heraldo, his newspaper's rival, would not publish a single word about the scandalous bank deposits made by the president's son in Sao Paulo. Even if they had any information, they would conceal it. In the last couple of years, the president had granted the Heraldo all sorts of favors, bestowing it with radio broadcasting licenses and the concession to a luxury game...

Ahlem

1 The television room had never been so full and so silent, except for the announcer's voice booming for more than an hour. Nobody added a whisper to his commentary. Nobody made a move to leave. It was the first time that the entire group of political prisoners at Spaç, including the mine workers and the reserves, had assembled in that hut hammered together out of planks and rusty sheet iron. Sitting more closely crammed than ever before on the rows of stools, we were...

from The Banquet in Blitva

Written before the Second World War but not widely available until 1962, Miroslav Krleza's Banquet in Blitva combines the satire of a Jonathan Swift with the style and tone of the Austrian Recession and the extravagant technique of expressionism. Shot through with drama and invective, told in torrents of verbiage, the novel takes place in a number of imaginary Baltic states that form an allegorical expression of the history of the Balkan states that once comprised Yugoslavia. The plot...

Cactus

She was always afraid of missing the beautiful and important things in life. She traveled a lot, but more often she panicked because she was stuck at home. For some reason she always imagined that real happiness and pleasure lay elsewhere. As a result she was forever thinking up new ways of stopping time and grasping that crystal moment when life becomes a dream or a fairy tale. Suddenly, at the end of December 1990, she told me she longed to spend New Year's Eve on the island of...

from The Moon and the Leopard

In The Moon and the Leopard, author Bijan Mofid developed a hint from a folk tale into a verse drama about the tragic love of the Leopard King for the Moon, first glimpsed as a reflection in a mountain spring. The Moon responds in kind, descending to earth-though she remains always just out of reach-to engage the Leopard in a poetic dialogue expressing their impossible and doomed love. By stopping in her course, the Moon stops time, leaving the world in an endless, freezing night. The...

Freedom Can Be a Nightmare: An Interview with Kader Abdolah

This interview was originally published August 12, 1995, in NRC Handelsblad. A unique phenomenon in Dutch literature: Kader Abdolah, a political refugee from Iran who writes little gems of stories—in Dutch. It took him only five years to master the language. How did he do it? And what keeps him going? Kader Abdolah talks about his "terrible youth" in Iran, the struggle against the Shah and Khomeini, and about the exile's dilemma. "The Dutch language is overflowing the banks of...

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