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Weekend Reading: Nawal El Saadawi, Lynne Tillman, and more…

By The Editors

This week's weekend reading starts with some pieces from the PEN Website where we've been spending a lot of time recently gearing up for the PEN World Voices Festival.


Nawal El Saadawi: How Does the World Change?

"They told us that the year 1989 is a crucial year in world history. Europe saw the fall of a wall. In China, a tank stopped for a man. In the United States, Bush senior became president. The end of the Cold War heralded a new era. States disappeared, new areas of conflict arose. What impact have these crucial changes had on us?

When I read these words I feel I do not relate to these very important crucial changes, they may be relevant to an American or European writer, or a writer from China, but not for me, a writer from Egypt, or from Africa, or from what they call The Middle East.

Middle to who? We were given the map and the name of The Middle East by the Old British Colonizers. Egypt was middle east relative to London, India was the far east relative to the same British rulers. This false colonial language continues till today, under the Neo Colonizers.

But the old map is changing according to the changing interests of different dominating groups or countries."

more at:


Lynne Tillman: "Save Me from the Pious and the Vengeful"

"Life's aim, Freud thought, was death. I can't know this, but maybe it's death I want, since living comes with its own exigencies, like terror. In dreams, nothing dies, but birth can't be trusted, either. I remember terrible dreams and not just my own. Memory is what everyone talks about these days. Will we remember, and what will we remember, who will be written out, ignored, or obliterated. Someone could say: They never existed. It's a singular terror."

From PEN America 10: Fear Itself


Profile of Alain Mabanckou in France Today

"His eyes look a bit tired under his trademark leather cap as he chats in a well-known café near Les Halles. Jet lag, perhaps? "Oh no!" he bursts out with a laugh. "There was a party yesterday at Jip's for the launch of Black Bazar, so I got to bed quite late. But it was wonderful to be back among old friends." In fact, Black Bazar (Editions du Seuil) is set mostly in Jip's, an Afro-Cuban bar on Rue Saint Denis where Mabanckou used to hang out, and the novel is peopled with larger-than-life personalities drawn from the surrounding African community: Paul from the "big Congo", Roger the Franco-Ivorian, Willy the barman...and of course the author's alter ego and protagonist, "Fessologue" (literally "Buttologist"). This modern dandy, with a penchant for hip Italian clothes and Weston shoes, likes to guess women's temperaments according to their derrières.

In the uproarious novel, Mabanckou wittily portrays the African diaspora in Paris, stressing its diversity despite the unity of color. "Black people make themselves prisoners of the image white people have of them. So they think they are united, when it really is a patchwork community with disparate interests. I can tell you dozens of differences between Caribbeans, West Africans and Central Africans! That's really what I tried to portray in this novel."

See work by Mabanckou here at Words Without Borders


The Return of Renard: A Review of The Journal of Jules Renard at

"Renard understands, as the literary theorist Paul Ricoeur has argued, that we are íentangled in storiesë and that every thread is worthy of our best effort. He sustains an incredible concentration on the particulars, as though he believes the very force, momentum, and meaning of life to be stowed in the branches of a tree, the depth of a well, the silence of a cemetery, and even the incongruities of one's laziness, moods, and aspirations, even going so far as to say that a dream íis only life madly dilated."

Published Apr 17, 2009   Copyright 2009 The Editors

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