Monday, December 12, 2005

wannabe Bloomsbury

Lytton Strachey is one character I don't want to be, but his letters make for, well, uncanny reading (if you have access).

Africa - I

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart - I love the way everyone speaks in proverbs, even the young sound so profound. The last line -

He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger

Achebe is of course telling us the stories, names, histories behind the almost certainly faceless 'natives' that will populate the pages of this (fictional?) and quite likely anodyne account of the creation of order in the lower Niger, written by a colonial British official.

Things Fall Apart can come across as quite misogynist. If Okonkwo is the face of resistance in the novel, then his hypermasculinity, his constant denigration of his son and all other men who do not show the same propensity to violence as 'womanly', his physical abuse of his wives - all of these make for very uncomfortable reading. Who (specifically, which woman?) would want to belong to this nation? What postcolonial promise?

Yet there are spaces in the novel for female agency - the second wife Ekwefi (largely) does as she pleases (at least in regard to the meta-decision of whom she wants to spend her life with), her daughter Ezinma is Okonkwo's favourite child (he keeps wishing she were a son in a weird display of a sort of reverse essentialism/patriarchy - he is proud of the daughter, but proud of precisely those qualities in her that he would consider 'manly'), and the priestess Chielo is a fearsome creature whom no one - not even Okonkwo - dare defy (but woman has power only when she begins to take on supernatural aura - what kind of empowerment is that?). Ok, back to what I'm really supposed to do.


...will henceforth be called Bengalooru (whatever language you're speaking in). Wonder how the choms* will negotiate this.

* choms = more than slightly condescending NLS lingo for North Indians.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pinter speech

Harold Pinter's Nobel speech - 'rabbinical fervour combined with oratorical panache'

Saturday, December 03, 2005

so here we are, denied entry
into that arcadia of frolicking union
with its biological urgency and timeless ritual.
refusing to enter that arena of homely comfort
with its familial embraces and sanitised warmth.
this is a different sort of madness,
this non-place of my imagination,
a no-person's land between the barbed wire fences
of Eros and Platos,
mined with the unexploded ammunition
of unfulfillable expectation,
but offering those bleak pleasures
of the zone between states at war.
meet me here, because i'm beginning to love you.

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