and Twenty-First Century Writers
Professor Julia Keefer, Ph.D., email@example.com
Forbidden Fruits/Censored Literature!
To foster a love of great literature
To understand the major literary movements of the twenty and twenty-first centuries
To sharpen skills for close textual analysis
To explore the themes of censorship, self versus state, secrets and taboos, narcissism and exhibitionism
To develop oral communication and advocacy skills for mock trials
To experience literature from the inside, empathizing with the courageous writer who rebelled against social norms, through weekly blogs
To study the ethical, religious, intellectual, and sexual dynamics of a given society to determine why they would find certain fiction offensive through weekly Wikis
To understand and respect cultural differences and diversity
Requirements and Grading:
50% for attendance and participation, which may includes weekly submissions to the Drop Box online or on site mock trials, Wikis, Forums and Blogs
50% midterm and final papers that put everything together
(You must buy and read all books, but you only have to do in-depth analysis, research, and close reading of six books of your choice)
Reference: 120 Banned Books by Nicholas Carolides and Dawn B.Sova, Burn this Book by Toni Morrison. Forbidden Fruits.
Required: Children of the Alley, My Name is Red, The Dramatic Literature of Dr Nawal El Saadawi, This Blinding Absence of Light, The Sand Child, The German Mujahid, Night, Everything is Illuminated, The Patience Stone, Wild Thorns, God Dies by the Nile, The Bluest Eye, How to Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling, A Moveable Feast, The Last Temptation of Christ, Lolita, Brave New World, Lady Chatterly's Lover, Ulysses, Satanic Verses, Soul Mountain, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.
Other titles are optional as background information, or for the following clusters: Dr. Zhivago, All Quiet on the Western Front, Soul Mountain, The Gulag Archipelago,, In the First Circle, Master and Margarita, Anthem for the Soviet Union, The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell,, Night by Elie Wiesel, If this is a Man by Primo Levi for Nazi Germany, Red Azalea, The Vagrants, China's Son or The Sounds of the River, The King of Trees for China, Beirut Fragments, The Gate of the Sun, Reading Lolita in Tehran, I Saw Ramallah, Martyr's Crossing, While Waiting for the Vote of the Savage Animals, The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leila Marouane, The Yellow Wind and To the End of the Land by David Grossman, 1000 Splendid Suns, and Three Cups of Tea, Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea, The Sirens of Baghdad, The Swallows of Kabul, The Attack, The Proof of the Honey, Martyr's Crossing, for the Islamic/Israeli section.
Note you need only analyze 8 books of your choice in depth.
Theme: Each book is a plump, juicy, forbidden fruit, often censored somewhere at some time by someone, occasionally causing death and destruction. How can a book terrorize? Why do humans censor literature? What aspects of religion, sex, state or science can turn into snakes slithering out of Pandora's Box? The books have been banned at one time or another in China, the Soviet Union, Israel , Europe, Islamic countries, and even parts of America.
Literary Forms: We will analyze different kinds of narrative, comparing Arabic with British, American, Chinese, Iranian, Russian, Turkish, Greek and French, looking at cyclical, pass-the-ball, superimposed, step narratives, interior monologues, stream of consciousness, American straightforward plainspeak, multiple narrators, shifting points of view and time. We will analyze dramatic structure and show how Aristotle's Poetics has been transformed with twentieth century organic drama, screenwriting, ordinary world/special world paradigms and other innovative structures. Some of these works are categorized as modernist, others as postmodern, but there are also naturalistic or fantasy genre, and global literature with different story structures.
Spring 2012 Breakdown
Read A Moveable Feast as fun preparation to the course. See Midnight in Paris! Use it for discussion in the forums but you don't have to do a CT on it.
January 26: First CT due on Anglo-American cluster. Lolita, The Bluest Eye, Lady Chatterly's Lover, Brave New World, A Moveable Feast, Last Temptation of Christ (Greek but its impact was Anglo-American)
January 27: Optional meet-up at the Temple of Dendur at the Met, 79th and Fifth Avenue at 6-6:30 in that section and then we move on to other sections related to our global reading list. My cell is 212-734-1083. Let me know if you will be coming.
February 2: Forum party. Pick forum to run. Discuss Anglo-American cluster.
February 9: Anglo-American CTs.
February 16: Forum party on the Islamic cluster. The Patience Stone, The Sand Child, My Name is Red, The Children of the Alley, God Dies by the Nile, God Resigns at the Summit Meeting
February 23: Islamic cluster CTs.
March 3: Islamic cluster CTs.
March 10: Midterms.
March 17: Ulysses versus Satanic Verses. CTs
March 29: Ulysses versus Satanic Verses. CTs.
April 5: Holocaust: The German Mujahid, Night, If This is a Man. Forum party.
April 12: Holocaust. CTs.
April 19: China. Soul Mountain. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. CTs.
April 26: PEN World Voices paper. Either attend a live event or a streamed event online and analyze it in terms of your forum topic and entries. Forum party.
May 3 or 10: Final papers due linking forum thesis and threads to literary quotes.
Censorship ala Capitalism:
This backfired when the publisher agreed to the buyout then doubled
the copies of the 2nd edition. It's now #7 on the bestseller list.
Form and Formula
Twentieth Century Literature
Keefer Poetry Site
Hope DeVenuto's Site
Poetry Site designed by Vilma Perusina: Haikus, Friendship and Multicultural
Chaos (poetry by Keefer's student Michael Gatlin)
These clusters are somewhat arbitrary, as Ulysses was banned for many reasons.
Write out a passage from the book, approximately one page, triple-spaced, numbering every line. Then analyze for intrinsic and extrinsic meaning, relationship to the rest of the text, rhetorical devices, structure and aesthetics. Even though you are concentrating on a single passage, it is important that you read the entire work to understand its relationship to the whole. First of all you must understand the denotative and connotative meanings of every word in the text. Use your thesaurus and dictionary frequently so that you understand every possible meaning, even when you think you know what is being said. Then analyze sentence structure (simple, complex, compound, compound-complex) and paragraph structure and progression in a novel or short story, dialogue and action in a play, prosody if a poem. Most of your works are novels.
Does the passage describe a natural or artificial scene and what is the degree of plausibility, suspension of disbelief? How vivid and explicit is the descriptive language? Does it describe character as monologue or dialogue, explicit or unconscious? Does it describe an action, develop an argument or an idea connected with the larger world of the fiction? How is the passage sequenced, in other words, what comes before and after, and why? How does this relate to the overall dramatic structure? Is this a passage devoted to exposition, complication, turning point, crisis, climax or resolution? What are the levels of empathy or emotional involvement? Comedic techniques or devices to increase suspense and drama? In what person is the novel told? In a drama, how successfully are the characters orchestrated? How is language used aesthetically to develop theme and how his theme related to the central dramatic question and the protagonist's objectives? In this global literature course, how do style and structure reflect the taste of the indigenous culture? How does this passage compare with another one on the same content, but from a different culture? For whom is the story written? How does the narrative voice relate to audience?
Put all your passages in one document and feel free to compare and contrast three passages with a similar theme, style or objective. Discuss any socio-political or philosophical knowledge necessary to enhance meaning of these passages. See that you are relating to genre, dramatic structure, timespace constraints, setting, sets and sequencing, levels of realism and plausibility, narrative styles and techniques, didacticism, themes and premises, character transformation and orchestration, descriptive language, concreteness of imagery, relationship of imagery to plot, character and structure, and finally stylistic techniques.
What is the theme of the book?
The theme can be implicit or explicit as it relates to the author's attitude towards the subject matter. It can also color the sequencing and the subliminal messages. In God Dies by the Nile, the theme is related to the sun, to the invisible god who sees and does not see the atrocities committed by the humans. Each chapter focuses on a different position of the sun. The stoning occurs in the dark. At the end, Zakeya says she killed god, implying that she killed the Mayor. Just as Mahfouz' Gebelaawi is not the real Muslim God, the god who dies in el Saadawi's book is not the real God either.
Analyzing the theme of a book leads to discussion of narrative point of view.
Long, complex novels may have a number of themes but if you analyze carefully you may find only one or two prevailing themes.
First person: I (some limitation. You may not have balanced character orchestration, as in a memoir like Red Azalea or Soul Mountain.)
Second person: You (rare, usually secondary) In Soul Moutain, some chapters are written in the second person as a way to deconstruct the self. I use it to connect with the Reader.
Third person: She, He, They; limited, (Hemingway), omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent (Tolstoi).
Narrators as characters or narrators as invisible seams. Pamuk uses 18 narrators, some non-human. I use 18 non-human narrators in a linear pass-the-ball narrative. Distinguish between omnipresent paychological narrators who move in for interior monologues like Molly Bloom's soliloquy and a real first person narrator.
Degrees of psychological penetration. Is the narrator reporting action like a camera or delving into the thoughts or even unconscious fantasies (Joyce) of the characters?
Multiple or single narrators: Pamuk and Mahfouz versus Nabakov (Arabic versus Russian and some Western)
Is the point of view consistent?
SEQUENCING: Events arranged in time and space
Linear (Ironically Ulysses is linear--one day in the life of three Dubliners but when it goes into stream-of-consciousness monologues if appears to be Linear with flashbacks, and all kinds of philosophical and literary diversions)
Jumbled traditional dramatic structure, like Pulp Fiction, with innovative sequencing resembling a playback of a VCR
Recursive--(spokes of a wheel like psychoanalysis) Oedipus Rex is caught in the static present, investigating the horrors of his past where he killed his father and married his mother. The past then forces desperate action in the static present.
Tandem-competitive: Two or more stories compete for the reader's attention. In drama this can be a split-screen, but with a book, alternating chapters or narrative voices move the same tale forward.
Description, Setting, Locales
What senses are evoked? Olfactory, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory For example, Pamuk is more visual than Mahfouz. Many Arab writers are auditory. Tahar ben Jalloun is very kinesthetic. Proust is very gustatory. You can also have synesthesia as in surreal poetry or Satanic Verses or a kind of psychic sense.
Detailed, Distracting, Spare, Symbolic, Suggestive, Minimal, Insufficient
My Name is Red has such detailed imagery that it does slow the pace, but so what? Is the description artistically integrated, linguistically and thematically? How does this description enhance the theme?
Analyze language in terms of denotative and connotative meanings, syntax or sentence structure, paragraph length and progression, rhythm, meter, rhyme, tone color, (assonance, consonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia) figures of speech (simile, metaphor, personification etc), symbolism, surrealism etc.When you analyze language, place close attention to both diction, or choice of words, (formal, informal, colloquial, concrete, abstract) and rhetorical devices. Meter is analyzed in terms of metric feet--iamb,u_ trochee,_u anapest, uu_dactyllic, _uu, spondee, __pyrrhic,uu. Even prose passages can be scanned to determine rhythm. It is not enough to identify these devices-- you must relate them to the whole, and evaluate their impact on dramatic structure, aesthetics, meaning, and character objectives.
How does the THEME differ from the CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION?
The Central Dramatic Questions classically is stated at the Inciting Incident in a traditional dramatic structure and is not answered until after the Crisis/Climax. Novels may have more thna one question for different plot lines. In My Name is Red, the CDQ is "Who committed this murder?"
Dramatic Structure is the orchestration of conflict, first based on Aristotle's Poetics, developed by Shakespeare and eventually Hollywood plot points.
Inciting Incident: Catalyst
Plot Point One: Commitment
Plot Point Two: Chaos, (all is lost)
CDQ is refined and developed and re-asked at every plot point which involves protagonist-antagonist conflict. In some non-EuroAmerican literature, multiple protagonists can confuse the dramatic structure but there is still usually one or two throughlines.
Throughline: Harry wants so badly to get Sally that he is willing to go through a sex change to pretend to be her guardian. John wants so badly to unclash civilizations that he is willing to go to Iraq and hang out in the streets, thereby risking his life. Throughline includes major objective through work as well as the potentially greatest sacrifice. Warren wants so badly to get his degree he is willing to wake up early every Saturday morning. But this throughline must last throughout the entire work. Every scene usually has minor conflicting objectives.
Campbell myth of Ordinary versus Special World
In God Dies by the Nile you have the Ordinary World of the town versus the Special World outside the town where the stoning, necrophilia, wild dances and exorcism occur. The threshold is seen with Zakeya's supposed madness.
Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Crossing the Threshold, Allies and Enemies, Approach the Inmost Cave or Belly of the Whale, Ordeal, Reward, Cross the Return Threshold, Resurrection, Elixr
This paradigm is similar to the Aristotelian mountain but it is a paradigm of space and resembles a circle while the former is a paradigm of time resembling a mountain.
Analyze characters in terms of archetypes: Hero or Heroine, Herald who announces the Call to Adventure, Threshold Guardians, Tricksters, Shapeshifters to complicate plot, The Shadow or antagonist who can also be aspects of the darker self, Allies and Enemies, Love interests
Archetypes differ from other ways of analyzing character because they relate to the Journey.
Are characters 3-dimensional, stereotypes, or what?
Balanced character orchestration
Character transformation---how, why and when do they change
Analyze dialogue: Is it naturalistic? Is it authentic to the actual character? Slang and expletives, informal and formal, jokes, plays on words
Interaction: give-and-take, degree of listening and misunderstanding, coded conversation, interrupted or codependent conversation.
Evaluate empathy for characters, vulnerability and jeopardy
Character's layers of imperfections, secrets, lies, epiphanies, transformations, character development and choices
Dreams, nightmares, fantasies
Researching the World
Analyze degrees of reality: Documentary. Naturalism. Realism. Romanticism. Fantasy. Sci Fi.
Analyze subject matter: its accuracy, its relevance, levels of didacticism
For example, the subject matter in God Dies by the Nile ranges from ancient religious rituals, Islam, village politics, female mutilation, abuse of Sharia laws, necrophilia, bestiality, incest, adultery, family values, farming
How well did the author do the research?
Americans often reject didactic digressions as seen in Victor Hugo, Orhan Pamuk, preferring to show rather than tell. Many Americans and Europeans want all exposition to be ammunition.
Using selections from All Quiet on the Western Front as examples, please review the following to help you with close textual analysis:
Humor, with metaphor: "My arms have grown wings and I'm almost afraid of going up into the sky, as though I held a couple of captive balloons in my fists."
Personification: "The wind plays with our hair; it plays with our words and thoughts."
"Over us Chance hovers."
Euphemism: "At the same time he ventilates his backside." "All at once he remembers his school days and finishes hastily:'he wants to leave the room sister.'"
Imagery: "To no man does the earth mean so much as to the soldier. When he presses himself down upon her long and powerfully, when he buries his face and his limbs deep in her from the fear of death by shell-fire, then she is his only friend, his brother, his mother; he stifles his terror and his cries in her silence and her security; she shelters him and releases him for ten seconds to live, to run, ten seconds of life; receives him again and often forever." (and personification) "The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen."
Antithesis: "A man dreams of a miracle and wakes up to loaves of bread."
Parallel Construction: "My feet begin to move forward in my boots, I go quicker, I run."
Simile: "He had collapsed like a rotten tree."
Metaphor: "Immediately a second [searchlight] is behind him, a black insect is caught between them and tries to escape--the airman.]
Liturgical prose: "Our being, almost utterly carried away by the fury of the storm, streams back through our hands from thee, and we, thy redeemed ones, bury ourselves in thee, and through the long minutes in a mute agony of hope bite into thee with our lips!"
Apostrophe: "Ah! Mother, Mother! You still think I am a child--why can I not put my head in your lap and weep?"
Allusion: "The guns and the wagons float past the dim background of the moonlit landscape, the riders in the steel helmets resemble knights of a forgotten time; it is strangely beautiful and arresting."
Hyperbole: "They are more to me than life, these voices, they are more than motherliness and more than fear; they are the strongest, most comforting things there are anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades."
Rhetorical question: "If one wants to appraise it, it is at once heroic and banal--but who wants to do that?"
Aphorism: "...terror can be endured so long as a man simply ducks--but it kills, if a man thinks about it."
Symbolism: "I pass over the bridge, I look right and left; the water is as full of weeds as ever."
Foreshadowing: "On the landing I stumble over my pack, which lies there already made up because I have to leave early in the morning."
Doggerel: "Give 'em all the same grub and all the same pay."
Short Utterances: "Life is short." (Analyse for rhythm and effect.)
Cause and Effect: "They have taken us farther back than usual to a field depot so that we can be re-organized."
Irony: "...a high double wall of yellow, unpolished, brand-new coffins. They still smell of resin, and piine, and the forest."
Appositive: "Thus momentarily we have the two things a soldier needs for contentment: good food and rest."
Caesura: "It is all a matter of habit--even the front-line."
Onomatopoeia: "The man gurgles."
Alliteration: "The satisfaction of months shines in his dull pig's eyes as he spits out: 'Dirty hound'"
Euphony: "Now red points glow in every face. They comfort me: it looks as though there were little windows in dark village cottages saying that behind them are rooms full of peace."
Cacophony: "The storm lashes us, out of the confusion of grey and yellow the hail of splinters whips forth the child-like cries of the wounded, and in the night shattered life groans painfully into silence."
Slang: "And now get on with it, you old blubber-sticker, and don't you miscount either." "That cooked his goose."
Rhetorical devices also include the syllogisms, logical fallacies etc explained at www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/brain/argue.html.
Critics analyze in reverse of how many writers create, except poets, who often start with language and word games.
Meter in poetry or grammar, sentence length, paragraph progression in prose
Rhythm in stressed and unstressed syllables
Rhyme where applicable
Tone Color including alliteration, assonance, consonance and onomatopoeia
Figures of Speech including metaphors, similes, personification, analogy
Word choice: complex, simple, synonyms, denotative and connotative as they relate to meaning
Description: the density, detail, and degree of sensuality--olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic, auditory, visual, synesthesia
Narrative sequence: the connection between events in time and space, whether linear, recursive, tandem-competitive, superimposed
Narrative voice: first, second, third, singular or plural, limited, omniscient, personified, multiple or single, point of view
Theme is the way the author relates to the material, combining the form and content for aesthetic or didactic purposes. It is not the same as the Central Dramatic Question.
Characters can be multi-dimensional, stereotypes, archetypes, secrets, lies, flaws, objectives, needs, desires, conflicts, fantasies, nightmares, dreams, what is the worst or the best that could happen?
Dramatic Structures: the orchestration and the organization of conflict. Paradigms: the mountain, the circle, egg shaped ( Campbell monomyth) or wheel stuck in mud (recursive). Classic Aristotelian structure asks a Central Dramatic Question at the Inciting Incident that is resolved by the Climax and Resolution.
Story: what happens to specific people at a certain time in a certain space, before it is orchestrated into dramatic conflict.
Research the World: level of reality, documentary, naturalism, realism, fantasy-enhanced memoir, sci fi, fantasy, use of imagination. Suspending disbelief. Science. Technology.
Always relate form to content. Don't just point out metaphors etc. Show how they enhance the meaning, tone color, development of character, suspense, description.
Outlines for Online Course:
Censorship Taboos History
Arabic Narrative Voice and Sequencing
Author Bios in terms of locations
American High Schools
Christian Right and the Pope
British Class System
Rushdie versus Joyce
Sci Fi/Fantasy versus American Realism
Bradbury and Atwood
Story Expectations and Genre
Red China Peking Revolutionary Opera
Soviet Union Dr Zhivago Master and Margarita Anthem One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Nazi Germany banned All Quiet on the Western Front but should we ban Hitler's Mein Kampf? Isn't it better to know about this?
AUTHORS and their BOOKS
The King of Trees
Salwa Al Neimi
The Proof of the Honey
“Arab erotic literature is the opposite of what we are told about Islam," says Salwa al Neimi, a Syrian poetess, with a mischievous smile. More than just a rebellion against the austerity of contemporary Islam, al Neimi’s latest novel invites the reader to discover classical erotic Arabic literature. Banned at the 2007 Damascus book-fair, al Neimi’s novel has been censored in most Arab countries, except in North African Arab nations - such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia - and Lebanon. In Jordan, for example, the book can only be found at the street vendor stalls. In Proof by Honey, the narrator, a Syrian librarian living in Europe, explores her sensuality with lovers named The Palestinian, The Thinker and The Traveler. Mystery novel? Fiction or reality? Al Neimi smiles and swears that it is all invented. But the lascivious narrator and the author share an enthusiasm for classical Arabic erotic writers such as Almad al-Tifachi, Ali Ibn Nasr, al-Suyuti and al Tijani. But these writers are also, significantly, sheiks or imams who represent freedom for al Neimi. She adeptly takes a classical story and adds her own decisively modern, wry commentary to the original text. It is this hybrid that, according to al Neimi, has shocked the Arab world. As al Neimi has discovered, her favorite classical authors support her thesis: that sex is not a shame in Muslim literary tradition. Her references to ancient texts lend her book a certain legitimacy against critics who accuse her of Westernization. When, for instance, the author quotes Aisha, Prophet Mohammed’s favorite wife, in connection with the Prophet’s kisses, it’s not to provoke a scandal but to affirm that sensuality is a part of Islamic thought. "Islamic society never regarded sex as something sad or sinful,” she says. Today, al Neimi, a press relations officer at the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe, regrets that even Arab intellectuals ignore Islamic erotic tradition. "Sometimes, when I re-tell some of ancient texts,” she notes, “people exclaim that it’s not possible."
Proof by Honey has been ambiguously received across Arab world. If numerous Arabic book-fairs have snubbed the book, the author maintains that many readers can get hold of her novel thanks to the Internet as well as in some bookshops that discreetly stock her book. For her, the supposed austerity of contemporary Islam explains the reception to her book – or rather rejection in the established Arab world. The old erotic authors were far from being the marginal writers. Quite the contrary, the authors cited by al Neimi were men of power and sound judgment – often sheiks, or tribal chiefs. Al Neimi believes that if today Islam is not as liberated as it was before, it’s the Islamists to blame for leading their sexual lives in secrecy. "Arab society today has interiorized all the Western notions of sin and guilt associated with the body,” she maintains. The author deplores this Westernization, but she blames the masters of modern Islamic thought for imbibing these values. That’s the paradox, she concludes with a smile.
Master and Margarita
He was a physician, playwright, soldier and novelist, born in 1891 in Kiev and died in 1940 in Moscow. Bulgakov burned his first draft of this book because he, like Gao Xi Jian, felt the Communist government would have done it anyway. M and M, begun in 1928, burned, started again, revised, censored in serial form, and finally published posthumously in 1966, is a satirical magical realist novel with tandem competitive narratives about Moscow during the Stalin's time and a retelling of the Gospel. Rushdie said that this book about Satan inspired his Satanic Verses. It also inspired Mick Jagger's song, "Sympathy for the Devil."
Nawal el Saadawi
God Dies by the Nile
Thematic Analysis of God Dies by the Nile by Nawal el Saadawi. Notice how the sun is more of a witness to the crimes than the men's version of Allah, who, like the god Gebelaawi, must have some flaws. Lecture on Twentieth Century Feminist Literature and the contributions of Arab writers. It is appropriate that this week Shirin Ebadi was the first Islamic woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Ebadi was one of the first women to serve as a judge in Iran ; she has upheld the principle that Islamic faith is compatible with the rights of women, children and outspoken intellectuals. How do Islamic feminists differ from their European and American counterparts?
In God Dies by the Nile there are so many crises/climaxes that Zakeya's murder of the village leader seems only one of many. When asked where Allah is, she says, in prison, that she killed him-- he is buried on the banks of the Nile . El Saadawi's structure is Arabic in its recursive themes of sun rising and setting on every scene, but also multi-orgasmic with its many climaxes.
Nawal el Saadawi in "BREEDING TERROR or AN UNCIVILISED CLASH OF CIVILIZATONS": "Once again we are facing the fundamentalist, absolutist dichotomy of God versus the Devil, and of Good versus Evil used to mystify people, to confuse them, to veil their minds. The language which George W. Bush uses is no different from that of the pope, or that of bin Laden. All three speak in the name of God against the enemy, against the Devil. The church and the mosque are not just spiritual bodies with a spiritual agenda, but also geopolitical, economic and even military bodies, but their agendas here are clothed in spiritual robes....This war on terrorism is being used to halt the rising wave of opposition to unbridled transnational exploitation of nature, human resources and human life. In the global patriarchal capitalist system war has been and remains the economic stimulus required to stave off recession and protect accumulation of profits. But I wonder how many bombs will be needed, and how many innocent people must die in order to ensure that the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq will begin to climb once more....State terrorism is the elder brother of individual terrorism except that it claims the legitimacy of laws upheld by a powerful few."
Like American and Israeli leaders, she feels that fear is the great enemy, not because we can't shop till we drop, but because it will make us accept anything in the name of security or the war against terrorism. "Fear can help the Big Brother to drive us with a big stick into an Orwellian world." El Saadawi believes we should eradicate the original roots of all kinds of terrorism by restoring religion to the personal realm and developing secular humanist societies that are able to abolish colonial and neo-colonial principles as well as the hegemony of the multinational corporations of the World Economic Forum. She speaks at the World Social Forum, advocating peace, love and justice from the grassroots up, abolishing all patriarchal systems that breed double standards and binary thinking. What do YOU think?
Along with Shakespeare, Aristotle, Sartre, Joyce, and Lightman, she is one of my heros because of the energy, curiosity, intelligence and strength which with she has embraced and attacked so many areas of human knowledge and discourse: medicine, literature, politics, religion. She even has a great website. http://www.nawalsaadawi.net. After her imposed clitorectomy, she has been a strong advocate for feminist rights, criticizing the sexism of the American cosmetics industry as well as Islamic fundamentalism. In 1955 she became Egypt 's Director of Public Health, but her book WOMEN AND SEX (1972), condemning clitorectomies and the veiling of the female mind even more than her body, aroused the anger of male authorities who put her in prison because of her continued research and writings in this area. After Sadat's assassination in l981 (read Mahfouz) she was freed and continued her political, medical and literary fight for the rights of oppressed peoples, particularly women. She claims that Westerners are particularly oppressed by their governments because they believe they are free even though they are the greatest true believers of them all and their democracy an illusion of freedom and equal rights.
In spite of her didacticism, her writing can be beautifully simple and poetic with ancient themes like the rising and setting of the sun in GOD DIES BY THE NILE. While DeLillo begins writing by deconstructing the sentence, by falling in love with words, she distrusts words, because they are weapons manipulated by Machiavellian politicians: "Language should be clear, so we understand each other. No monopoly, no playing, no games, no political games, no linguistic games, because I am really fed up with the linguistic games of the so-called 'postmodern era.'...We find ourselves lost in an avalanche of words which appear very dissident, and which multiply and reproduce themselves endlessly....We drown in these words; we are suffocated by them. It is the zero-sum game of words in which you lose your power to understand." For el Saadawi, language is a weapon, at least to those who imprisoned her, a weapon she will not give up even if it means her body would be imprisoned again. Like many great writers of our times, writing is her jihad, and as founder and president of the Arab Women Solidarity Association, her strong stance offers a welcome antidote to many solutions for the clash of civilisations.
Nawal El Saadawi was born in 1931 in Kafr Tahla, a small village outside of Cairo. El Saadawi was raised in a large household with eight brothers and sisters. Nawal El Saadawi is a leading Egyptian feminist, sociologist, medical doctor and militant writer on Arab women's problems. She is one of the most widely translated contemporary Egyptian writers, with her work available in twelve languages. She continues to devote her time to being a writer, journalist and worldwide speaker on women's issues. Her current project is writing her autobiography, laboring over it for 10 hours a day.
From 1979-180 El Saadawi was the United Nations Advisor for the Women's Program in Africa (ECA) and the Middle East (ECWA). Later in 1980, as a culmination of the long war she had fought for Egyptian women's social and intellectual freedom, an activity that had closed all avenues of official jobs to her, she was imprisoned under the Sadat regime, for alleged "crimes against the state." El Saadawi stated "I was arrested because I believed Sadat. He said there is democracy and we have a multi-party system and you can criticize. So I started criticizing his policy and I landed in jail." In spite of her imprisonment, El Saadawi continued to fight against oppression. El Saadawi formed the Arab Women's Solidarity Association in 1981. The AWSA was the first legal, independent feminist organization in Egypt . The organization has 500 members locally and more than 2,000 internationally. The Association holds international conferences and seminars, publishes a magazine and has started income-generating projects for women in rural areas. The AWSA was banned in 1991 after criticizing US involvement in the Gulf War, which El Saadawi felt should have been solved among the Arabs. Although she was denied pen and paper, El Saadawi continued to write in prison, using a "stubby black eyebrow pencil" and "a small roll of old and tattered toilet paper." She was released in 1982, and in 1983 she published "Memoirs from the Women's Prison," in which she continued her bold attacks on the repressive Egyptian government. In the epilogue to her memoirs, she notes the corrupt nature of her country's government, the dangers of publishing under such authoritarian conditions and her determination to continue to write the truth.
Sample questions to help you prepare your trials:
Your family was relatively traditional, you were "circumcised" at the age of six, and somewhat progressive, your father insisted that all of his children be educated. You've been quoted as saying that your mother had a profound effect on you and that you felt that she was a "potential revolutionary whose ambition was buried in her marriage." Let's begin with the idea of Islamic fundamentalism, a "spirited bunch" who have done their best to bring woman down via torture and threats. Do you think that your progressive father had a profound influence on you? And more specifically when you discuss the issue of "over" religion who is your influence there?
Despite the limitations imposed on you by both religious and colonial oppression on rural women, You were able to attend the University of Cairo and graduated in 1955 with a degree in psychiatry. After completing your education, You practiced psychiatry and eventually rose to become Egypt 's Director of Public Health. You met your husband, Sherif Hetata, also a doctor, while working in the Ministry of Health, where the two of you shared an office. Hetata's leftist views, led him to be imprisoned for 13 years for his participation in a left-wing opposition party. In your book you have several characters which could signify this oppressive behavior in Egypt , one in particular was the Mayor. Tell a little about why you made the women around him so strong, and yet the people so weak? Also please tell us about the relative view of God that you emphasize in God dies by the Nile ?
You began writing 25 years ago, have written 27 books all concentrating on woman, particularly Arab woman, their sexuality and legal status. Your writings have been considered controversial and dangerous for the society, and were banished in Egypt . As a result, you were forced to publish your works in Beirut , Lebanon . In 1972, Your first work of non-fiction, "Women and Sex," which as the title suggests, dealt with the highly taboo subject of women and sexuality, and also the sensitive subjects of politics and religion. This publication evoked the anger of highly placed political and theological authorities, and the Ministry of Health was pressured into dismissing you. Under similar pressures you lost your post as Chief Editor of a health journal and as Assistant General Secretary in the Medical Association in Egypt .
From 1973 to 1976 you researched women and neurosis in the Ain Shams University 's Faculty of Medicine. Your results were published in "Women and Neurosis in Egypt " in1976, which included 20 in-depth case studies of women in prisons and hospitals. This research also inspired my novel "Woman at Point Zero," which was based on a female death row inmate convicted of murdering her husband that she met while conducting the research.
In 1977, you published your most famous work, The Hidden Face of Eve, which covered a host of topics relative to Arab women such as aggression against female children and female genital mutilation, prostitution, sexual relationships, marriage and divorce and Islamic fundamentalism.
When you came out of prison there were two routes you felt you could take. You could have become one of those slaves to the ruling institution, thereby acquiring security, prosperity, the state prize, and the title of "great writer"; not to mention seeing your picture in the newspapers and on television.
Or you could continue on the difficult path, the one that had led you to prison. Has Danger always been a part of your life ever since you picked up a pen and wrote? That nothing is more perilous than truth in a world that lies. That nothing is more perilous than knowledge in a world that has considered knowledge a sin since Adam and Eve. Is there no power in the world that can strip your writings away?
Even after your release from prison, your life was threatened by those who opposed your work, mainly Islamic fundamentalists, and armed guards were stationed outside your house in Giza for several years until you left the country to be a visiting professor at North American Universities. You have been a resident writer at Duke University 's Asian and African Languages Department from 1993-1996. You've also taught at Washington State University in Seattle .
I get the picture all you want to do is discuss is necrophilia, abuse of political and religious power, bestiality, and corruption. Is that right? Is this not a religious book?
Today on cable television there is a show "Sex in the City" that depicts strong independent woman in our society. And discusses how they are sometimes demonized for being strong and independent women. Do you feel that this an accurate portrayal of women in the U.S. , in the World?
Read the Hidden Face of Eve to answer these.
The Yellow Wind (1988)
Grossman, born in 1954, winner of a number of European prizes, is one of Israel's foremost authors, but this book was banned by some in Israel, in part because of his attitude toward the Palestinians. I met him at the 92nd St Y October 11, 2010 and was impressed by his gentle, compassionate nature, steady discipline as a writer--he sequestered himself from 8 to 4 every day with a good pen and paper--, and his love of nature and his homeland. His son was killed in 2006 while fighting in the Israeli army and his novels are naturalistic family sagas embedded in the heartbreaking world of Israel. His desire to understand the other and his generosity and compassion remind me of Elias Khoury. If only the Jews and Palestinians could find a way to live in peace! If you are researching this area, make sure you include both sides.
A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) and/or The Kite Runner (2003)
Although Hosseini lives in California, he was born in Afghanistan in 1965, and lived in Iran and Paris. He is a physician and novelist, like el Saadawi. Although his work isn't heavily censored, except by the Taliban, he gives a good history and description of Afghanistan.
James Joyce (1882-1941)
In spite of or perhaps because of his difficult life, riddled with poverty, alcoholism, debt, exile, unsatisfying teaching jobs, his daughter's schizophrenia and his own mental problems, and an extremely frustrating publishing history, Joyce is considered perhaps the greatest writer of the modernist period. His major works also include a collection of stories called Dubliners, a poetry collection called The Chamber Music, in reference to the sound of urine hitting the chamber pot, a play called Exiles, a novella called A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, based in part on the earlier Stephen Hero, and Finnegans Wake, his work in progress of later years. He was so avant-garde that critics and publishers criticized him, and his work was burned and banned. Although Ulysses was published in 1922 in Paris, and in serial form by the American The Little Review, it was subsequently banned and burned in the U.S. and Britain for the next decade until Judge Woolsey's ruling in 1933. However, there have been many versions of this book, and media adaptations censored much of the material that was considered obscene or scatological. The most offensive passages are in Nausicaa when Bloom masturbates to the sight of Gerty McDowell's underwear, and Molly Bloom's soliloquy which discusses all manner of bodily fluids and urges. Because the novel is so long, linguistically complex, and embedded with archaic terms, Old and Middle English, Latin, French, Italian, German, local slang and puns and jokes that deform words to unintelligible forms, it is not accessible to everyone. It contains lyrical passages, a long play that was adapted for Broadway, thirty pages of one sentence, a questioning cathechism, and a labor and birth that goes through the entire history of the English language. Even with the help of Don Gifford's 700 pages of Notes, don't expect to understand everything. Joyce wanted to keep English professors busy for the next hundred years, and he succeeded!
In spite of the formidable bulk of this novel, it is really about one day in the life of three Dubliners, Stephen Daedalus, Leopold and Molly Bloom, but in theme and scope it parallels the journeys of Ulysses in Homer's Odyssey on his long voyage home to Penelope. Joyce read the book in Latin rather than Greek which explains the name Ulysses instead of the Odyssey.
Compare the two-- a-- Homer, b-- Joyce
Ia Telemachus, in Ithaca with suitors, is urged to seek his father. b Stephen Daedalus eats breakfast with Mulligan and Haines at the Martello Tower, then leaves for work.
IIa Telemachus leaves with Athene. b Nestor-- Stephen teaches his class at the Dalkey School; receives his pay and would-be sage advice from Mr. Deasy, the headmaster.
III Telemachus with Nestor.
IVa Telemachus visits Menelaos as suitors lay ambush for him. b Proteus-- Stephen on Sandymount Strand. Note how poetic and lyrical the style becomes for this chapter.
Va Odysseus leaves Calypso; wrecked on a raft, he swims to the isle of the Phaiakians. b Calypso-- Leopold Bloom with Molly; he leaves to buy a pork kidney, even though he is Jewish, and returns.
VIa Odysseus meets Nausicaa, princess of the Phaiakians. b Lotus Eaters-- Bloom collects the letter with flower from Martha Clifford, orders lotion for Molly at the drugstore, thinks of taking a bath.
VIIa Odysseus is hospitably received by Alkinous and Arete, king and queen of the Phaiakians. b Hades-- Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam. Note that in this one day, there is a funeral, a birth, lots of real as well as fantasy sex, drunken brawls, and racist fights. In short, it is a microcosm of an epic.
VIIIa Odysseus attends games; bathed and feasted, he is invited to identify himself and tell the story of his adventures since the fall of Troy. b Aeolus-- Bloom and Stephen appear at a newspaper office, but don't quite meet.
IXa Odysseus tells of his battles with the Kikonians, his sojourn with the Lotus Eaters, and his entrapment in the cave of the Cyclops. b Lestrygonians-- Bloom eats lunch at a pub and goes to look at statues of goddesses in the National Museum.
Xa Odysseus tells of Aeolus, god of winds; the man-eating Lestrygonians; and the enchantress Circe. b Scylla and Charybdis-- Stephen explains his theory of Hamlet in the National Library, where Bloom appears briefly.
XIa Odysseus tells of visiting Hades, then returning to Circe to bury Elpenor. b Wandering Rocks-- Bloom and Stephen wander through Dublin among many other characters but still do not meet.
XIIa Odysseus tells of the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, Helios; with his last ship lost, he's rescued by Calypso. Odysseus's storytelling ends. b Sirens-- Bloom dines at the Ormond Hotel restaurant and hears singing by the barmaids and various patrons, including Simonnn Daedula.
XIIIa The Phaiakians return Odysseus to Ithaca . b Cyclops-- Bloom confronts the drunken citizens in a pub. Joyce was ahead of his time for exposing their anti-Semitism.
XIVa Odysseus is hospitably received by Eumaios, his noble swineherd. b Nausicaa-- Bloom ogles Gerty McDowel on Sandymount Strand and masturbates.
XVa Telemachus leaves Sparta and eluding ambus, reaches Ithaca. b Oxen of the Sun-- Bloom visits the National Maternity Hospital , where Mina Purefoy gives birth to a boy. Bloom and Stephen talk a little amid a boisterous crowd of drunken young men.
XVIa Telemachus visits Eumaios; Odysseus reveals his identity to Telemachus. b Circe-- Bloom follows Stephen to Nighttown, Dublin 's redlight district, where Stephen spends most of his money, gets into a scuffle with two soldiers, and is rescued by Bloom.
XVIIa Telemachus returns to his house; disguised as a beggar, Odysseus also returns with Eumaios. b Eumaios-- Stephen and Bloom talk in the cabman's shelter.
XVIIIa Odysseus soundly thrashes the beggar who taunts him. Antinous declares the suitors will stay until Penelope marries one of them. Eurymachos throws a footstool at Odysseus and just misses him. b Ithaka-- Bloom and Stephen go to Bloom's house. Stephen declines Bloom's invitation to spend the night. Bloom gets into bed with Molly and finds evidence of her adultery, which he accepts at last with equanimity.
XIXa Odysseus and Penelope meet; Penelope plans the test of the bow to determine the stranger's identity. b Penelope-- In bed, Molly reviews her life and loves, concluding with her memory of Bloom's proposal and her answer-- yes. (As a teenager, Professor Evergreen acted out this soliloquy, recorded it and choreographed an erotic modern dance to it. If you only have time for this chapter, start here.)
Homer's book continues as all principals gather in Odysseus's house where he wins the test of the bow and kills the suitors and punishes the maids who consorted with them, and is finally recognized by Penelope. Odysseus reveals himself to his father Laertes, the suitors are buried, revenge is foiled and Athene imposes peace. So in ancient Greece adultery is punished but in twentieth century Ireland, Bloom accepts his wife's dalliance because he can't satisfy her the way she wants. And the twentieth century begins-- age of free sex, psychoanalysis, science and technological inventions, megalomania and dictatorships, fascisim and The Bomb, equal rights for all. Much has remained in the twentieth century but individualism is taking a beating. What do you think?
Joyce followed epic rather than dramatic form although his book conforms to Aristotle's unities. Like Professor Evergreen, he tended to over-systematize everything. In order, we have Scenes-- tower, school, strand, house, bath, graveyard, newspaper, lunch, library, streets, concert room, tavern, rocks, hospital, brothel, shelter, house, bed. Organs-- none for Stephen because he is "spiritual." then kidney, skin, heart, lungs, esophagus, brain, blood, ear, muscle, eye, womb, leg, nerves, skeleton, fat. (Interesting that Molly's soliloquy reminded Joyce of fat.) Discipline-- art, theology, history, philology, mythology, biochemistry, religion, rhetoric, architect, literature, mechanics, music, surgery, painting, medicine, dance, navigation, science, ---and poor old Molly gets no intellectual discipline. Technic-- narrative, catechism, monologue, narrative, narcissism, incubism, enthymemic, peristalsis, dialectic, labyrinth, fuga per canonem, gigantism, detumescence, embryonic development, hallucination, narrative, catechism, monologue. Symbol-- heir, horse, tide, nymph, eucharist, caretaker, editor, constables, London, citizens, barmaids, fenian, virgin, mothers, whore, sailors, comets, earth.
So anyone who thinks Ulysses is confusing literary vomit should realize how carefully it was planned and how laboriously it was written. Nevertheless if this manuscript were submitted anonymously to New York agents today, it would have to be dumbed down, put in the slush pile, or self-published with iUniverse.
The Last Temptation of Christ is a testament to his anguished concerns over Christianity, existentialism, metaphysics, atheism, and his love of the sensuous life so vividly captured in his Zorba the Greek. Kazantzakis is perhaps the most influential and translated Greek writer of the twentieth century. Note how Kazantzakis milks every sense, not just the visual: he creates a world you can smell, taste and feel. How does this enhance or interfere with your experience of the sacred? Do you feel that Christianity separates soul from body, or that the roots of the religion are in the dictum, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak?" Does this book shock or revolt you? Why? In 1988 Martin Scorsese made a film of this book, which caused furor all over the country, and renewed banning of the book as well as the film. However, Kazantzakis died in 1957 and was born in 1883 in Crete when it was still under the Ottoman Empire. He considered The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, published in 1938, to be his most important work.
The Swallows of Kabul (2002), The Attack (2005), The Sirens of Baghdad (2006)
Yasmina Khadra is the pen name of Algerian author Mohammad Moulessehoul, born in 1955, who only "came out" in 2001 when he went into exile in France. For years he was a military officer in North Africa and had to hide his authorial identity to avoid military censorship. His stories have the dramatic structure of well-plotted thrillers, but his language is fluid and competent, and his military experience, research, and imagination make his books ripple with life.
While Usama is the protagonist of Wild Thorns, he shares the spotlight with his cousin Adil and all the resistance fighters. The Inciting Incident occurs when Usama returns to Nablus from his travels, trying to suppress his sensitive, poetic side, "Personal dreams evaporate, the individual becomes a single shot in a fusillade. You can be honed by experience to become a rocket, a guided missile." (6) Further foreshadowing occurs when Abu Mohammad says, "'What I'm most afraid of is that he'll do something stupid and then they'll blow up our house.'" This chapter is followed by the high concept conflict between Israel and Palestine , represented by the interrogation at the checkpoint, which is satirical, sad, cruel and comic.
At PP1 Usama rephrases his dilemma after seeing the blood fly from Abu Sabir's fingers, "Would he be able to undertake the mission that was required of him? How could he actually kill people--he, Usama, who'd once mourned for a lamb slaughtered on a feast day?" (78) He answers this question with renewed commitment.
Midpoint is the confrontation between Adil and Usama beginning of p. 95. Adil prefers a more practical, life-affirming approach although he dislikes what the Israelis have done, while Usama is willing to accept suicide bombing, hunger, and poverty to fight the Israelis with total resistance. On p. 100 he finally tells Adil there are orders to blow up the buses, thus clarifying his mission, which, like the attacks on Iraqi policemen, is designed to kill fellow Muslims.
Plot Point 2 is the assassination of the Israeli officer by the young man shrouded in a white kufiyya, who we later learn is Usama. It is the beginning of his end. Ironically it is Adil who picks up the officer's orphaned little daughter and carries her home.
The Crisis occurs when Usama, Zuhdi and other resistance fighters fight with the Israeli military jeeps after a bomb explodes near the bus. Khalifeh articulates the theme, connected to the title when Zuhdi says, "'The thorns aren't there to produce roses...they're there to protect them.'"
When Usama dies on p. 185 it is the beginning of the Climax. His last words are, "There's no escape from death. You, mother, you're an angel. And me, I'm a real lion, mother; tell everyone I died a martyr, a martyr to the cause. A martyr to the land. I love you, mother. The oven fire. The smell of burning dung. The flute. Scarves. Wedding celebrations. The bride. Nawa. Salih. Weddings. Yet to come..."
It could be argued, however, that the real climax is when the Israelis bulldoze the ancient family home with its sculpture, jasmine and lemon trees, beautiful courtyard, memories of a long line of people. They are given a few minutes to evacuate the home, taking essential belongings. Adil makes the choice NOT to take his father's kidney machine, knowing that many younger ones will die, if they struggle to keep him alive in a refugee camp. Again, it is a practical choice, but a terrible one that makes Adil in some ways, his father's murderer.
The resolution occurs with the expression of Adil's rage, which has been suppressed throughout the book, "If only you were more cruel, or harder of heart, you'd blow up everything you could lay hands on, from the Atlantic to the Gulf and on to the world's furthest reaches. You'd leave no two stones standing. You'd uproot the trees, eaxposing the infections beneath the earth's surface to the light of the sun, to the breezes of spring. You'd turn everything upside-down. And begin again. Slowly, very slowly. Here a seedling. There a tree. Here a flower. And you, yong Sabir, a tall, broad-shouldered palm. Your hands would bring rocks from the depths of the earth and from the mountains.
'Those stones would shine like raw diamonds. We could colour them, decorate them, and build them into rows of beautiful houses that would stretch as far as the eye could see and stand for all eternity. ...Peace would reign from the rocky heights of Mount Aibal to the pine forests of Jirzim." (207)
But this is just fantasy because the house lies in ruins, commerce goes on and Kissinger ironically announces a solution to the Middle East crisis.
Sahar Khalifeh was born in 1941 during the British mandate in Palestine in Nablus . She left a frustrating marriage to study literature and feminism in America . Her first novel was confiscated by the Israelis, which shows that militant Iran is not the only country guilty of censorship. Her second novel was first published in Cairo . She has taught at Iowa and Bir Zeit University and probably knew some of the suicide bombers, maybe even the women. She founded the Women's Affairs Center in Nablus . In WILD THORNS we see militancy as a necessary venue of resistance to Israeli occupation. But Khalifeh does not let didacticism make her prose laborious and heavy; the novel is rich and succulent like ripe olives and we see, hear and feel the characters-- the underground, militant high schoolers we have recently seen so often in the news, the shopkeeper who sells groceries to Israeli soldiers, or the village mothers who ululate in solidarity as their homes are bulldozed. Although it was written in 1975, the novel offers us a deeper understanding of what is going on in 2002 with the seige of the Church of Nativity , the bulldozing of homes in Jenin, and the terrors of the suicide/homicide bombers/martyrs.
Khalifeh's characters are not drawn with the same good vs evil morality we saw in GOD DIES BY THE NILE. After Usama assasinates the Israeli officer, "sombre images fill Adil's mind. The dead officer, his grieving widow, the little girl stretched out on the ground, her pale, bare legs partly covered by Um Sabir's veil. People running through the streets, someone yelling, 'Leave a pig alone!' Bitterness flooded his heat. My cousin kills a man and I carry off his daughter. Tragedy or farce? Still, the memory of the Israeli woman's head on his shoulder, despite all the boundaries that divided people, seemed top opne the horizons of this narrow world." (172)
Those who compromise, however, are usually the ones to survive, so Adil must suffer to see his family home blown up by the Israelis: "Take a deep breath, Adil told himself. Tears. Dust. Fog. He could smell lemonwood through the acrid aroma of dust and crumbling stone. The lemon tree was burning in the rubble of the courtyard. The soldiers looked so arrogant in their dark cars. A thirst for reenge, for rebellion, stirred deep within him. I'm not cruel, but I'm filled with rage and bitterness, filled up to here. And these cowering crowds. And you yourself, Adil, a god of patience, that's what they say. What could be worse than admitting you're an impotent god, unable to assert your own rights or anyone else's? The process of ascent and fall goes on. A god-like ascent to the heights of Mount Aibal . And descent through seaweed into the gutters and decaying refuse. You search for yourself in other people's eyes, Adil. You find yourself mirrored in the eyes of the hungry, the nake, the homeless, those who live in tents. The winds and storms toss you in all directions. But the will to live still beats within you, defiant and instinctive. What can you do? Your spirit is bottled up; it can't find a way out. You experience sorrow, repress your emotions, and wait. Nevertheless! This mind of yours at least keeps you awake, wards off the drunkenness of indifference. Your heart rages and storms, yet the energy's suppressed by the machinery of oppression." (206)
But unlike the suicide bombers, Adil only thinks the thoughts and then goes back to his job working for the Israelis: "If only you were more cruel or harder of heart, you'd blow up everything you could lay hands on, from the Atlantic to the Gulf and on to the world's furthest reaches. You'd leave no two stones standing. You'd uproot the trees, exposing the infections beneath the earth's surface to the light of the sun, to the breezes of spring. You'd turn everything upside-down. And begin again. Slowly, very slowly. Here a seedling. There a tree. Here a flower. And you, young Sabir, a tall, broad-shouldered palm. Your hands would bring rocks from the depths of the earth and from the mountains. Those stones would shine like raw diamonds. We could colour them, decorate them, and build them into rows of beautiful houses that would stretch as far as the eye could see and stand for all eternity. The soldiers' metal detectors could ring all they liked, we wouldn't hear them." (207)
These are the thoughts Adil has as his enormous, ancient family house lays in ruins, the house that Khalifeh first described as "...a real, old-style mansion. There were marble pillars, high valuted ceilings and an open courtyard paved with huge stones. In the middle of the courtyard was a pool, surrounded by lemon trees and sweet-smelling jasmine. Arabesque plasterwork decorated the walls, stained glass lanterns reflected the light and the anitque chests in every room were inlaid with mother-of-pearl." (33)
As his world crumbles, Adil meditates on the poetry of nuclear terrorism-- to destroy all and begin again. Yet for Adil, he sees it only as a wish-fulfillment, a dream upon which he would never act. The novel closes as people go about their business, selling newspapers and other goods, buying vegetables, fruit and bread, surrendering to the same sad survival that Wiesel's holocaust victims did. Does Khalifeh give you insights into the souls of these men, that you don't see in the other two novels?
Gate of the Sun is an epic re-telling of the life of Palestinian refugees in Lebanaon since the Nakba of 1948. It was banned by Israel in the past but no longer. After it was translated into Hebrew, Khoury said that he workd just as hard dispelling Israeli stereotypes of the policeman and conqueror as he did Palestinian stereotypes of the beaten-down refugee angrily throwing stones. How does the dramatic monologue, narrated in the first person and addressed to the second person, compare to the one in The Patience Stone?
Born in Beirut in 1948 Professor Khoury is an NYU Professor of Middle Eastern studies, a novelist, playwright, and critic. He is also editor of AL-Mulhaq, the weekly cultural supplement of the Lebanese daily newspaper, Al-Nahar. He also wrote The Journey of Little Gandhi, The Little Mountain, Yalo and White Masks, which he talked about at the PEN 2010 World Voices Festival in New York. I was most struck by his wisdom and compassion. While other authors of censored books and politically volatile issues seem angry and didactic, Khoury has mellowed into an author/professor who sees the imperfection, ambivalence, humor and humanity in his characters.
Lady Chatterly's Lover, Sons and Lovers and other books were all banned, not only for explicit sexual scenes, but for the way they dethroned the pale, stale, male white supremacists of the time, by insinuating that the working class and those closest to nature were more potent than the landed gentry, and that their women could fall in love with these "lowly" creatures. Although it was first published in 1929 in Florence, Italy, it could not be published in the United Kingdom until 1960. It was censored because of the class-nature of the adulterous relationship, explicit sexual scenes, and "unprintable" words. Ironically, Lawrence once considered calling the novel "Tenderness." and wrote "tender" love scenes nestled in natural beauty at a time when this ecology was being subjugated to industrialism and development. Late twentieth century feminists found the book offensive because the graphic sex described ideal male sexuality rather than the clitoris-centered, multi-orgasmic activities of the liberated woman. Most of Lawrence's novels were censored by someone at some time, usually in the U.K. where he hit raw nerves. The young woman Constance, whose upper-class husband Clifford Chatterling, has been paralyzed and rendered impotent, is drawn into an affair with the gamekeeper Oliver Mellors.
David Herbert Lawrence was born in 1885 and died in 1930. An author, poet, essayist and literary critic, Lawrence's novels include Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterly's Lover. Perhaps he should have blossomed in the 1960s in America, the decade of free love, but censorship creates its own audience and fame. Trangressing class barriers may have been an even greater taboo than adultery.
The Vagrants is Li's first novel, set in Beijing in the late 1970s. With the suspense and narrative thrust of a well-written mystery, this novel captures a terrible period of Chinese history with compassion and wisdom, as the young heroine, Gu Shan's execution, spurs a brutal government reaction. This book garnered a Whiting award and was featured at PEN 2010 in New York. Li grew up in Beijing and came to the U.S. in 1996, where she got an MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She also wrote a collection entitled A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.
Read Children of the Alley (or Gebelaawi), paying close attention to how Mahfouz humanizes Abel, Cain, Adam, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, while bringing his own Islamic community to life. Do you find his work as blasphemous as Kazantzakis? How does his style differ--his descriptive language, use of metaphor, setting of scenes, juxtaposition of dramatic scene with narrative? Which book is more humorous, if that word could be used? Does Mahfouz, as a Muslim, do justice to Jesus? Do you find his portrayal of Mohammad offensive enough to warrant the assassination attempt and the fatwa issued against him by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman? Do you think writers should be able to write about anything they want? Are there things you would never write about for fear of embarrassment, offending friends and family, losing your job, being politically incorrect etc? What other things are censored in our society? Why is it that JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was a big hit and this film caused a lot of problems? Do you feel Kazantzakis is a 'good' Christian?
Lecture on Mahfouz and the Cairene Alley with pix from Evergreen's latest trip. Read selections of Bible, Torah and Koran aloud as well. Show films of Muslim apocalypse.
For more ideas about cross-cultural feminism, go to http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/twenty/bodyf.html.
Naguib Mafhouz is the best-known and most studied Arab novelist in the Anglophone world. Mafhouz was born in a warren of ancient alleys in the heart of Islamic Cairo, behind the al-Hussein Mosque, in the neighborhood of Gamaliyya, in December 1911. His father, a minor civil servant, was highly traditional, and his mother was doting, his childhood lonely but unremarkable. After attending Islamic elementary schools and a secular high school, he entered Cairo University (then King Faud 1) University and in 1934 graduated with a degree in philosophy. He remembers that period, which coincided with the anti-colonial movement against the British, as the happiest of his life--as "the golden age of patriotism....when the times themselves were listening to you," he wrote in his 1961 novel The Thief and the Dogs .
Until 1971, all his works were written late at night, for he spent his days as a government bureaucrat: as an official film censor, an adviser on the arts, and a minor functionary in various ministries, including the Ministry of Religious Affairs. A private, timid man who married late in life, Mahfouz is a strong believer, a bit of a mystic, and a Fabian socialist of the most passionate sort. Mahfouz married a Christian woman at age 43 and had two daughters and no grandchildren. He has never liked to travel, leaving Egypt some three times in his life. By the late 1950s, social realism had become the defining characteristic of his work. His well-ordered, punctilious, conservative daily life was the antithesis of the world he created in his books. Note what he says in this book we are studying: "We live in a repugnant age of slogans. And between the slogans and the truth is an abyss, into which we have all fallen and lost ourselves."
He published his first novel in 1939 and since then has written thirty-two novels and thirteen collections of short stories. This prolific writer's work appears to have gone through four stages. The first (1939-44) consisted of three novels based on the history of ancient Egypt, focusing on a cherished theme, the heroic struggle of the Egyptians and their patriotic Pharaohs to expel the foreign ruling invaders from their country. Like Camus' THE PLAGUE, THE STRUGGLE OF THEBES bore a relevance to Egyptian socio-political reality, the British occupation. In 1945, Mahfouz left the history of Phaoronic Egypt to write A NEW CAIRO. This led to the publication of THE CAIRO TRILOGY, in 1956-57, a realistic study of Egyptian urban society between the two World Wars. In THE MIRAGE, published in 1948, Mahfouz experimented with a psychoanalytic novel, inspired by Freud. In 1959 another stage began with OUR QUARTER, an allegory of human history. In the mid seventies he returned to the fourth stage where he asserts the unique voice of Arabic narrative forms in THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS and THE DAY THE LEADER WAS KILLED.
Mahfouz' world view is similar to Sartre's social commitment and responsibility, a far cry from the nihilism of Islamic extremists. His work reveals the irony of a European intellectual woven through the ancient Arabic storytelling. In 1988 the Swedish Academy gave him the Nobel Prize and wrote that "through works rich in nuance-- now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous, Mahfouz has formed an Arabic narrative art that applies to all mankind." His characters are warm and human, in spite of and because of their grotesque flaws from the tyrannical merchant of the Cairo Trilogy, to his debauched and fanatical sons, to the weak and wayward women who tempt and distract them. Yet there is a robust sensuality, a deep reverence for Islam, a generous tolerance and the creation of world so ripe and vivid that you want to savor it forever. Children of the Alley with its autocratic rulers and echoes of prophets found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, proved most controversial and prompted a religious fatwa calling for his death in 1989.
In 1994 there was a near-fatal assault on Mahfouz by Islamic terrorists, wonderfully described by Mary Anne Weaver in her book, A Portrait of Egypt (1999) when he was stabbed while sitting in his car. since then he has only been able to write for 30 minutes at a time because of injuried nerves. He must keep armed guards around his apartment even now, in 2002.90 year old Mahfouz was recently interviewed (2002) for the New York Times. He says that even now he struggles to write every day: "A writer must sit down to write every day, pick up his pen and try to write something-- anything-- on a piece of paper. Perhaps they will succeed, or maybe come up with a new idea that will blossom eventually. Perhaps they will complete a short story, and perhaps nothing will happen at all."
Like many of the writers we are studying, Mahfouz is intensely involved in political, social and philosophical debate. At 90 his eyes and ears are so impaired that a friend arrives every morning to read the headlines for an hour. He gave his first interest payments from his Nobel Prize to Palestinian charities and now defends suicide bombers, a common position among Arab intellectuals:
"They are people defending a cause by sacrificing with their souls, and this is the highest level of noble resistance, although the death of civilians is regrettable. We have to remember that this is not a regular fight, a regular war where you can choose your target and fight only soldiers. This is a desperate situation where you blow yourself up and whoever happens to be on the site."
At the same time he shows little patience for those who want to destroy Israel or censor freedom of expression or intercultural exchanges between Jews and Arabs. At the end of the interview, after discussing death, he said:
"That is the way of life. You give up your pleasures one by one until there is nothing left, and then you know it is time to go." He died in 2005 in Egypt.
Jean Said Makdisi
Jean Said Makdisi, a full-time resident in the Lebanese capital through the civil war, writes this unusual war memoir that combines beachcombing and housework with the horrors of death, destruction, and maiming. Israel feels that the book is anti-Israel, doing what Khoury tried not to do, which is to depict the Israelis as aggressive warmongers. What do you think?
Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea
Part One was published in Iraq in 1995, at which time Mikhail left the country in part due to censorship. The second part was written in the United States, and in 2009, the book was translated from Arabic to English and published by New Directions. Elizabeth Winslow and poetry editor, Jeffrey Yang, a friend of Professor Keefer's, transformed the unbroken, prose-poetry lines of Arabic in to a poetic, broken-lined English to create a poetic memoir, but included both Arabic and English versions, as well as family photos in this amazing book. It is very short, but to be read and re-read, savoring every word of this stark, poignant and provocative chef-d'oeuvre.. An ethnic Assyrian, Mihail was born in 1965 and was a literary editor for the Baghdad Observer and in 2001 she was awarded the United Nations Human Rights award for Freedom of Writing. Her poetry collection The War Works Hard won the PEN translation award in 2005.
Born in Shanghai in 1957, Min was sent to a labor camp at 17 years of age where she was discovered by talent scouts and enlisted in the Peking Revolutionary Opera. This amazing life story is recounted in her memoir Red Azalea, published in 1994 as a New York Times notable book.
The Bluest Eye was her first novel, published in 1970, and it is my favorite. It combines poetry and rabid cruelty and injustice in a unique, shattering way. Narrated by Claudia MacTeer, two years younger than Pecola, and her only friend, it takes place in 1940 and recounts the tragic life of Pecola Breedlove, raped physically and impregnated by her violent, alcoholic father, Cholly Breedlove, and raped spiritually by the fraudulent minister Soaphead Church who promises to give this insecure Afro- American girl blue eyes if she will feed meat to a sick, old dog, which has been secretly poisoned. This is enough to drive poor Pecola crazy where she retreats into a schizo world and invents an imaginary friend who reassures her that she has the bluest eyes in the world. It was challenged and censored in several school districts because of "vulgar, obscene" language and explicit, illegal sexual incidents. In 1994, it was removed from the 11th-grade curriculum at the Lathrop High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, and then challenged in Pennsylvania.
Morrison (b.1931) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She attended Howard University and Cornell and became a Professor of English, as well as an editor at Random House. Notable works also include Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved, Jazz, Love, Paradise and Mercy. From 1989 to 2006 she was the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University. Professor Keefer met her at PEN 2010, when she appeared with Marlene van Niekerk to discuss the latter's book Agaat, which she recommended before meeting the author, a middle-aged Caucasian Lesbian who writes in Africanus as well as English.
Mortenson/Relin: Read Three Cups of Tea to get a can-do positive approach to 21st century Afghanistan. How does this book differ from those written by Khadra, Rahimi, and Hosseini? This is background for the societal Wikis, not major literature.
Animal Farm is still banned all over the world because of how it glorifies pigs and incites revolution. Published in 1945, it recounds the Stalinist era, and was translated into French as L'Union des Republiques Sovietiques. This book has been banned all over the world in various places and times, including Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Moscow, Kenya, UAE, and Arab and Islamic countries.
My Name is Red. Aesthetic Islam. Every time I read this book, I revisit my trip to the historic palaces and mosques in ancient Istanbul. Saudi Arabia calls this idolatry. The Wahhabi approach to Islam is more puritanical than the Turkish one.
Pamuk superimposes the pass-the-ball Caravan narrative style of his multiple narrators over a traditional murder mystery plot. The Central Dramatic Question is asked at the Inciting Incident by the corpse rotting in the well after his murder in the first chapter. We learn right away that he thinks he was the best illuminator in Our Sultan's workshop and wants vindication for the guild and his family.
The Theme is interwoven through the history and descriptions of the conflict between art and religion, articulated first on p. 17 by the murderer, whose identity remains unknown till the end: "Does a miniaturist, ought a miniaturist, have his own personal style? A use of color, a voice all his own?
Plot Point One develops in Chapter 18, beginning on p. 97 when the murderer adopts a second voice and personality distinct from another narrative voice he presumably has in the story. He discusses how evil has empowered him, "There was a time when I was terrified not only of the Devil but of the slightest trace of evil within me. Now, however, I have the sense that evil can be endured, and moreover, that it's indispensable to an artist. After I killed that miserable excuse of a man, discounting the trembling in my hands which lasted only a few days, I drew better, I made use of brighter and bolder colors, and most important, realized that I could conjure up wonders in my imagination." (101) We realize that the murderer must therefore be one of the artists.
Midpoint occurs when this same murderer kills Black's Uncle and Shekure's father by repeated blows with an inkpot. Naturally, he dies slowly, visited by memories of the guild, his daughter and visits by Azrael, the Angel of Death. This is followed by the marriage of Shekure to Black.
Plot Point Two occurs when Master Osman plucks out his eyes with a plume needle on p 324.
Crisis occurs when Black, Butterfly and Stork gang up against Olive, looking for that famous last picture that would inculpate the murderer.
The climax occurs when Black blinds Olive, the murderer, after seeing the final portrait made up of many of the non-human narrators such as the Dog, Dervishes, Tree. To their surprise, Olive's portrait is where the Sultan's was supposed to be. Olive confesses that he murdered Elegant Effendi, the corpse at the well, to supposedly save the workshop, and then Black's Uncle because he forced Master Osman into mimicking the Venetian artist, Sebastiano and because Osman said Olive had a style of his own. As he is dying, Olive succeeds in wounding Black by stabbing him in the shoulder. When they finish with Olive, he is supposedly going to Hindustan , blinded and ruined, but in his garden he is beheaded by Hasan, Shekure's brother.
The resolution occurs when the wounded, bloodied Black returns to Shekure who nurses his wounds and gives him a blowjob. They live happily ever after or at least until Black dies naturally of a heart attack in old age.
Meanwhile, the miniaturists fade out as the world is taken by the new Frankish painters and the Renaissance. Shekure's father's book remains unfinished.
Pamuk has meticulously created the world of late sixteenth century Ottoman Empire in Istanbul , fictionalized a story based on the 1591 story of Black and the Ottoman painters. Olive was the name of a Persian miniaturist who came to the Court in 1583. Pamuk wrote and researched 15 hours a day, embedded in the Topkapi Palace , libraries, museums and mosques along the Divan Yolu which still looks today much as it did during the height of the Ottoman empire .
Pamuk's favorite writers are Nabakov and Proust, while Rushdie's favorite books are Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, Metamorphosis by Ovid, and Ulysses by James Joyce.
Orhan Pamuk explains why he refused state honors: "For years I have been criticizing the state for putting authors in jail, for only trying to solve the Kurdish problem by force, and for its narrow-minded nationalism. He writes about Turkey 's two souls, east and west, which could potentially enrich the culture. His first novel, Cevdet Bey and his Sons, a dynastic saga of the Istanbul bourgeoisie, appeared in 1982 after an eight-year search for a publisher. He describes Istanbul as a place "no symmetry, no sense of geometry, no two lines in parallel, " which would make it the opposite of New York . Come to Evergreen's recent trip to Istanbul , January 2004!
The White Castle (1979) is the story of a Turkish master and his European slave. By the end of the novel the two main chracters are indistinguishable. One of them dies but we are not quite sure which. The Black Book, (1990), a mystery that arrives at no obvious solution, takes place in modern Istanbul and confirmed his international reputation.
Like many of our writers, he is an outspoken political activist: "It is neither Islam nor even poverty itself directly that succcours terrorists whose ferocity and creativity are unprecedented in human history, but the crushing humiliation that has infected third world countries like cancer." He feels rich western nations, particularly American, do not listen to or understand the damned of the world. In his writing he tries to unclash civilizations and bridge time gaps, giving the modern world a rich sense of history.
Pamuk was first runner-up for the Nobel Prize in 2005ólost to Harold Pinter who was older and dying. However he won it in 2006.
My Name is Red , sometimes called Call me Crimson, or Color me Confused, as some students have coined it, has as many narrators as I have in my second novel although mine are all non-human, and Pamuk uses his main characters, their dying bodies and corpses, secondary characters, as well as personifying images in the pictures such as a tree, a horse, and abstractions like Satan, red and death. "It was so much fun to impersonate my characters! I enjoyed finding the voice of a sixteenth century ottoman miniaturist, a mother of two children who is looking for a husband, the voice of her kids, the demonic voice of a murderer, and the narrative of a dead man on his way to heaven. Not only my characters speak in my story but objects and colors as well. I thought all these distinctive voices would produce a rich music-- the texture of life in Istanbul four hundred years ago. These shifts in view also reflect the novel's main concern about looking at the world form our point of view versus the point of view of a supreme being. All of this is related to the use of perspective in painting. My characters live in a world where the restrictions of perspective do not exist so they speak in their own voice with their own humanity...Orhan is not my alter ego; he is me. Most of the details and some of the anecdotes of the lonely mother and her son's relationship are derived from my own experience. I also keep mother's and brother's names in the story. The rivalry between the brothers, their constant quarrels, fights, and their negotiating peace and jealousy of their mother are autobiograpical. By carrying the details of my childhood into my historical novel I try to give it a personal dimension. It took me six years to write this book, Ottomans were great record keepers. So for hours I used to read the prices of various clothes, fish or vegetables in Istanbul markets in a given year....I learned that barbers perfomed circumcisions or pulled teeth for the right prices. ....Ever since the age of six, I thought I would be a painter. When I was a kid I used to copy the Ottoman miniature paintings. Later I was influenced by Western painting but I stopped at twenty when I began writing fiction...The more you imitate and repeat, the more perfect you are. After years of painting and re-painting the same scene, the painters begin to memorize it...This is why the master painter does not need to see what he creates. One is that of seeing the world through the eyes of any individual person--looking at things from our humble point of view. The other is seeing the world through God's eyes, from high above as Islamic painters did, and perceiving a totality....The latter is more like seeing with the mind's eye rather than the eye itself." The time frame weaves between recursive, superimposing over the murders, and pass the ball, a favorite technique of Egyptians such as Yusuf al Qaid. Even today, the old city of Istanbul with the blue mosque, the Golden Horn , the palaces of the Sultans, remains very similar to the way it is in this novel.
The book opens as the corpse of Elegant Effendi talks to us. The second murder of Enishte Effendi, Black's maternal uncle, occurs midway through the book and he takes a while to die, long enough for the thread to be picked up by Shekure et al. The love story is between Black and Shekure, whose husband has gone, leaving her to care for her two children, Orhan and Shevket. Master Osnan directs Our Sultan's workshop and the miniaturist painters Olive, Butterfly, Stork and the late Elegant Effendi. The intellectual conflict is between painters who paint like the Franks or Europeans, and those who consider this blasphemous because the Koran forbids representations of humans. Yet the irony is that everyone wants to have their portrait painted, that art can sometimes be more beautiful than life, and that art work could be a way of worshipping Allah's glorious world. Hence the tragedy, temptation and almost titillation of going blind. The murders are committed supposedly because of these arguments, arguments which we see today with the Taliban and Islamic artists all over the world. Pamuk discusses the individuality of style and the fact that if the miniaturists imitate the Franks then they will lose their style. Western culture is predicated on being unique, special, different. What does it mean to sign your name to a work of art? Not all cultures do this. Which one of the miniaturists is most likely to kill Elegant Effendi? What do you think of the almost sadistic events at the end of the novel? What does blindness mean to you? Which is your most treasured sense? Do you see the world a different way after reading this book?
Lecture on Ottoman Empire , Saudi Wahhabism, Sufism, and the multiple narrator style.
I met Atiq Rahimi at PEN world voices festival 2010, when he read in French from The Patience Stone, (Sang-e Saboor or La Pierre de Patience) which won Le Prix Goncourt. Although he was born in Afghanistan, this is his first book written in French. It takes place in a closed room between an archetypal he and she, caught in the no exit situation of the war, women's lack of liberation, and the fact that her husband is brain-dead from a bullet wound. Rahimi masterfully gives voice to this suppressed Afghan woman so artfully and dramatically that he upstaged all other contenders for the Goncourt prize.
PEN interview with Ecco, Rushdie and Llosa from 2008.
Interview with NYU Journalism http://nyuprimarysources.org
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie (he was knighted in 2007 because of his literary contributions) is a dynamic, articulate, charismatic writer who speaks as well as he writes, and would have been an actor if his literary career were not so successful. He is the foremost postmodern writer of the late twentieth century, inseminating his books with magical realism, fantasy, vitriolic satire, lush locales, and characters who are even more charismatic and multi-dimensional than he! Rushdie was born to liberal, prosperous Muslim parents in Bombay June 19, 1947. In August 14 of that year, Pakistan divided itself from India as part of an agreement ending the period of British colonialism in South Asia . The result was a chaotic and extremely violent period as 6 million Muslims moved north to the newly-established Islamic state and 8 million Hindus and Sikhs moved south fleeing it. In 1961 he moved to England to study at Rugby School and then Kings College, Cambridge. He then worked for advertising agencies before becoming a full-time writer. In 1980 he published MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN which won the Booker Prize but gained a law suit from Indira Gandhi who won her libel case before she was assassinated. In 1983 he published SHAME and in 1988 SATANIC VERSES. Like India, SATANIC VERSES is dense, multicultural, creative, rich, magical, chaotic, a complex "chutneyfication" of echoes and allusions that Rushdie infuses with biting satire. Like Wittgenstein, Rushdie seeks to attack questions rather than provide pat answers and paradigms, to break down the rigid, self-righteous orthodoxy of extremist Islam. Recent books are FURY and a collection of essays.He was President of PEN America for several years and is known for his leadership in PEN World Voices. He has written a number of novels on different topics such as Midnight's Children, (won the Booker Prize in 1981) Shame, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath her Feet(1999), Fury, Shalimar the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence, (2008), as well as essays on literature, politics, and religion in Step Across this Line and Free Expression is No Offence. He published a children's book, Luka and the Fire of Life in 2010, is writing a screenplay for Midnight's Children, and is working on a memoir that is due 2012. He lives in New York but travels extensively. Some of Rushdie's work, like Satanic Verses, is highly coded and requires extensive footnotes to understand his references. Even this will not solve all the puzzles. He uses Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Farsi and Arabic words, London immigrant slang as well as local places and people, Indian movies and cinema stars, local places in Bombay, and references to classical literature, twentieth century science, American pop culture and British history in a potpourri of surrealist images, pure fantasy, postmodern word games and disregard for conventional dramaturgy or narrative structure, although he has a meticulous structure of his own, like Joyce.
It is impossible to understand twentieth century literature without examining the postmodern movement, a movement which in many ways eludes analysis. In some respects, at least in America, it was a rebellion against classical forms and structures, an attempt to create new and fresh language, to play with chance and hybrid forms, but the movement was from the American realist tradition to postmodern so that it often produces even simpler, anti-elitist forms, creating conformity with blank verse and certain kinds of imagery. Satanic Verses grows out of the British post-colonial period.
Satanic Verses is a postmodern novel but with its coded language and references, it is similar to Ulysses by Joyce, and because it requires so much work and knowledge to understand every word, particularly in Hindi and Farsi. Rushdie doesn't seem to be trying to create conventional dramatic structures but there are crises and climaxes as described in Aristotle's Poetics, and there are definitely journeys from the Ordinary to the Special Worlds as described in the Campbell monomyth, but mainly his stories find their own rhythms in a fantastical kaleidoscope of magical realism. It could be argued, however, that the entire novel is a simple memoir, a coming-of-age story of a London immigrant flying to Bombay to say farewell to his dying father, a man of many identities whose psychological conflicts resemble a kind of paranoid schizophrenia or manic depression, symbolized by Gibreel and Saladin. It could also be argued that the caustic treatment of Mohammad and his wives, the turbulent distortions of the Koran, the Hajj, and the Satanic Verses of Lat, Uzza and Manat reflect the narrator's frustration, anger and impotence as he deals with the death of his father. Although born Muslim, Rushdie became a humanist agnostic or atheist when he lived in London, influenced by science, modernism and existentialism of the twentieth century. Then he filled the empty space with his fantasies. However, at the end of Satanic Verses, Gibreel puts a gun to his mouth, leaving the more practical Saladin to claim his father's inheritance. Gibreel was the one who was dreaming the distorted history of Islam and by murdering this character, Rushdie murders all its associations.
Most Muslims do not appreciate this book although few feel that Rushdie should die for it. Although Tahar ben Jalloun creates his own version of French postmodern, it is a style that blends the grace of Arabic poetry with pure faith and sincere political activism. The combination of Rushdie's wild, almost inaccessible postmodern style, with his lack of conventional dramaturgy, borrowing from Ovid and other writers, and bitter, caustic description of Islam infuriated Muslims more than the work of Mahfouz who at least has compassion for the faith. If they had understood it as an escape into a psychotic dream world as well as a rage against the impotence of death (from his father's cancer), some Muslims might have been less angry. In America and England it was published by Picador, a house that is reputedly very literary and selective. I feel Rushdie wanted to create for Indian immigrant culture what Joyce created for Irish culture with Ulysses using Ovid instead of Homer as a theme, and Islam instead of Catholicism as a system to rage against. Instead he is still a ripe target for rabid Islamists.
How do you know when a prophet is hearing the words of Satan instead of God? According to one version of history, Mohammad heard the voice of Satan through the three goddesses, Lat, Manat, and Uzza, or power, money and sex. Dramaturgically, Satanic Verses doesn't amount to much and the story could be reduced to a postmodern reverie during a plane trip of an ex-pat from London to Bombay. However, the narrative sequencing, linguistic style and weaving of postmodern word plays, fantasy resembling magical realism, and references to the Koran and Ovid's Metamorphosis, make the book seem more complex than it is, just like Joyce's Ulysses. A meditation on the transformation from good to bad and bad to good, it is another attempt to humanize the prophets by focusing on the Satanic Verses, and the Angel Gabriel as a potentially evil force, but while Mahfouz and Kazantzakis are actually believers who humanize the prophets and treat religious beliefs and needs with compassion, Rushdie's satire is bitter and vitriolic. Although born a Muslim he is not a believer. But Islam is only a small part of this book; it is really about metamorphosis, reincarnation, hybrid cultures and the search for home.
In some ways this is a coming of age story of a London immigrant returning to Bombay to forgive his dying father. It's almost as if he has two selves--represented by Chamcha and Gibreel. Gibreel is schizophrenic and plagued by his megalomaniacal version of Islam. He commits suicide after murdering a few people. Chamcha forgives his father and collects the inheritance. However, it is absurd to reduce it to this logline. What appeals to me about the book is its rich style, magical fantasies, and thought-provoking creation of the worlds of Islam and immigrant London . You don't have to agree with Rushdie, or any author, to get something out of their work. "Joyce built a whole universe out of a grain of sand." Somewhere in that hyperactive brain also roams the spirit of the Irish-born writer James Joyce (1882-1941). Rushdie: "Joyce is always in my mind, I carry him everywhere with me."
Who it was who called his attention to Ulysses (published in Paris in 1922) Rushdie does not remember, but he knows that it was in the first year of his study of history. "Everyone said that it was such a sealed book, hard to penetrate, but I did not think so at all. You never hear people say that there is so much humor in the book, that the characters are so lively or that the theme - Stephen Daedalus in search of his lost father and Bloom looking for his lost child - is so moving. People talk about the cleverness of Ulysses and about the literary innovation. To me it was moving, in the first place."
Stephen and Bloom, those were the characters which touched him immediately. He quotes from memory: "'Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.'. Those were the first lines of the second chapter. I am myself disgusted by that kind of organs," he grinned. "There are still so many little things I always have to smile about when I think of them. That commercial, for example: 'What is home/without Plumtree's Potted Meat?/ Incomplete' That is still funny. Joyce used many stylistic means which were novel in his time, newspaper headlines for instance. Is it not moving that he makes Ulysses happen on the day that he met his wife! He kept that newspaper, carried it always with him and used all of its details, including the names of the horses in the races. In short, he built a universe out of a grain of sand. That was a revelation to me: so that is the way one could also write! To somebody who wanted to be a writer, like me, it was so perfect, so inspiring, that it made one need to recover. I have thought for some time: I quit writing, I become a lawyer. Later I thought that there may be some little things still worth doing."
And what about Joyce's famous interior monologue? "That stream of consciousness was not an invention of Joyce, but he used it more subtly than anyone else. Bloom's inner voices were about very common things, about a hungry feeling or so. Joyce demonstrates that the material of daily life can be as majestic as any great epic. The lives of ordinary people are also worthy of great art. One can create grandeur out of banality. That was precisely the criticism Virgina Woolf had on Joyce. Woolf was a bit too snobbish for it."
As the best example of the stream of consciousness Rushdie "of course" considers Molly Blooms monologue at the end of the book. "In the past I could recite whole parts of it: 'and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.' That conclusion is absolutely rocket fuel at the end. You have a book behind you in which the behavior of people is not strictly transparent and then suddenly you feel not only the skin of that woman, but her whole body, all her flesh and blood, that is a baffling climax. Of course also very erotic, although as yet the novel was not erotic at all. At that time literature did not extend to erotics, to the sexual fantasies of women. Impossible to imagine Virginia Woolf doing something like that." When I was a teenager, I choreographed and performed a modern dance to a tape I made of the unexpurgated Molly Bloom soliloquy. No one was shocked in the seventies in Boston.
Ulysses is in fact a national epic about Ireland. "It is a grand homage to the country that has never understood him," says Rushdie. "He was regarded there as a pornographer and blasphemer. Now he is viewed as Ireland 's national monument. Well, that's easy. I do understand how Joyce felt. I am close to him. I feel a kinship, not so much between our types of authorship, but rather between his eye and ear, his mind and mine. The way one looks at things."
Nevertheless, they would not have become friends, he believes. "Joyce was not very good at friendship. There is a story about his put-down of Samuel Beckett, who adored him and often came by his place. He plainly told him that he only loved two people in the world: the first being his wife, the second his daughter. His only encounter with Proust was also very comical. Joyce and Proust met each other when leaving a party. Proust had his coach standing at the door and was wrapped up from head to foot, afraid as he was to catch a cold. Joyce jumps into the coach uninvitedly, lights a cigar and opens the window widely. Proust says nothing, neither does Joyce. It is like a silent movie. Two masters of the word, who say nothing to each other and yet disclose themselves. Fantastic!"
In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Joyce mentions the weapons with which a writer can defend himself against the outer world: silence, exile, and cunning. Are those the weapons Rushdie recognizes? "Well, that was a very good stratagem in the time of Joyce. Like Voltaire, Joyce believed that a writer should live near a border, so that he could leave immediately if problems arose. At present that does not work anymore: I have experienced it personally. And silence is an overrated art form, which people now too often impose upon you."
But are writers not regarded more and more as intellectuals and are they not continually asked for an opinion? "I believe that worldwide there are more and more efforts to impose silence upon writers - and that not only applies to me. It is easy to point to the Arab world, or to China , but even in the United States there are people who want to ban Harry Potter books from schools, because they contain something about witchcraft. Even something harmless like that provokes an attack. We live in a time with an increasing urge to censorship. Various interest groups--including antiracist or feminist movements-- demand it. When Kurt Vonnegut is banned from public libraries and not everywhere it is allowed to teach about Huckleberry Finn, then you just cannot assume straight-away that there is something like freedom. Against silence it is that now we have to fight. And exile does not work. Therefore, cunning is the only thing that remains."
"If the old refused to die, the new could not be born." (561) What do you think of the theme of this book?
Visiting Saladin, he confesses, then draws a revolver from the "magic" lamp Saladin had inherited from his father, and shoots himself. Zeeny Vakil's final words to Saladin, "Let's get the hell out of here," may be ambiguous: they could mean only "Let's leave," but she may also be inviting him to leave the realm of the Satanic in which he has been living for so long.
The novel aptly begins with Saladin Chamcha and Gibreel Farishta falling from an expoding airplane, hijacked by Shiite terrorists, to the shores of Britain. Chamcha is an anglicized Indian who has lived in England since youth, while Gibreel, a religious movie star, recently recovered from an illness where he lost faith in Islam, comes to England to pursue Alleluia Cone who he fell in love with in India. Upon arrival, Saladin grows horns and hooves and thick hair develops all over his body, while Gibreel acquires a halo, metamorphosing into forces of good and evil which Rushdie then blurs by making Saladin embrace his Indian heritage while Gibreel begins to doubt his pro-Western choices. At the end Saladin is bettered by his transformation while Gibreel, who was the "angel," commits suicide to escape from his dilemmas. What Muslims most object to are the dreams of Gibreel, the story of Jahilia and Mahound, the latter referring to the prophet Mohammed and the former referring to the city of "ignorance," or Mecca . He then refers to the great personalities of Islam as "fucking clowns," "riff-raff," and "goons." The verses of the Koran are "revelations of convenience." They particularly hate his discussion of sex where "sodomy and the missionary position were apporved by the archangel, whereas the forbidden positions included all those in which the female was on top." Mahound is guilty of "fucking as many women as he liked," including mothers and daughters.
Salman Rushdie still cannot fly Air Canada because the airline is afraid some Islamist extremist will bring down the plane in an effort to fulfill the fatwa issued by Iran after publication of Satanic Verses. Yet this is a book of fiction. Islamic rebuttal to Western condemnation of Fatwa against Satanic Verses, Semseddin Turk, the President of the MIT Islamic Society writes, "Because of the unequivocal attempt at associating itself with real events, THE SATANIC VERSES is dangerously, even criminally, misleading for a Western audience that knows little about Islam and Muslims. Rushdie's metaphors and symbols are strongly reminiscent of and reinforce traditional Western prejudices and myths about Islam. THE SATANIC VERSES is one of the most slanted works in a regular cycle of intentional or unintentional misrepresentations of Islam and Muslims in media sources and textbooks. Because of its wild implications and virulent language, the novel constitutes an unprecedented assault on Islam, and indirectly, on the Abrahamic religions preceding it."
Westerners rebut that Muslims are being too literal and unimaginative, confusing postmodern, deconstructionist fictional techniques, irony, and suspension of disbelief with deliberately malicious anti-Islamic propaganda, thereby repressing freedom of speech. Muslims protest against the use of obscene, violent language when dealing with respected Muslim religious leaders. Nikos Kazantzakis also received similar criticism, without eternal death threats, for THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.
In an open letter to Rajiv Ghandhi, Rushdie states: "The section of the book in question (and let's remember the book isn't actually about Islam, but about migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay) deals with a prophet who is not called Muhammed living in a highly fantastical city...in which he is surrounded by fictional followers, one of whom happens to bear my own first name. Moreover, this entire sequence happens in a dream, the fictional dream of a fictional character, an Indian movie star, and one who is losing his mind at that. How much further from history could one get?"
The theme is a search for identity in a post-colonial, pre-colonial vein. People of Anglo-saxon stock are almost entirely absent form the London of THE SATANIC VERSES. Instead the city swarms with immigrants: Indians, Bengalis, Pakistanis, Jamaicans, German Jews, etc. He reminds the English that they too were colonized, by the Romans and the Normans . Interestingly, he rejects both martyrdom and triumphant nationalism as inadequate foundations for a satisfactory self-identity, questioning the credibility and beneficence of orthodox, traditional Islam. Gibreel's dreams challenge the Koran's claims to infallibility, accuse Islam of the repression of women, call into question the probity and honesty of the Prophet himself. He spares no institution or person in his quest to answer the question, what kind of idea are we? Underneath its complex structure Rushdie reaffirms beliefs in individual liberty and tolerance, freedom of expression, skepticism about dogma, and belief in the redemptive power of love. Again Rushdie voices some of the issues developed by Sartre in his affirmation of human freedom and responsibility in a world devoid of absolutes. Rusdie writes about the novel in his essay, "Is Nothing Sacred?" "Because whereas religion seeks to privilege one language above all others, the novel has always been about the way in which different languages, values and narratives quarrel, and about the shifting relations between them, which are relations of power. The novel does not seek to establish a privileged language, but it insists upon the freedom to portray and analyze the struggle between the different contestants for such privileges. (420) ...while the novel answers our need for wonderment and understanding, it brings us harsh and unpalatable news as well. It tells us there are no rules. It hands down no commandments....And it tells us there are no answers; or rather, it tells us that answers are easier to come by, and less reliable, than questions. If religion is an answer, if political ideology is an answer, then literature is an inquiry; great literature, by asking extraordinary questions, opens new doors in our minds. (423) "In the twentieth century, the novel came to be viewed as primarily oppositional, critical of the culture which produced it. Rather than providing values, it challenges them. Modern novels are praised for their courage in exposing hypocrisy, challenging tradition, exploring forbidden themes. If blasphemy is not the most common of techniques in western fiction it is because so few writers take religion seriously enough to feel it worth attacking. "(Rushdie:"In God We Trust"376-377)
In 1988 VikingPenguin published SATANIC VERSES at which point a Saudi newspaper in London denounced him. Threats and complaints followed and in 1989 the book was burned before TV cameras in England , 5 members of an extremist group attacked the American Culture Center in Islamabad , and in Kashmir, sixty were injured and one died in a protest. For these questions and his playful satire, Rushdie was condemned to death by the Ayotollah Khomeini of Iran in the following fatwa: "I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled SATANIC VERSES--which has been compiled, printed and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran--and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death."
He elaborates: "I call on zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one else will dare to insult the Muslim sanctities. God Willing, whoever is killed on this path is a martyr." Rushdie defended himself as follows: "Nowadays...a powerful tribe of clerics has taken over Islam. These are the contemporary Thought Police. They have turned Muhammad into a perfect being, his life into a perfect life, his revelation into the unambiguous, clear event it originally was not. Powerful taboos have been erected. One may not discuss Muhammad as if he were human, with human virtues and weaknesses. One may not discuss the growth of Islam as a historical phenomenon, as an ideology born out of its time. These are the taboos against which THE SATANIC VERSES has transgressed (these and one other: I also tried to write about the place of women in Islamic society, and in the Koran). It is for the breach of taboo that the novel is being anathematized, THE SATANIC VERSES is not, in my view, an antireligious novel. It is, however, an attempt to write about migration, its stresses and transformations, from the point of view of migrants from the Indian subcontinent to Britain . This is, for me, the saddest irony of all; that after working for five years to give voice and fictional flesh to the immigrant culture of which I am myself a member, I should see my book burned, largely unread, by the people it's about, people who might find some pleasure and much recognition in its pages. I tried to write against stereotypes; the zealot protests serve to confirm, in the Western mind, all the worst stereotypes of the Muslim world." (The Book Burning 25) Even though his book was fiction, Rushdie was personally blamed for its ideas. The extremists lack humor and suspension of disbelief as well as tolerance. But the book itself as well as the political controversy are good examples of the dilemmas of role criticism, which we will examine in the American Jewish and Palestinian interpretations of occupations and Israeli checkpoints.
The story of the Satanic Verses is not mentioned either in the Koran or in any of the early oral or written sources. It is not included in Ibn Ishaq's SIRA, the most authoritative biography of the Prophet, but only in the work of the tenth century historian Abu Jafar at-Tabari (d.923). He tells us that Muhammad was distressed by the rift that had developed between him and most of his tribe after he had forbidden the cult of the goddesses and so, inspired by Satan, he uttered some rogue verses which allowed the banned al-Lah to be venerated as intercessors, like the angels. In these so-called Satanic Verses, the three goddesses were not on a par with al-Lah but were lesser spiritual beings who could intercede with him on behalf of mankind. Later, however, Tabari says that Gabriel told the Prophet that these verses were of Satanic origin and should be excised from the Koran to be replaced by verses saying they were mere projections and figments of the imagination. As a magical realist, Rushdie chooses to focus l his attention on these figments.
Plot Summary for Chapter I
"To be born again, first you have to die."This chapter is preceded by an epigraph from Book I, Chapter VI of Daniel Defoe's The Political History of the Devil as well Ancient as Modern (London: T. Warner, 1726), p. 81. Defoe's location of Satan's abode as the air is of course highly appropriate for this novel in which the demonic falls from the air. But more importantly, the Devil is a wanderer, an image of the rootless immigrant. The novel opens with the two main characters, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, falling to earth because the plane they have been flying in has just been blown up by the terrorists who have hijacked it. We are then told a good deal of detail about their backgrounds, their occupations, their love affairs, and how they happened to find themselves together on the plane. Then the story of the hijacking is told, leading up to the moment of explosion which began the novel. This is my favorite chapter in terms of style and flights of imagination, delicious metaphors and similes: "The aircraft cracked in half, a seed-pod giving up its spores, an egg yielding its mystery. Two actors, prancing Gibreel and buttony, pursed Mr Saladin Chamcha, fell like titbits of tabacco from a broken old cigar." (4) QWay before 9/11, Rushdie captured the thinking of jihadhis: "Martyrdom is a privilege, We shall be like stars; like the sun." (88) Note that its is a female suicide bomber who pulled the wire so the walls could come tumbling down to -- life, not death, for the subject of this novel is metamorphosis. Hinting at reincarnation, Rushdie seems more like an Indian Hindu, than a Muslim, which was his childhood religion.
Plot outline for Chapter II
Gibreel falls asleep and "dreams" the beginning of the other main plot of the novel, the story of Mahound, more or less closely based on the traditions surrounding Muhammad and the founding of Islam in the seventh century. It is this plot that resulted in the attacks on Rushdie by Muslim critics. We see Mahound surveying the city of Jahilia and are introduced to various significant locales. The period corresponds historically to the early days of Muhammad's preaching in Mecca, where he was not widely accepted, and the Ka'ba was still filled with pagan idols, including those of the three goddesses who are the focus of the "satanic verses." Mahound's preaching has earned the hatred of the ruler of Jahilia, Abu Simbel, whose fortune is derived from worshippers at their temples. Abu Simbel, aware that Baal is his wife Hind's lover, blackmails the poet Baal to satirize Mahound and his companions. But then he tries a more effective alternative to render the prophet harmless by offering him toleration if he in turn will acknowledge the three goddesses, Lat, Uzza and Manat, whose temples he and his wife receive their income from. Mahound horrifies his followers by seeming to be willing to deviate from his message of strict monotheism. He consults with the Angel Gibreel, who has up to this point been dictating holy scripture to him, and becomes convinced that the "satanic verses" quoted at the bottom of p. 114 [top of p. 117], acknowledging the three goddesses, should be proclaimed as inspired, though the narrator hints on p. 112  that they have been inspired not by God, but by the devil.
Mahound's decision produces an orgy of celebration which results in death for some, and he himself wakes up in Hind's bedroom. Mahound realizes the "satanic verses" are indeed satanic, and goes to the Ka'ba to repudiate them. A fierce persecution of Mahound's followers is unleashed, and he has to flee to Yathrib. Gibreel dreams that he is being attacked by the goddesses, for in his dream-role as the archangel/devil he has been responsible both for suggesting the verses and repudiating them. Muslims were particularly offended by Rushdie's descriptions of Mahound wrestling with the archangel where the latter's tongue was in his ear, his fist around his balls: "After they had wrestled for hours or even weeks Mahound was pinned down beneath the angel, it's what he wanted, it was his will filling me up and giving me the strength to hold him down, because archangels can't lose such fights, it wouldn't be right, it's only devils who get beaten in such circs, so the moment I got on top he started weeping for joy and then he did his old trick, forcing my mouth open and making the voice, the Voice, pour out of me once again, made it pour all over him, like sick." (125) At the end it seems as if Lat, Uzza, and Manat have turned into Grecian-style furies flapping around hhis head, clawing at his eyes, biting, whipping him with their hair, their wings. Rushdie implies that evil is within, that it cannot be wished away, or continuing the attack on Islam, stoned in the Jamarat rite of the hajj. Evil resides in all of us, in our thoughts, our unconscious.
Plot outline for Chapter III
Rosa Diamond, an old woman who spends much of her time dreaming about the past (the Norman Invasion and her own, in Argentina), witnesses Gibreel and Saladin's descent to earth and rescues them; but Saladin is arrested as an illegal immigrant, while Rosa dies. The police strip and humiliate Saladin, who discovers that he is turning into a hairy, goatlike creature. In a bizarre secret hospital where animal/human experiments reminiscent of H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau are being carried out he is befriended by a physiotherapist and escapes.
The scene shifts to Saladin's home where his wife Pamela, rather than grieving for him, has started an affair with Jumpy Joshi, and does not welcome the news that he is still alive. The two lovers flee and engage in an orgy of lovemaking until Saladin finds them in his goatlike form. On the train to London Gibreel is bored by an African immigrant of South Asian origin with the same name as a "false prophet" in Islamic tradition: Maslama. Various signs convey to Gibreel that he is evolving into an angel. This scene shifts to introduce Alleluia Cone, former lover of Gibreel, speaking to a class of schoolgirls about her career as a mountain-climber. Gibreel, entering London, haunted by the ghost of another lover--Rekha Merchant--runs into her on the street.
Plot outline for Chapter IV
Gibreel's dreams resume with a narrative imitation of a long zoom shot focusing in on the fanatical Imam, in exile in London. This figure is clearly based on the Iranian Muslim fundamentalist leader, the Ayatollah Khomeni. His companions are named after prominent companions of Muhammad, and his enemy in his homeland of Desh is named after Muhammad's favorite wife. Gibreel as angel carries the Imam to the capital city of Desh, as the Islamic Gibreel had carried Muhammad to Jerusalem. They witness a popular revolution in which the evil Ayesha dies. From her dead body springs the spirit of Al-lat, one of the three goddesses of the "satanic verses," but she is defeated by Gibreel. The Imam triumphs and tries to freeze time by destroying all the clocks in the land. Rushdie provides his own commentary on this image in discussing the Iranian revolution: ". . . the revolution sets out quite literally to turn back the clock. Time must be reversed" ("In God We Trust" 383).
A separate plot now begins, involving Mirza Saeed Akhtar, his wife Mishal, and the mystical, mysterious and beautiful Ayesha (a quite different figure from the Ayesha of the Desh plot, but in the long run equally destructive). As Mirza watches the butterfly-clad Ayesha, he longs for her. A long flashback tells of Ayesha's girlhood and introduces us to several characters from the village of Titlipur. Mirza Saeed tries to transmute his lust for the girl into passion for his wife, but it is Mishal who becomes close to Ayesha. This intimacy is a disaster, for the seemingly insane girl claims to have been told by the Angel Gibreel that Mishal has breast cancer. The only cure, she pronounces, is to make a foot-pilgrimage to Mecca. Unfortunately, this involves walking across the Arabian Sea. The skeptical and furious Mirza Saeed cannot stop his wife from going, but decides to accompany them in hopes of somehow saving her.
Plot outline for Chapter V
Back in contemporary London, the guilt-ridden Jumpy Joshi takes the goatlike Saladin Chamcha back to his apartment above the Shaandaar Cafe, dominated by Hind, the wife of Muhammad Sufyan. (The name of the cafe means something like "splendid" or "glorious.") This Hind is not as lascivious as the one in the "satanic verses" plot, but she is almost as fierce. She has two teenaged daughters--Mishal and Anahita--who will become fascinated with the strange man/devil that Saladin has become. We pause in the plot to learn more about the family and its interrelationships. Hind muses on the disgusting weirdness that is London.
A dream provides details of Saladin's escape from the "hospital." He phones his old work partner, Mimi Mamoulian, only to find that he has lost his job. He briefly encounters the name of Billy Battuta, who will figure prominently in the novel later. His old boss, Hal Valance, explains why his television series has been cancelled. He is enraged to learn that Gibreel is alive, and--far from helping him out in any way--is claiming he missed Flight 420 and seems to be engaged into making his "satanic verses" dreams into a movie. Meanwhile his wife has become pregnant by Jumpy. Everything seems to be conspiring against Saladin; and, battered into submission by fate, he loses his supernatural qualities after a visit to the bizarre Hot Wax nightclub. A subplot involves a series of gruesome murders of old women for which the black militant leader Uhuru Simba is arrested.
The next section returns to the story of Allie Cone, detailing her childhood and young adulthood. Her reunion was Gibreel is passionate, but it will be spoiled by his insane jealousy. Again haunted by Rekha Merchant, a deranged Gibreel tries to confront London in his angelic persona, but he is instead knocked down by the car of film producer S. S. Sisodia, who returns him to Allie and signs him up to make a series of films as the archangel of his dreams. Again he tries to leave Allie, but a riot during a public appearance lands him back again, defeated, at Allie's doorstep. At the end of the chapter we learn that a most uncharacteristic heat wave has broken out in London. This is his chance to satirize the English: "...the moral fuzziness of the English was meteorologically induced. 'When the day is not warmer than the night', he reasoned, 'when the light is not brighter than the dark, when the land is not drier than the sea, then clearly a people will lose the power to make distinctions, and commence to see everything--from political parties to sexual partners to religious beliefs--as much-the-same, nothing-to-choose, give-or-take. What folly! For truth is extreme, it is so, and not thus, it is him and not her; a partisan matter, not a spectator sport. It is in brief, heated. City,' he cried, and his voice rolled over the metropolis like thunder, 'I am going to tropicalize you.'
Gibreel enumerated the benefits of the proposed metamorphosis of London into a tropical city: increased moral definition, institution of a national siesta, development of vivid and expansive patterns of behaviour among the populace, higher-quality popular muisc, new birds in the trees...etc." (365) Almost forgot--"the making of slow and odorous love."
Plot Summary for Chapter VI
This chapter, the most controversial in the novel, returns us to Jahilia, from which Mahound had fled (historically this corresponds to the Prophet Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina). Mahound is returning to his home city, having gained many followers while he was away. The monstrous Hind, miraculously unaged, continues her reign of terror over the city. The cynical Poet Baal encounters Salman, now disillusioned with Mahound. He says that in Yathrib the prophet has become obsessed with laying down various restrictive laws, some of which parallel parts of the Sharia, traditional Islamic law. This passage has been widely attacked by Muslim scholars as inaccurate and blasphemous, but clearly Rushdie was not attempting a scholarly discourse on Islamic law. It is, however, a satire on restrictive moral codes. " ..."rules about every damn thing, if a man farts let him turn his face to the wind, a rule about which hand to use for the purpose of cleaning one's behind. It was as if no aspect of human existence was to be left unregulated, free. The revelation-- the recitation--told the fiathful how much to eat, how deeply they should sleep, and which sexual positions had received divine sanction, so that they learned that sodomy and the missioanry position were approved of by the archangel, whereas the forbidden postures included all those in which the female was on top." (376) He also describes what he takes to be the origins of the religion's restrictions on women. Then he really sticks it to Islam: "Mahound himself had been a businessman, and a damned successful one at that, a person to whom organization and rules came naturally, so how excessively convenient it was that he should have come up with such a very businesslike archangel, who handed down the management decisions of this highly corporate, if non-corporal, God." (376)
Salman, noting that the revelations Mahound received were very convenient for the Prophet himself, has begun to test him by altering the revelations given to Mahound when they are dictated. He has realized that Mahound is far from infallible; and, terrified that his changes to the sacred text will be discovered, he has fled to Jahilia. Muslims who see this as a satire on the dictation of the Qur'an find it highly offensive, for the sacred scripture of Muslims is held to be the exact and perfectly preserved word of God in the most literal sense.
The aged Abu Simbel converts to the new faith and surrenders the city of Mahound. At first Hind resists, but after the House the Black Stone is cleansed of pagan idols (as the Ka'ba was similarly cleansed by Muhammad), she submits and embraces the new faith as well. Bilal manages to save Salman from execution; but Baal flees, hiding in a brothel named Hijab. The prostitutes there have blasphemously taken on the names of the Prophet's various wives. No scene in the novel has been more ferociously attacked, though as Rushdie points out it is quite inaccurate to say that the author has made the Prophet's wives into whores. Rather the scene is a commentary on the tendency of the profane to infiltrate the sacred. Nevertheless, the imagery and language of this section has offended readers mightily. Baal becomes a sort of pseudo-Mahound, by making love to each of the prostitutes in turn. Salman visits Baal and tells him a story that implies the real Ayesha may have been unfaithful to Mahound.
The brothel is raided, Baal sings serenades to the imprisoned whores and is himself arrested and condemned to death. Hind, meanwhile, retreats to her study, evidently practicing witchcraft. It is revealed that her "conversion" was a ruse to divert Mahound's attention while she trained herself in the magical powers necessary to defeat him. Ultimately she sends the goddess Al-Lat to destroy the Prophet who, with his dying breath thanks her for killing him.
Plot Summary for Chapter VII
This is by far the most eventful chapter in the novel, and the one in which readers are most likely to get lost. The Saladin/Gibreel plot resumes as the former meditates on his two unrequited loves: for London and for Pamela, both of whom have betrayed him. He calls on his wife, now pregnant by Jumpy Joshi, and says he wants to move back into his home, although he seems to have fallen out of love with her. Back in his room at the Shaandaar Cafe, he watches television and muses on various forms of transformation and hybridism which relate to his own transmutation and fantasizes about the sexy teenaged Mishal Sufyan. The first-person demonic narrator of the novel makes one of his brief appearances at the bottom of p. 408 [top of 423]. The guilty Jumpy coerces Pamela into taking Saladin home. The pair is involved in protests against the arrest of Uhuru Simba for the Granny Ripper Murders. Saladin goes with them to a protest meeting where an encounter with Mishal makes him feel doomed. Jumpy mentions Gibreel to him. After hearing evangelist Eugene Dumsday denounce evolution on the radio, he realizes that his personal evolution is not finished.
A heat wave has hit London. At a bizarre party hosted by film maker S. S. Sisodia, Saladin meets Gibreel again. He starts out to attack him, furious at the latter's having abandoned him back when the police came to Rosa Diamond's house; but enraged by the beautiful Alleluia Cone, he more effectively avenges himself accidentally by blurting out the news of his wife's unfaithfulness, unaware of the effect this will have on Gibreel, who is extremely prone to jealousy. Gibreel insanely assaults Jumpy Joshi, whom he fears is lusting after Allie.
Allie, driven to distraction by Gibreel's jealousy, invites Saladin to stay with her and the sedated Gibreel in Scotland. The two lovers are bound in an intensely sexual but destructive relationship which makes Saladin more than ever determined to take his revenge on Gibreel, whom he takes to the Shaandaar Caf?, where they encounter drunken racists. On the way back to Allie's flat Saladin plants the seeds of his campaign against Gibreel's sanity by telling him of the jealous Strindberg. He begins to use his talent for imitating many voices to make obscene and threatening phone calls to both Allie and Gibreel, and he succeeds in breaking the couple up.
Gibreel, now driven completely insane, is suffering under the delusion that he is the destroyer angel Azraeel, whose job is to blow the Last Trumpet and end the world. A riot involving both Blacks and Asians breaks out when--after Uhuru Simba dies in police custody--it is made clear that he was not the Granny Ripper. Gibreel is in his element in this apocalyptic uprising. It is not always clear in what follows how much is Gibreel's insanity and how much is fantastic reality: but he experiences himself as capable of blowing streams of fire out of his trumpet to incinerate various people, including a group of pimps whom he associates with the inhabitants of the Jahilian brothel in his dream. On a realistic level, the ensuing fires are probably just the result of the rioting that has broken out around him. Jumpy Joshi and Pamela die when the Brickhall Community Relations Council building is torched either by Saladin, or by the police. When Saladin returns to the Shaandaar Caf? he finds it ablaze as well, and plunges in to try to rescue the Sufyan family, but instead he is rescued by Gibreel. As an ambulance takes the two men away, Gibreel lapses back into madness and dreams the next chapter.
Plot outline for Chapter VIII
It is important to know that the events in this chapter are based on a real occurrence. In 1983 thirty-eight fanatical Shi'ites walked into Hawkes Bay in Karachi (the site of the Rushdie family home in Pakistan). Their leader had persuaded them that a path through the sea would miraculously open, enabling them to walk to the holy city of Kerbala in Iraq (Ruthven 44-45).
The story of the mystical Ayesha from the end of Chapter IV resumes. One disaster after another assails the pilgrims following Ayesha in her march to the sea; but she insists on continuing, as does Mishal, Mirza Saeed's wife, despite his repeated attempts to dissuade her. He tries to persuade Ayesha to accept airplane tickets to complete the pilgrimage to Mecca (which is in fact the most common way for pilgrims to make the hajj today); but she refuses. Her fanaticism makes her more and more ruthless, unmoved even by the deaths of fifteen thousand miners nearby. She behaves like the evil Ayesha of the Desh plot when an Imam announces that an abandoned baby is a "Devil's Child," and allows the congregation of the mosque to stone it to death. Finally, the horrified Mirza Saeed watches as his wife and others walk into the sea and are drowned; though all other witnesses claim that the sea did miraculously open as Ayesha had expected and the group crossed safely. Mirza Saeed returns home and starves himself to death, in his dying moments joining his wife and Ayesha in their pilgrimage to Mecca, though probably only in his mind. However, the ending of this chapter could offer a better way to find God: "They were under water, lost in the roaring of the sea, but he could hear her clearly, they could all hear her, that voice like a bell. 'Open,' she said. He closed.
He was a fortress with clanging gates. - He was drowning- She was drowning, too. He saw the water fill her mouth, heard it begin to gurgle into her lungs. THen something within him refused that, made a different choice, and at the instant that his hear broke, he opened.
His body split apart from his adam's-apple to his groin, so that she could reach deep within him, and now she was open, they all were, and at the moment of their opening hthe waters parted, and they walked to mecca across the bed of th Arabian Sea." Could Rushdie perhaps be hinting at a way for Islam to reform itself?
Plot outline for Chapter IX
A year and a half later, Saladin flies home to be with his dying father. He has heard that Gibreel is now making films based on the "dreams" which have alternated with the present-day plot throughout the novel. On the plane he reads of various scandals and disasters taking place in India: clearly it is no utopia. Whereas Saladin resents the former maidservant who has married his father and taken on his mother's identity, his lover/friend Zeeny Vakil immediately sympathizes with her. After years of hostility to his father, Saladin finds no support in those surrounding him for his attitude. As he sits by his father's bedside the two are finally reconciled. Saladin has inherited his father's estate and is now rich. Meanwhile a dispute over a film on Indian sectarianism has become the center of a censorship controversy in a way that ominously forshadows the treatment which Rushdie's Satanic Verses was to receive upon publication. Rushdie faced his father's death without the help of Islam: "He's teaching me how to die,...He does not avert his eyes, but looks death right in the face. At no point in his dying did Changez Chamchawala speak the name of God." (545)
Gibreel has also returned to Bombay, depressed and suicidal. The movie he tries to make is a "satanic" inversion of the traditional tale from the Ramayana, reflecting his disillusionment with love after having been rejected by Allie. Ultimately he goes entirely mad, kills Sisodia and Allie (hurling the latter symbolically from the same skyscraper from which Rekha Merchant had flung herself).
"If the old refused to die, the new could not be born." (561) What do you think?
Visiting Saladin, he confesses, then draws a revolver from the "magic" lamp Saladin had inherited from his father, and shoots himself. Zeeny Vakil's final words to Saladin, "Let's get the hell out of here," may be ambiguous: they could mean only "Let's leave," but she may also be inviting him to leave the the realm of the Satanic in which he has been living for so long.
One of my students was recently reprimanded in the New York subway in July 2002 for reading SATANIC VERSES. Accosted by a Muslim woman, she was told "not to believe anything in that book." Is that the point of novels, to make us believe, or is suspension of disbelief just the willingness to enter a FANTASY world created by the author? Why do so many cultures, American included, expect fiction to be naturalistic, true to life? Why do some of us take irony, humor, satire, fantasy so literally?
The German Mujahid
This is a multi-narrator novel about two brothers with a Nazi German father, a former SS officer, and a Berber mother, who tell the story recursively through different diaries. It was published in French in 2008, won a number of prizes, and then was translated into English and published by Europa in 2009. Kent Carroll of Europa personally recommended it to Professor Keefer for this course because it connects the ideologies of Nazi Germany and Islamist mililtancy, and because Sansal's books have now been banned in Algeria, although he still lives there.
Trained as an engineer with a doctorate in economics, Sansal began writing novels at 50 when he retired from the Algerian govenment, inspired by the assassination of President Boudiaf in 1992 and the rise of Islamist militancy. In 1999 he won the Prix du Premier Roman for Le Serment des Barbares, which was adapted to the screen, and has written a number of novels, short stories and essays since, all banned in Algeria and other Muslim countries. .
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Like Reading Lolita in Tehran, this recounts the adventures of young boys and their stash of forbidden books in Communist China. It was made into a film in America.
Cane is a high modernist poetic novella published in 1923. Toomer went to NYU among a plethora of other universities and studied everything from fitness and agriculture to humanities and religion. He was of mixed descent--Afro-American, French, Dutch, Native American, Jewish etc. but became the champion of Afro-Americans and an inspiration for the Harlem Renaissance. However, Cane only sold around 2000 copies.
Gao Xi Jian
One Man's Bible was banned but it also recounts the painful process that the author went through when he burned his own writing so that it would not be found by the Red Guard. If you read One Man's Bible and Children of Gebelaawi at the same time, you will note certain similarities and differences. Both Mahfouz and Gao Xingjian won the Nobel Prize for Literature and both are intensely involved with the political regimes of their countries, hating all forms of repression. Stylistically, Xingjian's description is more visual and Mahfouz' more auditory, as befits their respective cultures. Xingjian's structure is recursive, a wheel stuck in mud or a fly cut in a web, alternating a second person narrative in the present with a third person narrative in the past. The following passage describes his difficulties with this extraction of memory--
"Remote childhood is hazy, but some bright spots float up in memories. When you pick up one end of a thread, memories that have been submerged by time gradually appear and, like a net emerging from the water, they are interconnected and infinite. The more you pull, the more threads seem to appear and disappear. Now that you have picked up one end and again pulled up a whole mass of happenings from different times, you can't start anywhere, can't find a thread to follow. It's impossible to sort them to put them into some knd of order. Human life is a net, you want to undo a knot at a time, but only succeed in creating a tangled mess. Life is a muddled account that you can't work out." (41)
But he does use the voluptuous presence of the German woman in the present to nurture him enough to have the courage to plummet his painful memories of past life under Mao's regime. He can only take so much at a time, so he constantly returns to the present.
Gao's writing was considered pornographic and reactionary. (It's ironic that American literary agents wanted Nabakov to be more pornographic by writing simple sentences with a mechanical, literal focus.) During Mao's regime, all forms of adultery were punished, and citizens were not allowed to get married until 26, at which time, their family life was also controlled by the state.
Exactly how does censored literature promote cross-cultural understanding? Wouldn't these issues just inflame people? Or must they always be introduced with the assumption that even nonfiction is fragmented and fabricated, exaggerated and manipulated to reveal the angst in the psyche and what lies under civilized behavior. So how do with deal with this material? The same way psychologists should do:with humor, compassion and tolerance. It is also exciting and cathartic to experience things vicariously that we would never permit ourselves to enjoy in daily life.
How many authors, like Dan Brown, deliberately write about sensitive, controversial material, or actually try to get censored in order to get free publicity to enhance sales?
Would some of these books never get the exposure and popularity if they weren't censored?
Note how cultural expectations and differences determine what taboos each culture has.
What is most offensive to you now:something that is politically incorrect, racist, sexist? Pornographic?
Or something that makes Islamic militants brave, intelligent and human?
Or something that is so intellectual you can't understand it without an excellent dictionary and a good education?
Or something so coded and obscure that you can't decipher it with any reference books because the author is making up his own language?
Or a book that loses focus regarding the narrative thrust and doesn't make the story clear?
Or a book with no story?
Or a book where the ending is depressing and dismal?
On one level, almost every book is a forbidden fruit to someone, whether it is the author's family, workplace, country, village, lover etc. To write is to draw the good and bad of life and few of us want to be reminded of our faults. In our jobs and with our families we forge ahead with an optimism which is often blind to the darker possibilities of things. When these are combusted in drama, they can frighten everyone.
Every culture has its taboos and its favorite stories. The Campbell paradigm shows the storyteller crossing the threshold from the rules and regulations of the Ordinary World to a Special World with its own reality and returning home resurrected with an elixir for the community. Great art is often liminal, dancing on the border between the accepted and the forbidden, the conventional and the dangerous. The subject of this paper is fiction, or non-fiction memoir that is fictionalized, so that issues of accuracy, and truth in reporting are not applicable and should be left to journalism, history and biography. I claim that the purpose of fiction is to hover between the dangerous and the conventional, teasing us with what is forbidden, plummet our collective unconscious and describing and catharsizing our pain, lust, envy, hopes and fears. Literature should be able to be an act of terror, so that we don't have to have real terrorist attacks that actually kill people. Let us kill and maim the characters of fiction in a non-literal way so that we exorcise these demons.
The main cultural taboos relate to scientific discoveries (Pandora's box), versus religion and ethics, sex:pornography, adultery, rape, molestation, violence, politics and more subtle forms of censorship where a work is not published or promoted if it is too intellectual, complex, or sympathetic to unpopular characters or concepts. In the twentieth century, most of the novels of great writers were censored.
What worlds are the most
oppressive in the books we read? When, where and how should literature be
censored, or should it always be 'free?' Does America censor its literature by
simply not allowing it to be published, for financial or commercial reasons?
Does America censor literature when it becomes too intellectual?
Why I chose the following books as Forbidden Fruits:
Einstein's Dreams is a meditation on time and space. I tell my screenwriters to read it to get ideas for innovative narrative styles in their scripts. The language is spare, minimal but at times poetic, the characters are generic but Lightman's knowledge of physics and sociology infuses the content with depth and complexity. Lightman, born in 1949, currently teaches in the writing for science graduate program at M.I.T. and continues to write articles, essays and occasionally novels. He strives for a simple, clear style to explain difficult concepts and is somewhat conservative in his taste. However all these timespace theories were considered heretic at the time, and even now, if screenwriters or best-selling novelists go "too far" in timespace innovation, their work is considered too experimental to be produced or published in some places..
One of his Lightman's mentors is Michael Frayn, a prolific British author who has written in every genre, and is a master structuralist and researcher. For Copenhagen, he did extensive research on particle physics, relativity, the history and politics of the atomic bomb, and the relationship between Heisenberg who lived in Germany at the time and Niels Bohr, whom he visited in Copenhagen . The dramatic structure harks back to mid-twentieth century, non-naturalistic, Euro-existential theatre and although the primary structure is recursive:to solve the problem of what happened in Copenhagen:it uses Brechtian alienation, soliloquy and tandem time frames to encircle the Central Dramatic Question.At the time, this conversation was forbidden and would certainly have been censored by all states. The current play has not been censored but particle physics has not received the funding it used to get years ago, and many of these ideas are threatening to the Christian Right.
It is ironic that the Christian Right censored and eventually boycotted The Last Temptation of Christ, but seemed to love the more violent PASSION OF CHRIST by Mel Gibson. For them it is better to be cruel and bloody than to insinuate that Christ might have been tempted by carnal thoughts or even married Magdalene in a fantasy or alternative narrative, for that would make Jesus too human. The sin of Kazantzakis is that he humanized Christ when many Christians would prefer to imagine a perfect person (according to Catholic doctrine) running around the earth. Kazantzakis is a very sensuous writer so he imbues all his characters with that Zorba the Greek lust for life, thereby making Jesus' sacrifice all the greater because he had so much to give up. However, this logic did not appease the Christian Right or the Vatican who banned the book and the film. No one wants to imagine Jesus with a wife and family, except some of the Muslims!
The Vatican also censored the The Da Vinci Code because Brown maintains that the research on the secret societies and the Opus Dei's world headquarters in New York is accurate, thereby indicting the Pope, the Catholic church and this society on a superificial read, although a more careful study shows that the book could be interpreted in many ways. The fact that the book is so popular was one reason that John Paul II forbad his flock to read it. Brown based his research on Les Dossiers Secrets, a fascinating document that describes the connection between Da Vinci and Victor Hugo, Isaac Newton, Botticelli et al and the Priory of Sion as well as other key elements in Brown's plot. Brown's style is American plainspeak:simplistic, often clich?-ridden, utilitarian, technical at times, but always subservient to the dramatic structure of a thriller and the narrative thrust of the detective novel. At one point I was reading LOLITA and the DA VINCI CODE and couldn't stand Brown's writing, until I concentrated on the plot and imagined I was reading the New York Post. Some of you will prefer Brown to Nabakov because he is more accessible, and he writes in a way that pleases American agents and publishers. In this book, the story is more interesting to me than the narrative or linguistic styles. What do you think
Although Ayn Rand associated individualism with American capitalism in the twentieth century, writing a litany to selfhood and selfishness in ANTHEM, a book obviously banned by the former Soviet Union , nowadays multinational corporations have turned their employees into robots and destroyed the kind of individualism for which Rand left her homeland. Some people like the romantic mindscape of her novels such as THE FOUNTAINHEAD, while others criticize her lack of character depth and dimension. Her writing is simple, clear and didactic, but Gao Xi Jiang is a stylist, influenced by French twentieth century aesthetics and Chinese pen and ink drawings. In ONE MAN'S BIBLE, he also articulates a creed to individualism, but his structure is complicated by recursive narrative, flashbacks, changing points of view through an innovative use of pronouns, and a more complex linguistic style. After all he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. For those of you who would like a journey through China 's ancient mountains and Buddhist temples, read SOUL MOUNTAIN . He was naturally a big threat to China 's revolutionary communist culture, so much so that he helped them out at one point by burning his books.
CHILDREN OF GEBELAAWI, in some ways, is the Muslim version of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST in that it humanizes the prophets, Adam, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad. The militant offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood:Gama al Islamiya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad:were infuriated that Mohammad, peace upon him, is interpreted as a hashish-smoking womanizer. While they don't believe Mohammad is the son of God, he is still an ideal man whose way is followed through the hadiths. By focusing on his alleged weaknesses, it sends the wrong message to Muslims. They also interpreted the novel literally, not seeing that old man Gebelaawi was a satire of the fatherly god so many of us need instead of the supreme, abstract being that is so hard to imagine.While Egyptian leaders such as Nasser and Mubarak always defended Mahfouz'work, the famous Al Azhar university banned CHILDREN OF GEBELAAWI as soon as it came out in 1959. It was published in Beirut in 1967 but banned again when Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (New Yorkers know him well for plotting the first World Trade Center bombing in 1994) said in 1989 that Rushdie would never have had the nerve to write SATANIC VERSES if Mahfouz had been properly punished for his book. If you are the prosecutor, it's probably best to be Sheikh Omar. Maybe you can even interview him in jail! Anyway, the jihadhis got so mad that an internal fatwa was issued against Mahfouz and they tried, unsuccessfully, to assassinate him. They did succeed in damaging the nerves in his writing arm, a kind of living death for a writer. Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for this book and the CAIRO TRILOGY and is one of the greatest Arab writers of all time. He combines the breadth and depth of a Tolstoy, Hugo or Dickens with contemporary politics and innovative Arabic narrative styles.
GOD DIES BY THE NILE again was taken literally by the Jihadhis who did not see that it was that distorted view of god as the mayor of the village who was killed by Zakeya, a female peasant. However Nawal el Saadawi has angered the Egyptian government for years because of her work with women:spelling out the physical and psychological effects of clitorectomies and abusive treatment. As a doctor Saadawi only told the truth but it was a truth the government wanted to hide. In fact clitorectomies weren't banned until 1997 after a CNN documentary enraged the world. This means that many women living in Egypt today, including Saadawi, have been brutally mutilated. In addition to having her work banned, she was also imprisoned by Nasser because of it. This novel is probably her best literary endeavor, using the rising and setting of the sun to mark the horrendous episodes of her plot, crafting a magical story where the Ordinary and Special World fuse and tangle in an imaginative ways. Her female characters are better developed than the men who are often limited and one-dimensional, but even today in Egypt , sexual segregation is the rule de jour.
Wild Thorns was banned by Israel because of the injustices described at the checkpoint and bulldozing the homes. In fact, some of my Israeli students never even heard of the book although it is well read in America . When one Israeli read it, he cried because, "I had no idea the Palestinians were so badly off." Sahar Khalifeh's structure is classical although she diverges with multi-protagonists and a focus on the community. Most of Marwan Barghouti's work is banned because he is still sitting in an Israeli jail. In any war, the government likes to document the struggle in a favorable light, and while Kahlifeh humanizes both Israelis and Palestinians and even has them show sympathy and even love for each other, her book does not make the Israeli army look good.
I SAW RAMALLAH by Marwan Barghouti was banned in Israel where he was in jail.
THIS BLINDING ABSENCE OF LIGHT is a kind of Moroccan version of the Gitmo dilemma except it is probably worse, revealing how political prisoners slowly rot. The Moroccan monarchy imagines itself as an enlightened bridge between Europe and Islam and so it is for the most part, but while Morocco constructs beautiful mosques like the immense one in Casablanca, and caters to upscale tourists with lavish hotels, villas and a new film industry, there is a deep divide between the rich and the poor, and an absence of the kind of democracy that might even it out. Tahar ben Jalloun ironically writes in French and lives in Paris , and uses a contemporary postmodern linguistic and structural style to plummet the perversities and imperfections in Islam, Arabic culture and governments where nepotism and despotism are the reign de jour. Obviously the kings don't like their dirty secrets aired in public. I was in Marrakesh this past January and noticed the subtle undercurrents of political unrest even though everyone purports to love the new kind, Mohammad, who recently abolished polygamy, cut the ribbon at the new film center, and secretly dates men as well as women.
THE ALMOND by Nedjma may be Islam's version of pornography, hence the pseudonym but it also comes from Morocco and was originally written in French.
MY NAME IS RED, a murder mystery with a plethora of pass-the-ball narrators situated in the guilds of miniaturist painters during the Ottoman Empire would seem like a strange book to censor, but it depicts a kind of aesthetic Islam that is abhorrent to the puritan, pristine strands of the Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia . In fact the House of Saud developed as a rebellion against the excesses of the Ottoman sultans as well the transcendental and chemical excesses of the whirling dervishes. While Saudi Arabia is slowly loosening up, it has banned a great many books that make Islam seem a little too colorful. It is composed mainly of Sunnis, who also find the Shiite version of Islam in Iran too iconic for their taste. In Mecca , everything is black and white and human forms cannot be represented in art or photography. There is a little color in Medina but no human forms. Orhan Pamuk documents this dilemma clearly in his book where the artists are torn between the Persian traditions and the new wave of Frankish painters of representational art, but to many Muslims, this is blasphemous. There is no God but God and neither artists nor scientists should be creative in that sense. What sections of the Koran or hadiths reinforce this view? I met Pamuk at Bard last year and he also got into trouble with local jihadhis for his book SNOW. He says that when you write, you must have the courage to make enemies:for you will. His favorite writers are Nabakov and Proust and he is writing a book on baby boomer sex in Istanbul in the seventies. I wonder whom this will anger. It is difficult for some Western readers to get used to the pass-the-ball multiple narrator sequencing, also used in many Egyptian novels, because it comes from ancient Bedouin caravan tales. I recently finished a novel, UNCLASHING CIVILIZATIONS, where 18 nonhuman narrators carry the story and I can testify that it is difficult to write, but very rewarding, giving the story many points of view and rhythm. On a second read, it may help to read all the monologues of each narrator, i.e. Black, Red, Olive etc. because that is what I did on rewrites and I am sure Pamuk did the same. Many Islamic writers do not care for completely omniscient narrators because only Allah is omniscient; by sharing the story, each narrator colors it with its own imperfections while trying to preserve something about the story that stays the same. Linguistic style does not differ much from narrator to narrator because they are trying to pass the ball and preserve the story. Every culture has its own story expectations. For most of you, Dan Brown may be the easiest read and you may feel that reading a Turkish novelist is lying getting trapped in a time warp in Istanbul. That is the idea and purpose of the course--to expose you to things that are difficult and different.
LIPSTICK JIHAD is an interesting memoir written by a very young Iranian-Californian journalist. Don't worry--it is very easy to read as she spent most of her life in California. While it is not great literature, it reveals the social life of Iranians after the Islamic revolution and how they over-reacted to suppression and censorship with an obsessive focus on superficial looks, cosmetics, clothes, drugs and liquor. It really is a lipstick jihad. When I personally visited all these Islamic countries, I was happy to wear hijab and abaya and not have to worry about my looks for I feel the lookist industry is as damaging as some of these Iranian positions, only because it is subtle and therefore more insidious. Why should women spend a fortune and waste hours of precious time trying to look like 19-year-old models who only exist in a retouched photo? However, neither Moaveni nor the author of READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN see it this way, assuming that make-up and fancy clothes, drinking alcohol and smoking are simply expressions of freedom. In their world this may be the case but any kind of conformity can be enforced to create its own form of imprisonment. As a scholar and professor, Nafisi's book has more literary merit and her insights and point of view on other banned books such as LOLITA help us with this course.
Nabakov is the greatest American stylist of all time:(argue with me!) No native born American writes as well as he does. His relationship towards the narrator is complex and it does almost seem as if it is his story, but in reality it is just a novel. For my part, I feel more empathy for Humbert Humbert and Charlotte because they were trapped in horrible prisons while Lola was able to get and about, actually stand up to her oedipal figure and run away from him instead of harboring unconscious fantasies that would prevent relationships to others. The plot and structure are simple and linear but the language is rich and complex, although much more homogeneous than SATANIC VERSES. LOLITA was banned by everyone at one time because, even though the molester/murderer is on trial, honestly confessing to his faults, Nabokov makes his seductions titillating, tempting, luscious:truly a forbidden fruit. However, with his screenplay, directed by Stanley Kubrick, he shows how he can conform to, manipulate and satirize American culture. But four American publishers refused to accept his manuscript because it was too linguistically complex, so it was first published in Paris.
LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER by D.H. Lawrence was banned in the United States because of the sexuality.
SATANIC VERSES is a kind of Indian postmodern ULYSSES only Rushdie's classical reference is THE METAMORPHOSIS by OVID rather than Homer's ODYSSEY. The first few chapters show imaginative linguistic buoyancy, which occasionally degenerates into coded discourse and a hybrid vernacular. However, very few people actually read this book. It has been banned in almost every Islamic country and there is still a fatwa out to kill Rushdie. Like Mahfouz, Rushdie humanizes Mohammad as a womanizer but his tongue is more acerbic and bitter and he is definitely an infidel while Mahfouz is still a Muslim. Muslims also don't like the focus on the Satanic Verses that were supposedly excised from the Koran for the same reasons that the Pope banned Brown's books. But SATANIC VERSES on one level is simply the quasi-psychotic ravings of an Indian ex-patriot as he flies home to India from England to visit his dying father. One could argue that a mishmash of postmodern, magical realism, Joycean symphonies and a thousand tongues are playing inside his head. The problem occurs when people want to take literature literally without humor and compassion, expecting it to be a blueprint for the didacticism, which infiltrates their lives. But if their faith is so secure, why are they threatened by words on a page, unless those words refer to the weaknesses in their arguments that they don't want people to see?
GUANTANAMO was not banned in the United States but its truth wasn't reported until long after the fact. Because very few people uncovered the real story of abuse and torture in the U.S. jails, plays on this have become popular all over the world, creating a public relations crisis for Bush's America . But the U.S. is too big, heterogeneous and free to ban it.
Prosecutors must represent the following Societies
Muslim Section (Mahfouz, Khadra, Makdisi, Khalifeh, Khoury, Bargouti, Maraoune, Sansal, Al Neimi, Bargouti, Dunya Mikhail,Wilentz, Pamuk, el Saadawi, Nafisi,
Mastrogiacomo, Rahimi, Hosseini, Mortenson/Relin, ben Jelloun)
Taliban Afghanistan and Pakistan
Al Azhar censorship board
Moroccan monarchy Hassan II
Anglo-American Section (especially high schools, libraries and local community centers, and even customs and immigration)
(Morrison, Cane, Bradbury, Atwood, Kazantzakis, Nabakov, Huxley, Orwell, Lawrence)
Salman Rushdie and James Joyce (everywhere)
Communist China (Sijie, Li, Jiang, Min, Al Cheng's The King of Trees, Da Chen's China's Son or The Sounds of the River)
Soviet Union (Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak, Rand, Bulgakov)
Nazi Germany (Remarque)
Up to two, maybe three students can defend and prosecute the same writer or society. Try to choose one English-speaking writer, and one who writes in another language. The societies must prepare a COMMUNAL manifesto, like a Wiki, while students representating writers can have two or three DIFFERENT interpretations of the writers.
Research the biography of the writer and role-play what it is like to BE that writer. Research the society that banned the book, either by not publishing, not translating, burning, condemning, or issuing a fatwa on the writer's life.
Plagiarism: The Internet has changed pedagogy because, with the click of a mouse, you can find out all the facts on anything. We have the author bios, plot summaries, and major criticism, so you don't need to repeat this. Therefore, the two most important objectives of this class are to have students write down and analyze passages of the text formally with regard to connotative meaning, and informally in terms of what the writing means to them personally. This intimate relationship with the text cannot be plagiarized for it is simply you and the text. The personal projects require you to look at at least 6-8 books in depth in terms of a the struggle between the author's freedom and self-expression and the society's taboos and censorship. Reports-in-progress are due for every cluster as a way to insure that your topic develops from your perspective.
Contact info, Office Hours, and Cyberspace: You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 212-734-1083, but we will be maintaining a weekly listserv or forum, to which you should add comments online at least once a week. I will also be available before and after class for questions. For online classes, you must log in at least three times a week for Wikis, Blogs, Forums and Drop Box.
Students should buy all the books for tasting, but only need devour six to eight books. Projects involve the research and thinking to defend either the writer or the society. You must do both, prosecuting three books, and defending three authors. We will bid for the books the first class.
WEEKLY ASSIGNMENTS: Every week you must bring one blog in the voice of one of your writers, one Wiki representing the "we" of one of your societies, and a triple-spaced passage from one of your texts with an analysis. These are all short assignments, and will be criticized every week for editing and improvement, so just do them. If you do them, you pass; if you don't, you fail. Midterms and finals are graded according to the rubric for close textual analysis.
ABSENCES: If you must be absent, do not email me. All the information is on the syllabus, so catch up on your own. Individual attention is to help you with your writing and understanding of the literature, so don't hesitate to ask questions about that.
Sex and Gender Cluster
God Dies by the Nile and The Hidden Face of Eve by Nawal el Saadawi
Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Memoirs of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Proof of the Honey by Salwa al Neimi
The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis
Children of Gebelaawi by Naguib Mahfouz
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi
Days of Fear: A Firsthand Accound of Captivity by the New Taliban by Daniele Mastrogiacomo
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
Social and/or Language Cluster
How to Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling by Julia Keefer
Ulysses by James Joyce
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cane by Jean Toomer
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
This Blinding Absence of Light and/or The Sand Child by Tahar ben Jalloun
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Soul Mountain and One Man's Bible by Gao Xi Jiang
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li
China's Son and The Sounds of the River by Da Chen
The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal, Frank Wynne (translator)
In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
The Yellow Wind by David Grossman
The Attack and The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (2010 translation)
Islamic Censorship Cluster
Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
This Blinding Absence of Light and/or The Sand Child by Tahar ben Jalloun
The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal, Frank Wynne (translator)
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
The Yellow Wind by David Grossman
God Dies by the Nile and The Hidden Face of Eve by Nawal el Saadawi
The Proof of the Honey by Salwa al Neimis
Children of Gebelaawi by Naguib Mahfouz
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi
Days of Fear: A Firsthand Accound of Captivity by the New Taliban by Daniele Mastrogiacomo
The Swallows of Kabul, The Attack and The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra
How to Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling by Julia Keefer
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cane by Jean Toomer
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Ulysses versus Satanic Verses (Modernism versus Postmodern)
Anthem by Ayn Rand
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (2010 translation)
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Soul Mountain and One Man's Bible by Gao Xi Jiang
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li
China's Son and The Sounds of the River by Da Chen
The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal, Frank Wynne (translator)
In the First Circle and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Red Azalea by Anchee Min
Censorship Control and Creativity
Parade of Pronouns: Psychoanalysis Chinese-Style
Optional Friday Night Field Trip to the
96th Mosque between Second and Third Avenues. Women must cover skin and wear headscarves. Browse the
bookstore for books and tapes. Then meet at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, 82nd and Fifth. Theme: Spirituality versus Sensuality.
Meet amidst the Greek sculptures. Note how the artists capture naked men in their prime, those short years of youthfulness and power where the muscles and other organs rip with robust muscularity and sexuality. Beauty is that "best moment" in a man's life, captured for eternity. See how accurate the artists' knowledge of anatomy was, and how lifelike and individualistic the poses. Kazantzakis comes from this culture and his Jesus is one of these men who beats and covers up his flesh to serve God. Contrast this aesthetic with: the Egyptian worship of the afterlife.
Meet in the Temple of Dendur. As we roam around ancient tombs, sarcophagi, statues nestled in coffins, sphinxs and hieroglyphs on stone, note how the artists painted their most beautiful, colorful, subtle designs on the INSIDE of the coffins! If you are depressed about death, this is the place to hang out. The men who built the pyramids and tombs were paid workers but are depicted as links in a chain, almost like two dimensional clones. Pictures of the living consist of sitting regal pharaohs, workers in their chain gangs, or the ultimate symbol of power-- the Sphinx, who has the head of a man and the body of a large cat. Egypt loves all cats, big and small. The world created for the pharaohs after death seems better than the one they had while living. In Greece people can live on the islands almost naked, but humans must be covered to protect them from sun and sand. As you imagine what it was like to live in Ancient Egypt, let these images stay in your mind as you read Akhenaten by Mafhouz. As soon as the Islamic section is restored, we will visit it to give you a better insight into this culture in order to understand Children of Gebelaawi and Satanic Verses. .Meet in the "church" of the medieval section to look at crucifixes, stained glass and other sacred objects of Christianity. Euroamericans' experience of Christianity is filtered through the Middle Ages in Europe; it does not jump out from the hot sensuality of the Middle East. This is a narrative culture where artists retell the same story of nativity, crucifixion and ascension through a variety of means. Perhaps Americans objected to The Last Temptation of Christ more because of the cultural clash of sensuous Greece recreating and recrucifying Jesus, rather than prim, proper, dark and dreary medieval Europe. Contrast the different uses of light and space in the medieval church and mosque. Read My Name is Red to compare Persian miniaturists to European portraiture. Look at the gods and demons in the Indian section to better understand Satanic Verses.
Claim: That the study of censored literature can promote cross-cultural understanding by sharing our deepest fears and anxieties, and exploring the taboos of religion, sex, politics and society, and that writers should be free to express themselves any way they deem creative and effective, and society has no right to change their sacred words. .
Counterclaim: That we need sober truth and civility, even with the fabricated illusory truth of fiction, and that fiction should be redemptive, positive, transcendental, helping us all live better lives. Fascist states like the USSR and Iran have to be careful of dangerous writers who undermine their power. Also when countries change, like Israel , Germany etc, it is best not to dwell on their past transgressions.
Authors and Crimes
N.B. For the sake of argument, some of these conflicts occurred only in a specific country at a specific time, some books were just condemned unofficially by groups, and some books would theoretically be condemned by others because of what they reveal or represent, while some writers were simply jailed because of what they did or didn't do.
Nikos Kazantzakis: Condemned for humanizing Christ
Naguib Mahfouz: Criticized for humanizing all the Prophets, but it was Mohammad, the hashish-smoking womanizer, that irritated the Islamists who later tried to kill him
Sahar Khalifeh and Marwan Bargouti: Irritated Israel by defending Palestine
Tahar ben Jalloun: Irritated the Moroccan monarchy by telling the truth about the jails
Orhan Pamuk: Angered the Saudis by writing about aesthetic Islam
Vladimir Nabakov: Humiliated everyone by writing about child molestation, and forbidden sex but four American publishers refused his work because it was too linguistically complex
D.H.Lawrence: Banned by England and America for being too sexually explicit
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Forbidden sexual fantasies
Gao Xi Jiang: Banished from China and forced to censor his own books
Anchee Min: Spoke against Mao and Madame Mao
James Joyce: Censored by everyone until they decided he was a genius. Nowadays Ulysses would never be accepted by a New York publisher because it is too intellectual and linguistically inaccessible.
Salman Rushdie: People are still trying to kill him for apostasy, but he thankfully, lives a free, open life with a plethora of media appearances and a fertile writing career. His latest book, Luka and the Fire of Life, is for children!
Nawal el Saadawi: Jailed in Egypt for condemning clitorectomies, standing up for women's rights, questioning the way men practice religion in Egypt
Defenders : How did it feel to write this book? How did you research it, plummet or rape yourself, your world and your imagination? Who is your imaginary reader? Why did you write this book? How long did it take? How conscious were you of aesthetic considerations such as story, structure, narrative style, characterization, voice, description, linguistic style? What is the relationship between fiction and non-fiction? Did you knowingly write to irritate authorities, to get attention or because this is how you felt? Did you ever consider a more benign way of saying the same thing? How do your political, religious and sexual views differ from your narrator? Do you want to die for this book? What is more important to you:this book or your life?
Prosecutors: Why are you so threatened by these words? Are your ideas so weak that they cannot stand exposure to different ideas? Don't you trust your flock and citizenry? What is the relationship between words and weapons? Fiction and non-fiction? Propaganda and self-expression?
Explore Feminism and the Body.
Expand your timespace in Einstein's Dreams.
Morrison, Toni. Selections from Jazz.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Lethal. (above)
Wagner Jane. (performed by Lili Tomlin) "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.