It’s 2 years since Israel’s last assault on Gaza, in which it dropped white phosphorus in to school playgrounds. Narrating Gaza attempts to break a terrible silence on the subject by enabling Gazans to tell and show their stories -in remembrance and resistance.
I’m extremely pleased and gratified that my little essay has also been published by Babelmed here. In fact, it’s now up in English on the narrating gaza site itself here. Check Babelmed’s homepage here.
George Steiner August 2008
Or; If Kafka were Hindu…
Every now and then I wonder about George Steiner. Mostly it’s positive wondering but something bugs me about him and it’s not what seems to bug most people I know or read that have met him or committed their view of him to print. Much of the latter is merely a distaste for overt intellect, especially a passionate ‘continental’ mind as well as distrust of the whole dynamic of translation, literally and metaphorically.
There are pedagogic and vulgar ego issues when it comes to Steiner but let me say in brief that I dissociate myself from the cynical Brit approach to him. What continues to bug me is essentially what bugged me when I committed myself to print 15 years ago [in the New Statesman, see below]; I hate it that he won’t credit Kafka, Mozart, even little me with the capacity -effort, hours/years of silent striving and error, the beauty of the attempt- to invent.
Instead, it wasn’t Kafka or Mozart it was “god”. Who? you might say. Religious faith is one thing [later, in Errata, he described himself as a “messianic agnostic”, which is anticipated in what I wrote below], but to misrecognise the grand smallness of human effort, endeavour and appetite is wrong as well as pitiful.
Steiner is a man with a good brain and that brain has famous and all too real appetite but it strikes me therefore as worse that he closes it all down when he approaches a peak to indulge in ‘god’-whistling instead. Such vacuity is the opposite Continue reading “on appetite and a mystic chef, george steiner essays, new statesman 1995” →
Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing…” made sense, mainly because it was such a great track back in the mid-90s, right? Cage Against the Machine, the attempt to block/buy the No. 1 slot for a recording of John Cage’s 4’33” -a rigorously orchestrated slice of atmospheric sound, often described as silence- was always a bit too clever and so a bit too dumb to work, no?
Kenneth Silverman’s recent biography of Cage, Begin Again, is a pretty straight celebratory record of an entirely remarkable life [and not published in the UK!]. Cage spans [subverts?] or strides [meanders?] the 20th Century in very particular ways, making work from beginning to end nearly and constantly mining the same seam of inventive attempts.
Always beginning again, afresh, anew -so the thesis runs. KS makes an epigram of Gertrude Stein’s gorgeous line from The Making of Americans; “Beginning was all of living with him, in a beginning he was always as big in his feeling as all the world around him.” The way in which this actualises is exemplary even while it creates doubt in me too -as the book goes on dutifully detailing yet another I Ching derived whatever!
4’33” was achieved using a deck of tarot cards, which even Cage said “seems idiotic” but he composed each movement by joining up randomised periods of silence with precise measures which totalled four minutes and thirty three seconds. The point, one made more precise by his subsequent visit of Ryoanji and fuller acquaintance with Zen, was that the ‘silence’ is a pregnant one, like the stone garden’s potent ‘blankness’.
Two thoughts; one links directly to the gorgeous version of Feist’s song, There’s a Limit to Your Love, that James Blake put out a month ago. As you know, the track is a departure from his flurry of promising EPs released this year alone, including CMYK and Klavierwerke, for foregrounding his voice against a piano track redolent of Nina Simone and an electronic bassquake. Apart from just enjoying it and its arguably rather more local newness I was struck by the ‘silence’ it contains. Or near silence, Continue reading “on silence or not, cage blake alÿs and on…” →
On Narrating Gaza…
By Guy Mannes-Abbott
“When it comes to sieges, precision is required to argue precedence. Besiegers appear all over the place and all over time. The besieged are always the same; rendered animal as time ceases and place becomes that time. The air is stifling, the end is collective yet still bespoke; you are abysmally alone. The military siege belongs to earlier ages but is too crudely effective to be left there, hence “Gaza.” Gaza, where one and a half million people – mostly refugees – have been besieged since June 2007 for their audacity to want to live in their own time and place. Where on 27 December 2008 their besiegers began celebrating the New Year early, culminating in the gift of white phosphorous shells for surviving school children. Witnessed by a never more seeing world…”
My text continues here.
This issue of the TWiP is here and can be downloaded as a pdf here.
Narrating Gaza [حكايات غزة], the new website dedicated to collecting and disseminating voices, images, words from Gaza and which occasioned this piece of mine, is here in Arabic and here in English.
NG can be contacted by potential contributors or the curious here: info [at] narratinggaza [dot] ps