on the publication date for in ramallah, running, july 26th 2012

In Ramallah, Running by Guy Mannes-Abbott – July 26 2012

A brief word to celebrate the release of my book at last!

I’m attaching a copy of the Press Release which went out today with details about the book and its contents as well as contacts for review copies and further information.

In Ramallah, Running by Guy Mannes-Abbott | Press Release July 2012

I will update with news as well as details about a launch we will be having in early September, along with other readings, launch-related events, discussions and festival appearances in London, the UK and beyond.

More soon…

on in ramallah, running – cover artwork, advance info., etc.

In Ramallah, Running cover artwork – click on image to expand

In Ramallah, Running

Guy Mannes-Abbott

Edited by Guy Mannes-Abbott and Samar Martha

Introduction by Jean Fisher

Contributions from Jananne al-Ani, Francis Alÿs, Najwan Darwish, Emily Jacir, Olaf Nicolai, Paul Noble, Khalil Rabah, Adania Shibli, Mark Titchner, Sharif Waked.

Co-produced by ArtSchool Palestine & Sharjah Art Foundation

Published by Black Dog

“I read it in one breath. A cunning simplicity of writing the complexity of today’s Palestine, through the alleys, roads, streets, hills, valleys, days and evenings in and around Ramallah, charged me with love of the art of writing, of Palestine… You showed me my place and made me hear my story. I loved the piece without limits.”

Mourid Barghouti, Palestinian Poet and author of classics memoirs; I Saw Ramallah & I Was Born There, I Was Born Here.

In Ramallah, Running represents Guy Mannes-Abbott’s uniquely personal encounter with Palestine, interweaving short, poetic texts with exploratory essays. International artists and prominent writers have been invited to respond both directly and indirectly to the texts with newly commissioned works.

The principal text is a series in 14 parts, alternating running within the limits of the city and walking out from it to, along, beyond and off limits, discovering how insidiously mobile those limits are under Occupation. With singular style and compelling force, Mannes-Abbott generates a very special intimacy with a rarely seen or experienced Palestine; the actual place itself, the people in their place.

Jean Fisher contributes a substantial introductory essay, while the poet and critic Najwan Darwish and novelist Adania Shibli have written further captivating responses. Visual contributions include a project linked to a pair of paintings by Francis Alÿs, drawings of stoney aridity with ambiguous structures by Paul Noble, and a searingly intimate journal-based piece by Emily Jacir. Jananne al-Ani, Khalil Rabah and Mark Titchner contribute varying photography-based projects focused on the place and its relationship to the body and word. Olaf Nicolai contributes an angular text-based project and Sharif Waked highlights the abysmal ambiguities of the political context.

In Ramallah, Running
Paperback
160 pages
32 colour plus b/w ills
26.0 x 19.0 cm
10.20 x 7.5 in
ISBN 978 1 907317 67 5

NB: Advance proofs of the book have arrived and are really quite beautiful Continue reading “on in ramallah, running – cover artwork, advance info., etc.”

on my review of mourid barghouti’s i was born there… in today’s Independent

Screenshot 2018-03-12 10.30.56

MB by Rex Features The Independent
Horror, and happiness: Mourid Barghouti ( Rex Features )

I Was Born There, I Was Born Here,

By Mourid Barghouti, trans. Humphrey Davies

GUY MANNES-ABBOTT | FRIDAY 04 NOVEMBER 2011

 

Mourid Barghouti’s first volume of memoir, I Saw Ramallah, is a classic of the genre and a uniquely clear-eyed account of returning home after 30 years of serial expulsion. Barghouti is also the poet of displacement in general as well as its specific Palestinian form. In between the first and this second volume of memoir came Midnight & Other Poems – a first selection from many volumes of his poetry.

I Saw Ramallah wove a life of enforced absences into a moment of return to that city and the author’s home village of Deir Ghassanah in 1996, with prose of poetic concision. It ended with Barghouti recrossing an indelibly memorialised bridge over the Jordan river to collect a permit for his son Tamim, so they could return together. “He will see it. He will see me in it, and we shall ask all the questions after that.”

I Was Born… is that collection of “questions” Continue reading “on my review of mourid barghouti’s i was born there… in today’s Independent”

on mourid barghouti’s i was born there, i was born here due 7 Nov in UK

Deir Ghassanah from the restored ‘ruins of al Khawas’ tomb & masjid [Ph. G Mannes-Abbott 2010]

The much anticipated arrival in English of a second volume of Mourid Barghouti’s memoirs is now close enough to touch… Indeed, I have it here in my happy fingers. My efforts to try to read it in Arabic, with only a basic grasp of the language, met an honourable end without ever getting close to the uniquely precise presence of its author in his words…

Publication of I Was Born There, I was Born Here is November 7th and Mourid will be appearing at Oxford University, the Bristol Festival of Ideas, and London’s Southbank Centre. I’m reserving comment on the book for reasons that will become clear, but if you’ve never seen Mourid’s words come to life in his voice right in front of you then waste no time in getting hold of a seat or a ticket at these events… Continue reading “on mourid barghouti’s i was born there, i was born here due 7 Nov in UK”

notes from a biennial -appendix [ii] in conversation with aisha khalid

click IMAGE to link to notes from a biennial – appendix [i] in conversation with aisha khalid

Aisha Khalid & I

by Guy Mannes-Abbott

Conversation at Sharjah Art Museum Sharjah UEA March 2011

Guy Mannes-Abbott [gma]

Let’s begin with your piece hanging in the entrance foyer of the Sharjah Art museum, Kashmiri Shawl [2011]?

Aisha Khalid [ak]

There is a whole story behind this piece I did, this shawl. Continue reading “notes from a biennial -appendix [ii] in conversation with aisha khalid”

notes from a biennial – on a day of words [one]

Screenshot 2017-05-15 12.38.25

Screenshot 2017-05-15 12.38.52

(Links to the original SAF site and these thumbnails no longer exist. UPDATED 2017)

Notes from a Biennial – On a Day of Words [One]

Sharjah Biennial 10

18.03.2011, 14:06

by Guy Mannes-Abbott

It should not be a surprise to find a lot of words -in the form of writing and image- at this Biennial in particular. Then again, it is quite surprising to find quite so many high quality publications; from the hulking sanctuary of the ‘Plot for a Biennial’ catalogue [ed. Ghalya Saadawi], to the thumb prints of individual artist publications and on to the stack of books entitled Manual for Treason.

Words flourish here as text and speech as well as in many languages, signing the Biennial site and as translations of the variously published texts. ‘Manual for Treason’ itself [Ed. Murtaza Vali] for example contains English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Kannada -at least. Manual for Conspiracy [Ed. Basak Ertur] is published in English and Turkish -and so on.

Throughout the Biennial works engage the world they were made to ‘breathe together’ with [to quote Ertur’s etymological elaboration on the word Conspiracy], to notable effect. It is to the credit of all involved that what these things mean has been taken seriously especially as it takes place at a time of real and systemic change in the region. In many places there is a radical revisiting of archives of revolution, from the large scale and actual [Harun Farocki & Andrei Ujlica Videograms of a Revolution 1993] through comic projection [Ahmad Ghossein My Father is Still a Communist 2011].

One morning artists and I breakfast on a headline reporting that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent military and police reinforcements to support the ruler of Bahrain. It’s clear that something must be said; next morning artists make a gesture of saying it. [For something of an elaboration on the wider context of this, see Notes from a Biennial – On Reflection] In the early hours of the next day, avid attention is paid to Blackberries for a New York Times report about a large group of distinguished artist friends, many of whom are present here, who have been working with Human Rights Watch to ensure or enable the coming Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi to pay all those who will build and service it properly. (A small cut of this last sentence, made live -by me, for an unnerved curator friend then involved both with SB and GAD- March 2011 is now restored. NYT link here PDF below. UPDATED 2017)

Words. CAMP are showing their 65 minute film; The Neighbour Before The House [2009]. I’ve seen a version of this before -in a show curated by Samar Martha at the Liverpool Biennial- and settle to watch it all here. It is a fascinatingly subversive use made of surveillance cameras to explore the view of the Occupied in Jerusalem/al Quds. As the security cameras are turned against the Occupation, zooming in and out on details in otherwise prohibited places, voices describe what I’m watching in Arabic, their words flashing up in English below.

In one section a family whose home has been stolen and who are forbidden to go close to it, narrate what is being shown close up from a significance distance away; “61 days they haven’t once cleaned the stairs” to the street. One notable thing is that the building has been extended, a right denied Palestinians in Jerusalem and elsewhere. All of a sudden the family’s children appear before the house, insistently ignoring the ban and pointedly refusing to leave. Then there’s another child’s gasp as the mother of the family appears in frame, pressed up against security infrastructure attempting to peer inside her own, confiscated home.

Another section focuses on security cameras mounted on a building, but also a series of signature holes in the wall where they’ve been removed, on one occasion by a Palestinian seeking reparation -an anecdote that provides a bitterly comical moment. The words tell a familiar story to anyone who has noticed the daily demolitions, expulsions, detentions and killings that define the Occupation. But they remain peculiarly raw when, as Amitava Kumar’s contribution to the ‘Manual’ observes, “the world watches cowardly and indifferent.” [See Appendix i – Camp & I for an interview and more details.]

Words as aural and visual elemental are central to Naeem Mohaiemen’s brilliant and widely admired 70 minute film piece; The Young Man Was… [Part 1: United Red Army] which is about the hijacking of a plane to Dhaka by the Japanese Red Army in 1977. Tense negotiations ended with the release of hostages and the escape of the hijackers and prisoners they’d sought to free -during which time a military coup takes place. The end of the film lists the fates of many of the ‘cast’ and it’s notable that a number of Interpol warrants remain open for some of the revolutionaries involved.

NM found and used the actual records of negotiations between the control tower and the plane and those cryptic and repeated words make up a significant amount of what I’m watching, the sound track clear despite faltering English and Bengali background chatter. Viewers hear both sides from the control tower, which reveals the panic, duplicity and episodic fury that is anticipatable but unnerving to actually witness. It also reveals the robotic iterations of the hijacker’s simple and unswerving demands.

It’s a poem of a piece, beautiful executed, difficult to describe, not least because, as Naeem says himself, to do so and to sketch the mountain of which the film is a very small ‘tip’, takes longer than the film and inevitably undoes it as a work with real potency. The piece revisits a time when hijackers said things like “we hurt bourgeois people” or “it is duty of revolutionary soldiers” but the approach is pointed in its sophistication.

That point is well sketched by a phrase in the piece about how histories repeat in unpredictable ways and at unpredictable times. It’s a point that reminds me of Mourid Barghouti’s response to the Tunisian uprising which ended; “When it happens, it will not have happened suddenly.” NM’s remark is a direct reference to revolutionary events in Bangladesh itself, as well as more of that ‘breath’ I referred to earlier.

These are just two of the films that any visitor to the Biennial should ring fence enough time to see. The fact that you can is, despite my need to mark the larger context of the day/s here and I think important to acknowledge too, a credit to all the curators and freedoms -granted by funders of the Foundation at a National level- that they have made such productive use of.

To be continued…

 


 

A pdf of the NYT article linked above, in case the link does into work:

Guggenheim Threatened With Boycott Over Abu Dhabi Project – The New York Times

 

on the biting wisdom of poets [one], mourid barghouti

What is happening, hopefully, in Egypt is truly momentous and it has been a long time coming, as MB says below; “When it happens, it will not have happened suddenly.” He is referring to a wider phenomenon across the Arab world, which is, I think, really the end [the real ending] of the post-Imperial age, the beginning of the beginning [the real beginning] of a new Arab autonomy and matching political culture. That is the prize. If Egypt completes its transformation, then it will be inevitable though not immediate and not in a single step. As such, it’s something that I’m only observing with respect and pleasure from just one ex-colonial capital!

A brief introductory quote from Tamim Barghouti’s related piece;

“Tunisia sent out the message that client regimes fall – that if we can drive the empires out, we will surely be able to drive out their vassals Continue reading “on the biting wisdom of poets [one], mourid barghouti”

mourid barghouti, i was born there, i was born here

ولدت هناك، ولدت هنا   مريد البرغوثي

This is the front cover of my very own copy of Mourid Barghouti’s latest book I was Born There, I was Born Here, published by Riad El-Rayyes Books in May 2009. In Nablus you can pick up a cheaper pirate copy, but this one is the original with an embossed cover from Dar al Shourouk in Ramallah again.

I excuse my own excitement because I remember when Mourid first mentioned that he was writing this and have been waiting impatiently for its account of the period post 1996 when he was first able to return home -as recounted in the classic I Saw Ramallah- all the way up to and beyond the 2006 elections.

At this stage my Arabic makes reading this very slow work indeed, so I’m glad that Humphrey Davies has been appointed translator of the book and that the American University of Cairo Press [AUC] are scheduling the English translation for November 2011. I know that Bloomsbury were anticipating publishing the book in the UK and will update on both fronts when I receive confirmations. [Yes! Fall 2011 is the scheduled publication date for both.]

Meanwhile, there’s an intriguing 2000-word blog on the book, a first English language review including quite extensive translated passages, here, which I recommend to you.

Finally, given the familial dimension of this book -Mourid visits the alleys and suqs of al Qds/Jerusalem as well as the village of his young life Deir Ghassanah with son and poet Tamim- I can’t resist sharing my pleasure at seeing that novelist, academic, wife and mother Radwa Ashour has a newly translated novel, Spectres [Atyaf], forthcoming from Arabia Books [UK], who have a page here. I hope this will mark the beginning of good translations of all her works into English. In any case the arrival of this one is a major event.

Riad El-Rayyes Books [Arabic] website is here.

AUC Press is here.

Arabia Books here.

Nur Elmessiri article on Radwa’s Atyaf/Spectres in Al Ahram [1999] here.

My earlier post on Mourid’s Midnight and Other Poems, which Radwa translated -and for which I wrote the Introduction– is here.

‘Mourid and Tamim Barghouti with Ahdaf Soueif’ event at the Southbank Centre London, Saturday November 6th is here.

ghassan kanafani ‘men in the sun’; brilliant writing [not] banned in the uk

Wondering about Kanafani’s book today, I checked yet again to see if it’s in print at all and specifically in the UK. (Updated links Mar2018)

I was wrong to describe it [earlier] as out of print, since it’s available in the US from Lynne Rienner Publishers here. LRP do have a London office too; the two Kanafani books I link to below are available from their UK distributors here. [I’m correcting my original post which criticised the lack of an equivalent British publisher. Does it matter in our cowardly new world? I think it does actually, yes.]

Men in the Sun [Rijal fi-al-shams [1962/3] was one of the first books by a Palestinian writer I read; entry point, beginning. I admired it first time up but wasn’t able to get a real hold on it or place it in a wider [Palestinian] literature.

I expect that this is a common experience in general, although if Mourid Barghouti‘s classic memoir I Saw Ramallah is a similar entry point for many today -as anecdotal experience suggests- the effect will also differ. MB’s book is more self-contained in this sense, its brilliant opening chapter The Bridge carries the voice of these men in the sun [amongst many others and much else] back home. Readers familiar with both will, I hope, forgive the purposive crudity of such an analogy.

I re-read Men in the Sun recently in a slim and very simply produced Heinemann/Three Continents Press edition [it first arrived in English in American University of Cairo Press, AUC, whose excellent back- and ongoing list is emerging through the wonderful Arabia Books in the UK] I was almost shocked by just how good it is; beautifully spare prose, precise and haunting altogether and, so far as I can tell, very well translated by Hilary Kilpatrick.

So why did I have to rely on the British Library to read it? I ask the question still even though my persisting with it did elicit a link to its blameless distributor in London through its entirely admirable publisher based in Boulder, Colorado. I leave it to you to decide or tell me whether it makes any difference…

Continue reading “ghassan kanafani ‘men in the sun’; brilliant writing [not] banned in the uk”

ahdaf soueif; views from a common, higher ground 2004

Ahdaf Soueif’s stark truth-telling about Palestine, in the journalism collected in Mezzaterra, saved the day in 2004.

It was a bleakly difficult year. The consequences of a series of deaths and accidents were felt thickly while I struggled with the scale and depths of my research on Gujarat, committed to writing a book worthy of a fascinating people/place and my own journeying ‘to the end’. Simultaneously,  global indifference to the ongoing dispossession and slaughter of Palestinians combined unique chronicness with acute horror to maddening effect.

What to do, exactly?

Click on cover to ‘see inside’

Ahdaf’s brilliant piece on Palestinian writers, in particular, lit a double pathway. It reminded me why critical journalism can be worthwhile and inspired the discovery of a way to channel outrage into something positive and productive.

Surely part of the reason Britain has supported the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, part of the reason the British government raced into Afghanistan and Iraq in particular is willful ignorance. Ignorance about the people, their history and a culture only perceived mutely at the end of a gun, as a cross on a screen inside an aerial bomber or a cruise missile launcher.

I decided to discover as much as I could about Arabic and particularly Palestinian writing in English and to champion it in any way I could. In those 6 years there has been some increased attention beyond 2 or 3 best sellers but, just for instance, why is the assassinated Ghassan Kanafani so hard to get hold of in the UK [on this see here]?

More recently, I’ve been learning Arabic and because of the unique way in which it opens up the culture I would advocate a campaign to make a British passport holder fluent in Arabic for every bullet and bomb aimed at an Arabic-speaker in this century, never mind the last.

Take Iraq alone; if for every hundred thousand Iraqis killed by the angels of Democracy, there were an equivalent hundred thousand new Arabic speakers in Britain…

Meanwhile, in her introductory preface to Mezzaterra [dated London June 2004] AS wrote: “Personally, I find the situation so grave that in the last four years I have written hardly anything which does not have direct bearing on it. The common ground, after all, is the only home that I and those whom I love can inhabit.

Towards the end of the preface she wrote; “The question of Palestine is of paramount importance not just because of humanitarian concerns about the plight of Palestinians. It matters that now, in full view of the world and in utter defiance of the mechanisms the international community has put into place to regulate disputes between nations, a favoured state can commit vast illegal acts of brutality and be allowed to gain by them. If the world allows Israel to steal the West Bank and Jerusalem and to deny the history of the people it dispossessed in 1948 and 1967 then the world will have admitted it is a lawless place and the world will suffer the consequences of this admission.

This is to put it as gently -with hard earnt civility and width of appeal- as possible. Six years on settlement activity has flourished and is ongoing, Palestinians [and Lebanese] have been massacred, partly with US dollars and British military equipment, part of Palestine remains under total siege, anyone brave or desperate enough to protest or object is bombed to pieces by a state that is a close ally of the US/UK and EU. At the same time Britain’s fantastically profitable supermarkets are full of reliably cheap Israeli produce.

Instead of making any substantive attempt to stay this aberrant hand the British government has sought ways to weaken the application of International jurisdiction as it applies in Britain, so as to encourage links from the perpetrators of what the UN describes as war crimes. When Rudolf Hess fled to Britain from a mortifying regime he was imprisoned for life. Now the British establishment welcomes leaders who are not fleeing but arrive proud and boastful about their very own mortifying regime.

When despair is insistent it must be resisted. Resistance of this and all kinds is the propellant along an inexorable path towards justice; the easily achieved human justice of courts and a more open and potent recognition of truth. The rhetorical arc of Never Again peaked and fell into Yet Again during my own lifetime but that doesn’t reduce the universal import or urgency of achieving substantial justice in this particular instance. Free Palestine any which way but minus the cant.

Here are some links to directly related pieces by AS:

‘Under the Gun A Palestinian Journey’ The Guardian Dec. 2000 here.

Pt 2 ‘Our World is Upside Down’ here.

‘Do Something’ The Guardian Letter to Blair April 2002 here.

‘The Waiting Game’ The Guardian Nov 2003 here.

NB In between came ‘Palestinian Writers’ The Guardian Sept 2004; an abridgement of an excellent essay republished in Mezzaterra on the richness of Palestinian writers and writing. It is not online.

‘The Palestinians say; “This is a war of extermination”‘. The Guardian Jan 2009 here.

PalFest, the Palestinian Festival of Literature 2010, is ongoing here.

Screenshot 2018-03-12 10.30.56

Mezzaterra: fragments from the common ground,

by Ahdaf Soueif

A glimpse of hope in a polarised world

By Guy Mannes-Abbott

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

Ahdaf Soueif is best known for The Map of Love, a novel which did much to open up the minds of English-speaking readers to Egyptian modernity. It brilliantly interwove the love affair of an English colonial woman and an Egyptian nationalist in the early 20th century with a burgeoning national “renaissance”, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999.

That book followed an earlier novel and two collections of stories. However, the political writing she began in 2000 with Under the Gun has made her a writer of special importance. Mezzaterra includes “The Waiting Game”, her brave, despairing return to the occupied heart of Palestine, and a recent portrait of Palestinian writers under existential siege.

Mezzaterra‘s second half, literary pieces from two decades in London, is the surprising bonus. It includes reviews of writers from Jean Genet and Amitav Ghosh to Philip Hensher, along with pieces on al-Jazeera, Islamic “queens” and “the veil”: a term without an Arabic equivalent. Each exhibits Soueif’s demanding exactitude, whereby she will apologise for making “small points” before demonstrating their full import. Words, she proves repeatedly, matter.

Soueif is obsessed with language and power, the way words like “freedom” and international laws are abused when applied to Islamic contexts. She dissects sloppy mistranslations of Arabic and ideological clichés about Islam. More subtle difficulties loom when transliterating her own name from the Arabic as Soueif, in contrast to her brother, Ala Swafe. Reviewing William Golding’s An Egyptian Journal, she takes elegant revenge for Ala’s anonymously belittled efforts to coach the author in such subtleties.

The brilliance of this collection lies in Soueif’s linkage of “small” things to universal categories. She praises her friend Edward Said for being “human”, “fair” and “inclusive”, qualities that describe the “mezzaterra” of her title. This common ground, where differences enrich rather than clash, is civilisation. A “with us or against us” world, with its “war on terror” and “peace process”, is the opposite.

Souief is transfixed by the Palestinian uprising. She writes, contra Said, of having always felt “essentially in place: Egyptian, Muslim”*. So, writing about Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians in front of a wilfully diverted world, her combination of centred gravity, minute precision and insistent humanity generates highly clarified truth.

The truth makes for bleak reading, as her nightmares materialise in massive new Israeli settlements. “And yet there is still hope,” she writes, even in ravaged Ramallah where Palestinian writers like Liana Badr and Adania Shibli** shape exquisite stories against chronic injustice. The only real hope is for “a viable Palestine”. Although it may require courage, take these marvellous essays to heart.

* AS does write this here, but I’m aware that she has also described a more complex relationship to this identity during earlier years of living in Britain. In 1999 for example she explained to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown at The Independent that “15 years ago I think I might have said I was both Egyptian and English. Now I long for Egypt. I feel an anxiety that I am not in Egypt more often; that I am in this place but not of it.”

** Adania is one of the Beirut 39 here and has books forthcoming in English here.

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