Reading Svetlana Alexievich, After Returning from the British Library

Self saw the exhibit Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at the British Library this morning. Despite the fact that she got there practically at opening, the exhibit was very crowded. And she is short. And all the people between her and the display cases seemed very tall. Nevertheless, she is glad she went. On one wall is a quote, dating from the late 11th century. Which is to say, after the Norman Conquest. She forgot to note the identity of the writer, but guesses it must have been a monk:

Nothing has gone well for a long time now. There has been harrying and hunger, burning and bloodshed.

She returned to her rooms and resumed reading Svetlana Alexievich’s oral history of Russian women soldiers: The Unwomanly Face of War. From the essay that begins the book (A Human Being Is Greater Than War):

‘Women’s’ war has its own colors, its own smells, its own lighting, and its own range of feelings. Its own words . . . And it is not only they (people) who suffer, but the earth, the birds, the trees.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Poetry Thursday: LIU XIA

Excerpt from Scheme, in the bilingual poetry collection Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press)

You’re always disappointed in me/
I, too, can do nothing about myself.

Liu Xia is the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She is currently under house arrest in China.

Stay tuned.

 

Poetry Tuesday: Wislawa Szymborska

DREAM (An excerpt)

A meadow spreads between us.
Skies come flying with clouds and birds,
mountains rise silently on the horizon
and a river flows downward, searching for the sea.

— Wislawa Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

In Memoriam, Liu Xiaobo, Dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Discovered the poetry of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, through a bilingual translation from Graywolf, Empty Chairs.

Liu Xiaobo passed away earlier this year. Self can imagine Liu Xia’s pain.

This morning, in Paris, reading Liu Xia’s “One Bird and Then Another:”

One Sunday, the sky was
overcast, but it wasn’t raining.
We went out together and you bought
me a blouse from a boutique.
When it got dark, we went
to a crowded restaurant
and each ate two bowls of dumplings.
On the way back we
were quiet, not saying a word,
feeling slightly uneasy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Friday: Wislawa Szymborska

from Utopia

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.


The poem can be read in its entirety here.

Stay tuned.

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Winner and Husband of Liu Xia (Poet, EMPTY CHAIRS), Has Died

And self can’t even.

She found out, of course, from Twitter.

There’s confirmation from BBC World News, here.

Heartbroken.

Liu Xia: EMPTY CHAIRS (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Liu Xia is the wife of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize awardee Liu Xiaobo (Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an eleven-year sentence in China for the Charter 08 Manifesto).

The excerpt from Black Sail is in her collection, Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Black Sail (translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern)

You reach out your arms and pull the man
close, quiet, until his hair floats like seaweed.
Then you calm down and light a cigarette — green smoke
rises. The next day, when firecrackers
clear the way for a full black sail,
you become a gust of wind, a cloud, an eye.

DSCN0406

Lake Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

This Evening, Tomas Transtromer

When self was with Angela Narciso Torres in Venice Beach in November, Angela took self to A Small World, a fabulous bookstore fronting the beach. Self ended up getting poetry collections by Neruda and Tomas Transtromer.

This evening, self is looking through Transtromer’s collection The Great Enigma (Pretty fabulous, that title!), translated by Robin Fulton.

The back cover has the New York Times quoting Transtromer as saying, “My poems are meeting places.”

Oh. Wow. Self can’t even. Just. Kill her now.

Here’s an excerpt from Transtromer’s Balakirev’s Dream:

 The black grand piano, the gleaming spider
trembled at the center of its net of music.

In the concert hall a land was conjured up
where stones were no heavier than dew.

Love, love, love those images.

Stay tuned.

To Help Medicins Sans Frontieres/ Doctors Without Borders

In this season of giving, where every delivery of mail brings requests for donations, naturally self feels she has to be rather sparing about her charity (First of all, her 1998 Nissan Altima broke down again). But here’s one organization that self feels absolutely no doubt about supporting:  Doctors Without Borders.

Doctors Without Borders — Her first December in Bacolod, 2010, they occupied a whole floor of L’Fisher Chalet.

Self saw these doctors (whom she mistook for tourists) on the rooftop restaurant of the hotel and was casting all sorts of nasty aspersions on their motives for being in Bacolod.

Then she found out from one of the L’Fisher Chalet staff that the people she had assumed were tourists were actually doctors. In fact, the staff assumed self was a doctor, too. She also found out that Doctors Without Borders comes every year, that the doctors stay for a month, that they go out into the poorest villages and provide free medical care. And they’ve been doing this for a while.

They were in west Africa to deal with the Ebola crisis (and more than one did end up contracting Ebola themselves).

They were in the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, bringing their inflatable hospitals to reach typhoon survivors in the most isolated, hard-hit regions.

87.4% of donations goes towards medical programs.

They were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.

www.doctorswithoutborders.org

2011 Nobel Prize for Literature: Who Should Win?

Self confesses, she’s not really that into the Nobels. But what the hey, if Words Without Borders cared enough to solicit opinions from its readers, why not enter the game?

October is the month when the Nobel Committee makes its announcement.  Here are the authors that Words Without Borders readers felt could or should win:

Self would like to nominate Lydia Davis or Jim Harrison or Chang-rae Lee or Steven Milhauser or D. A. Powell or Bernard Schlink.

And Gilda Cordero Fernando, who is not prolific, but who in self’s humble opinion is the greatest woman writer in Asia today.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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