When Argentine poet Juan Gelman died in January, 2014—he left behind twenty books of poetry. He is best known for work rooted in the Argentine political repression of the 70s, when military forces brought a reign of terror to Buenos Aires. In 1976, Gelman’s son, Marcelo, and daughter-in-law, Claudia, pregnant with the poet’s grandchild were “disappeared.”
Do you remember when we used to go and dance at those punk rock shows/it feels so…long ago/do you remember that night when that skinhead threatened me with my life/ you should have realized right then…that something…something went quite right/we were just teenagers, looking for a scene/based upon simplistic notions of equality/oh ain’t it a fucker when you discover fuck when you discover that it’s all based upon slightly altered versions of the same old crap. —The Casual Terrorist
Nine Theses/Nine Lives
1. When did the Enlightenment die? 2. What I really mean is, When did the Enlightenment die for the left? 3. (And I don’t mean the so-called “White Jacobin” left, the left of white terror, which takes as a pseudo-Leninist occasion the alt-right mainstreaming of Foucault and the Thule Society to declare themselves the sole bearers of the torch of the Sokal Affair: though naturally there’s always a bridge, a hallucinogenic path, between fascism and the Enlightenment, and that bridge could be called John Locke or Jorge Luis Borges, Vilfredo Pareto or Peter Thiel’s hemophilia).
Un village français, a French television serial, was first broadcast on France 3 in 2009; the channel began showing the serial’s seventh and final season in October of 2016, and at the end of its run sixty-six episodes had been broadcast. Around the time it first appeared a Francophone friend recommended it as startlingly good TV, but warned that subtitled versions other than one season with French subtitles had proved impossible to locate. The belated appearance of a version subtitled in English is a very welcome gift. Along with the policier Engrenages, which stars several of the same actors, Un village français made even malevolent foreigners concede that French TV, under de Gaulle sometimes pilloried as a medium specializing in documentaries about beehives, had no reason to fear comparison to any televisual culture in the world.
Maybe it is a good time to revisit the story of Christopher Boyce. Certainly Open Road Media, which just re-issued an E-book of Robert Lindsey’s The Falcon and the Snowman (1979), thinks so. I had not read the original, but I’d seen the movie — Timothy Hutton as Boyce (The Falcon) and Sean Penn as Daulton Lee (The Snowman). Now, having mastered Adele’s Kindle, I’m down with ORM’s decision.
Meredith Tax’s A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State is a book of revelations about life during wartime in Rojava—the autonomous region in Syria led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is linked to (what Tax terms) the “Kurdish liberation movement network.” Readers should be inspired by PYD’s experiment in secularism, radical democracy, pluralism and feminism. Tax’s reporting certainly gave me a lift. Her take on Rojava, though, may be a little too rosy. In this review, I’ll try to touch on what’s iffy about her positivity without undercutting her effort to cultivate solidarity with Middle Eastern women who fight the Islamic State.
Does the word “revolution” mean the same thing to the Kurdish liberation movement and to American leftists who supported Bernie Sanders? A little history…
The photo below belongs in the DNC’s image bank in Philly. In my dreams, Hillary Clinton’s effort to break the glass ceiling converges with Alfred Yaghobzadeh’s picture of Djila climbing up to a lookout post in the Sinjar region of Iraq where her all-female brigade participated in a successful campaign against ISIS last fall.
Film director Abderrahmane Sissako, best known for Timbuktu, his film about the Islamist occupation of that historic city, spoke about his life and work in a dialogue with film scholar Michael Cramer at the French Consulate in New York City last week. His comments on the vicious killjoys who meant to humiliate Africans in Timbuktu by forbidding music, sports, and irreverence have taken on a new resonance in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris. But Sissako’s presence would be bracing at any time. Click on his picture below to see/hear video of the event at the French Consulate. Be aware it runs on empty for a couple minutes before you begin to hear crowd noise. The conversation starts about 1o minutes in. (And before you go there, you might want to check this memorable scene from Timbuktu, which was also shown about an hour into the discourse at the Consulate.)
Sissako noted he hoped Timbuktu would uphold the humanism of those in that city “who resisted silently”: “Those who hid to sing, or listened to the radio under the blanket, or were playing soccer in their minds.” He averred he lacked such quiet courage, but his modest, yet undeniable acts of imagination make one doubt his self-assessment. What seems most likely is that Sissako’s characters are true to their director’s beautiful core. You’ll catch a glimpse of it, if you watch the conversation above.
Thanks to Judith Walker, Mathieu Fournet and Cultural Services of the French Embassy for enabling First to embed their video (and to Oliver Conant for steering your editor to the event last week). B.D.
Writers and cartoonists who refuse to honor Charlie Hebdo aren’t thinking straight. Yet I don’t hate their impulse to distance themselves from those who are down with gratuitous humiliation of Muslims in France or anywhere else.
—If Smoler is to be criticized for anything, it is for an excess of kindliness…
In 2006 Charlie Hebdo republished the Jyllands-Posten cartoons (as did First of the Month), and were sued by three Muslim organizations. This attempted use of the courts to punish speech did not provoke any memorable censure by the people who have recently protested PEN’s decision to honor the courage of the journalists who worked (and then died) at Charlie Hebdo. In that same year Alberta’s Human Right Commission investigated a newspaper (the Western Standard) over its republication of the cartoons; defending itself cost the Western Standard $100,000 (which would have bankrupted First of the Month many times over) and cost the organizations making the complaint nothing—by no means an inefficient approach to suppressing speech. Teju Cole and his allies within PEN seem to have let this episode, too, pass without comment. On November 2, 2011 the offices of Charlie Hebo were firebombed, which seems to have yet again failed to provoke any indignation from Cole, Prose or the rest. On January 7th Islamist murderers shot dead twelve people in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and at this point Teju Cole could no longer keep silent. In a piece titled “Unmournable Bodies”, which was published in the New Yorker a few days later, he attacked the dead journalists.
When last we spoke…
One squireen was eulogizing yet another one. The still living one, Perry Anderson, found hope in the existence of a newish magazine, Jacobin. It’s been said before: hope that is seen is not hope.
So: to the moment. Jacobin wasted no time posting a comment on this week’s killings in Paris, on the first round, anyway.
A few months before her death, Ellen Willis emailed to say pieces by Charles O’Brien and Fredric Smoler on the Danish Cartoon Controversy posted on this site were “good.” (That was high praise from Ellen whose mode of approbation was the opposite of American idolaters.) Struck by how much those pieces “echoed themes” in what she’d written at the time of the Rushdie affair, she wondered if we “might be interested in reprinting the editorial I wrote in the Voice [in 1989] as a historical affirmation of the bad road we are going down.” What follows is the piece of the past that Ellen thought belonged in First. (It was originally titled “The West Betrays Its Principles.”) B.D.
I’m going to begin with an olive branch: not all of Sunday’s “Unity March” in Paris was a proto-fascist omen (Marine Le Pen and her National Front goons were, after all, cheerleading and hurling scatological slogans from the sidelines, which is a lot like when coaches of certain national soccer teams keep their divas or sexual predators off the field in spite of their universally acknowledged talent).
The following piece appeared here first after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. We’re re-posting it since the author’s thoughts on satire and terror are on point now.
Henry Czerny, confident that he has the situation well in hand, sits at table and says, “I can understand you’re very upset.” Tom Cruise, sitting opposite, bares teeth, says, “You’ve never seen me very upset.” And he pulls from his pocket exploding bubble gum, which he hurls at the glass wall of a giant fish tank, and
Michael Berube, I gather, is upset. He complains that Benj DeMott read his book carelessly. It’s a wonder he read it at all. DeMott owned up promptly to a mistake, My bad, he said. He forgot to add, Your worse. What DeMott did was overlook a footnote. As bad goes, it isn’t much. Berube wrote the book, It isn’t much. Who would feel obliged to sift through the footnotes?
Three Responses to Obama’s Cairo Speech.
We asked our writers and readers for their reflections on the 5th anniversary of 9/11. Here are 13 ways of looking at that day.
Retort Afflicted Powers: Capital & Spectacle in a New Age of War. New Edition, 2006. Verso