Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jibra Ibrahim Jibra

"Al-Amirat(=Princesses) Street" in Al-Mansoor district in Baghdad was a calm quarter with beautiful houses with huge trees and flowering gardens. Jibra Ibrahim Jibra lived and described his life in it in an autobiographical book named "Princesses' Street".

Jibra wrote about his love of walking in the street and thinking about what he would write. He was married to Lamea'a and lived with her in a house in this street. He wrote:
Portrait of Lamea'a by Jibra
"Lamea'a was very Baghdadi and very cosmopolitan, belonging to a mesopotamian era and belonging, at the same time, to the absolute time to whom we are attracted by love. After our stormy marriage, and our long voyage in the sea to the USA in a scholarship in Harvard, it was not strange that I didn't want to go back to Baghdad, since it was the Arabic city in which I saw, in its society and people, in its historical conditions at that time, the possibilities of freedom and modernism."

After 2003 the Princesses' Street had been closed by blocks and became an area were some of the governement members took residence with their armed guards. An explosion occured near the closed and abandoned Jibra's house. The street seems frightening these days.

A photo taken recently near the Princesses' Street
What is left for us is Jibra's books. He wrote about his unexpected meeting with Agatha Christie in Iraq in the late 50s and early 60s were her husband was an archeologist working at the Nemrood site. Jibra visited Agatha Christie many times in those years and saw her while she was writing "Murder in Mesopotamia".

It's 2012, the Princesses' Street is frightening, packed with guns, Jibra is not anymore there, but we still can find, in a corner, a bunch of his writings resting in the sunlight of a cold december. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Masha'a 6th Finger

Masha: " A green oak by the curving shore, and on that oak a chain of gold."

When faced with questions like: "What is the benefit of the books you are reading?" I found myself not sure what to say. Sometimes the answer came as: "Experiences, to witness individual's experiences". Regarding, for example, the history of Algeria, acountry that I care much about, novels were great additin to what I knew from history books. The individual's experiences matter a lot.

But what about reading a novel, or a play, from Russia? From an era that I ignore? 
Is it still a human experience that I am motivated to know about? Motivated? What motivates me? Reading Chekhov in English after reading it in Arabic seems an exercise in English.  

"Three Sisters" is a play about "the decay of the privileged class in Russia and the search for meaning in the modern world" as the wikipedia states. "Dissatisfied with their presence and existence" the three sisters long to Moscow.
 Vershinin: "I read a great deal, but I don't know how to select books and perhaps I don't read what I ought." p.118

I found another translation of the "Three Sisters" and now in French. I thought about reading it again in French as an exercise but Masha answered me:

Masha: "Knowing three languages in this town is a useless luxury. Not even a luxury. It's a useless appendage, like a sixth finger. We know a lot of unnecessary things." p104

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Granny's Colored Scarf, & Masha's 6th Finger

Granny's Colored Scarf, & Masha's 6th Finger

Instead of trying to fix the electricity problem in the weekend, going searching for French films in Al-Mutanabbea street was chosen, …….out-of-the-blue. It was a surprise to find an Algerian film. "Free Men" or "Les Hommes Libres" is such a wonderful film. It talks about the second world war, when the Nazi's were in France, and the Mosque of Paris started to issue faked identity cards to the Algerian Jews especially, to all the Jews in need generally, to declare that they are Muslims, so that they escape the Nazi's danger.

The friends of this Moroccan Jewish singer had engraved a faked grave for his father in the Muslim's cemetery as an evidence that he is Muslim, this has saved his life, …….to melancholia.

His friend, who engraved the faked grave, wanted a favor from the Jewish singer: "Come, I told my friends that you will sing for us!"

That seemed so silly but finally the singer accept and sang a song dated to the 40s when the US troops had take from Morocco a station before and/or after entering to France. The US troop had introduced the Dollars to the Moroccan market, and the grannies (as the song says) started to wear colored scarf. New words entered into the Morrocan dictionary including "Okay" and "Bye bye" as the song says:

The weekend was very happy instead of the failure to solve the electricity problem nor the internet problem which is related to the electricity problem. Working days started again soon and Chekov's "Three Sisters" were taken in the bus for a re-read. One of the sisters, named Masha, said that she talks many languages including French, German, and Italian, but she feels that such abilities seems useless in the small "retarded" village she lives in, ……."useless as a 6th finger" as she literally said.

Thinking about the trivial things that left memory in those last days herald a bias …….a bias of the memory to forget electricity and focus on novels and films, to neglect electricity for the sake of the Moroccan grannies' scarves and Masha's 6th finger.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When Memory Brewed, When Nietzsche Wept

"Isolation in present only in isolation, once you shared it it dissapears, my dear friend" Joseph Breuer to Friedrich Nietzsche in (When Nietzsche Wept) movie based on Yalom\s novel of the same name.

Irvin Yalom is a name not very strange to me. All I can remember is that I read the name while preparing for the Psychiatry Board exam before years. His name was related to group therapy. There were eleven notes numerated in a table in a text and I tried again and again to remember it by heart. Now, that I have passed the exam since 2-3 years, I forgot all about it.

The picture above is from a scene from the movie (When Nietzsche Wept) which is based on a novel by Irvin Yalom. 

Reading "Three Sisters" for the second, or maybe the third, time shocks my memory about how much I am forgetful about it. Next to Masha's lines I wrote some notes like: "style of speech", "theatrical display of emotions", "trying to be the centre of attention", "easily influenced", and so on... trying to find "hidden" criteria of histerionic personality disorder in Masha's line. 

It is either that I used to have some abilities that I lost, or that I developed new experiences and stopped beying naive, and "easily provokes" ;)

I need to review hardly the lecture notes and the texts. I may need to stop shattering my attention to irrilivant things and focus more on more basic things.