Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

The Siege Today

September 16th, 2014 No Comments

With “Under Siege”, we begin this last quarter of the year with a cycle of debates on contemporary sieges, a project that also aims to denounce military conflicts that are unresolved, forgotten and even hidden from public opinion.

A Brief History of Collapses (2011-12) © Mariam Ghani

“Under Siege” consists of an installation comprised by two audiovisual works by the artists Mariam Ghani and Omer Fast, together with a series of conversations about the concept of the siege. The installation was opened to the public on the 16th September with a session titled “Working under Siege”, which took the form of a dialogue between the curator Chus Martínez and the Afghanistan-born artist Mariam Ghani about the possibility of artistic creation in a state of siege.

The cycle also discusses  one of today’s most paradigmatic cases of the siege in “Gaza. The Permanent Siege“. Ahron Bregman, a former soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces and presently a lecturer at King’s College, London, will be presenting his most recent book La ocupación (Crítica, 2014 – published in English as Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories, 2014, Allan Lane). On the basis of his own experience and study of high-level Israeli classified documents, among other privileged sources, he condemns his country’s policy in Gaza Strip.

From the siege as understood in the classical acceptance of the word, the debate moves on to describe a key element in contemporary warfare with the session titled “Drones. Siege at a Distance”. With its use of drones, technology definitively breaks with the physical and moral proximity between attacker and victim, in such a way that killing becomes a less costly, aseptic, effortless task-at-a-distance. What does this use of drones mean on the political, military and ethical scales? A documentary, Drone (2014), directed by the Norwegian film-maker Tonje Hessen Schei and bringing together the testimonies of both victims of drone attacks and their pilots, is to be premiered in this session. Chris Woods, a British journalist and expert on drones will speak with Hessen in a discussion moderated by the journalist Jordi Pérez Colomé.

Finally, in the session titled “Syria. Information under Siege”, moderated by the journalist Lali Sandiumenge, another essential aspect of the contemporary siege will be analysed, namely the power of information and the importance of the digital media in making it available to the general public. The Syrian researcher and activist Leila Nachawati has studied a range of citizens’ initiatives in her birthplace. These have found a potent weapon against the Syrian regime in the form of the social media, and she documents this in the database Syria Untold. Then Marc Marginedas, a war correspondent for the newspaper El Periódico, inquires into the change of direction in the Syrian conflict after the irruption therein by the group of Iraqi origins called Islamic State (IS) and their strategy of targeting international journalists.

“Under Siege” is the counterpoint of the “Open City” cycle of debates with which the CCCB opened 2014, and also its contribution to the commemoration of the Tricentenari – the three-hundredth anniversary of the siege of Barcelona. These are two cycles of debate which, from opposite starting points, uphold freedom as an essential value of human existence, and draw attention to the responsibility of all of us in the task of safeguarding it.

“I Copied Out the Whole of Moby Dick by Hand”: The Secrets of the Writing of Nadeem Aslam

October 2nd, 2013 No Comments

We read novels to have a good time, or to learn more, or for the pleasure of letting ourselves be carried away by a good story, but behind every book there is always an author and a singular writing process, which may be long or short, pleasurable or tortuous, each with its own techniques and dynamics that we are rarely aware of as readers.

During his lecture at the CCCB, Nadeem Aslam wanted to share some of the secrets of his writing with us and he talked about his strategies for writing novels and about his beginnings as a writer. His are tips will be interesting for everyone who writes, but also for lovers of literature in general and for readers of The Blind Man’s Garden (in Spanish: El jardín del hombre ciego - Mondadori, 2013), his latest novel.

In this first fragment, Aslam explains the importance that notebooks have for him in his writing process. (You can hear this on the lecture video, minute 33:55)

Since about the age of 20, I have kept a notebook, in which I write down everything that I find interesting. It might be a comment of yours, a play of light on a blossom, a quote from a book, something I saw on the street… Now I have more than 100 notebooks. When I work, I sit down and write a chapter, then completely at random, I pick up one of these 100 notebooks, and look at the first thing that I wrote down. It might be a notebook from when I was 25, or 37, or 41, or from yesterday. Then I say: ‘Can I find a place for it here, in this chapter?’ If I can use it, I write it down, then I mark it with a small cross so that I do not use it again. Then I move on to the second thing, then the third, and I follow this process and go through the entire notebook. By the end of the day, the entire page will be scrawled with small notes and ideas that I will add to the text. Later when I edit it if I think it doesn’t work, I take it out and put it back in the notebook, because it is not a bad thought, it just doesn’t belong here; I know I will find a place for it somewhere else, maybe tomorrow or maybe in fifteen years time, or thirty. [...] In a longer chapter I can go through four, five or six notebooks, so on a purely practical level, I have been writing this book since I was 20, because there are thoughts in here from when I was 20… Apart from the notebooks, I am also a human being; I have a mother, a father, nephews, girlfriends… Those experiences then come in, because my first point of reference is always my own life. I may change things slightly to fit the needs of the narrative, of course, but if I am going to have a mother in my novel, my first reference will be my own mother.

The way in which Nadeem Aslam learned literary English also merits attention. The writer’s family went as refugees to Britain when he was 14 years old, and to resolve the problems with the language he read the great novelists, to the point where he even copied their works by hand (minute 41:40 of the lecture).

In Pakistan we were not rich; we were people of the left. If you are rich in Pakistan, you can send your children to expensive schools where they teach you in English, but I had gone to a government school where I was taught in Urdu, so when I came to Britain at the age of 14, I had very basic English, such as ‘This is a table; that is a floor’. At school in England the subjects that I did well in were sciences, because for sciences your English didn’t need to be good, you had to assimilate facts and reproduce them, if they happen to be in bad English it doesn’t really matter. But the subjects I was interested in, literature, history, politics and philosophy, for all of these you needed to write essays, argue with people, articulate yourself, and I couldn’t even write a paragraph. I went to university to read sciences, but in the third year, when I had been living in Britain for seven years, I said to myself my English is not good enough to do what I really wanted to do, which was to write. [...] Because I could not study the subjects that I liked at high school and at university, or take a B.A. or an M.A. or a PhD, I said to myself over the next ten years I’m going to do that. I would go to one person and say ‘Tell me who is a great writer’ and they would say ‘Thomas Hardy’, so I went and ready everything by Thomas Hardy, from the first novel to the last. Then I would go to person B and way ‘Who is a great writer’ and they would say ‘Nabokov’, so I would read everything by Nabokov. They said Faulkner, Joyce, Conrad, Lawrence; I read them all… Then I wanted to find out:  What is a paragraph? How many thoughts are allowed on a page? What is a comma? What is a full stop used for? So I copied out the whole of Moby Dick by hand. Then I copied out As I lay dying by William Faulkner, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Autumn of The Patriarch by Gabriel García Marquez, Lolita by Nabokov, Black Meridian by Cormac McCarthy… I still have those pages, it was before the typewriter, I was doing them by hand. So it was very important for me to do that.

Next speaker: British writer Philip Hensher

Philip Hensher

Nadeem Aslam’s visit to Barcelona formed part of the cycle “Llocs/Lugares/Places. Dialogues with British writers” organised in collaboration with the British Council as part of the events associated with Kosmopolis, and other writers taking part are Philip Hensher, who will be visiting the CCCB on 8 October, and Edward St. Aubyn, who will visit us on 12 November 2013.

(Català) “No vull que Al Qaeda i els talibans defineixin què és ser musulmà”

September 23rd, 2013 1 Comment

(Català) Ana Ballesteros: «El problema no és l’extremisme o l’islamisme, sinó com s’instrumentalitza la religió per manipular la gent»

September 12th, 2013 No Comments

Nadeem Aslam, a Window into Pakistan

September 10th, 2013 No Comments

Ana Ballesteros

In the last few years, writing about Pakistan has become an almost obsessive account of what is wrong with the country. Sword, failure, chaos, jihad, frontline, terrorism, war, turmoil, trouble or Armageddon are just some of the words that abound in headlines regarding it since the symbolic date of 11th September 2001 and the subsequent War on Terror. A usually one-sided account of Pakistan leaves us with many questions and a certain feeling of concern, not to say fear.

Nadeem Aslam (© Richard Lea-Hair)

But a country cannot be portrayed in such a restricted way, one which ignores its past and its cultural richness. Nadeem Aslam’s writing contrasts with this monochromatic perception and shows us a world of colour, variety and nuance. The human condition and whatever remains of normality must be expressed; in this way, what is often seen as a failed state finds its foundations in the strength of its people. They, ordinary Pakistanis, are the real heroes of a daily existence that is by no means easy.

Aslam reminds us in his writing that there is a cultural legacy -brilliant, alive, surviving the dark forces of uniformity that threaten the rich heterogeneity of Pakistan. Traditions, stories and names get to live on and even come to life within our own traditions as we try to see them through our own eyes. The touchstone of it all is nothing but human nature: human feelings set in a certain context and a certain time that we can identify with because at certain times in our past, we have experienced them within our own countries, on our own doorsteps, in our own families and right in our own hearts.

That is how we can start to see this troubled area from a human perspective: not with the eyes of analysts, politicians or strategists, but with those of common people who just happened to be in the right or wrong place, at the right or wrong time. ‘The Blind Man’s Garden’ is set between Pakistan and Afghanistan at a time when the lives of its peoples were turned upside down. The story tells us that amidst the turbulence of the times, love, friendship and family prevail.

Nadeem Aslam will visit the CCCB on Monday, 16th of September, at 19:30h. He will read a fragment of his last novel and speak with Ana Ballesteros, an expert in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They will both open a window into Pakistan and the afghan conflict. Tickets can already be purchased at Telentrada or at the CCCB.