Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Elif Şafak on Bilingual Road Signs

The next day I am on my way to the Hay Festival. This year I am prepared for the rain – boots, scarves and raincoats. I remember the first time I went to Hay as a young novelist. I stopped by a road sign just because it was written in Welsh and English. I had never seen anything similar in Turkey. It was unthinkable: a simple road sign written in Turkish and Kurdish.

(From the online diary of Elif Şafak, Turkey’s best-known novelist)

Quote of the Week: Lumières de Pointe-Noire

Quand tu grandiras, quelle que soit la brousse dans laquelle tu entreras, dis-toi que les esprits y logent, et respecte aussi bien la faune que la flore, y compris les objets qui te paraissent sans intérêt comme un champignon ou un pauvre petit ver de terre qui tente de regagner le bord d’un rivière. Chez nous on ne chasse que les écureuils et les pangolins, c’est ce que nos ancêtres nous donnent comme gibier parce que les autres animaux, sauf si nous recevons message contraire à travers nos rêves, sont les membres de la famile qui sont partis de ce monde mais qui vivent dans l’autre. Mangerais-tu ton père, ta mère ou ton frère? Je pense que non. Je sais ce que c’est des choses bizarres pour toi que es un enfant élevé dans la ville, ce sont pourtant ces réalités qui ont fait de nous ce que nous sommes. Quant à toi, abstiens-toi de manger la viande de biche et de cerf car, même si tu n’en mourras pas, il y aura quelque chose de toi qui disparaîtra, et ce quelque chose s’appelle la chance, ou plutot la bénédiction . . .

(Excerpt from Lumières de Pointe-Noire by Alain Mabanckou)

Quote of the Week: Qui a peur du wolof?

Si tout écrivain entretient des rapports orageux avec les mots, dans le cas de l’auteur africain, c’est sa langue d’écriture qui est tout entière problématique. On m’a ainsi demandé d’abord: 《Pourquoi ecrivez-vous en français?》, puis après la parution de mon roman Doomi Golo: 《Pourquoi écrivez-vous en wolof?》  

(Senegalese author Boubacar Boris Diop in Le dilemme des écrivains africains: Qui a peur du wolof? (Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2017)

Quote of the Week: What’s on the Curriculum for Students in South Africa?

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One tweet in reaction to the Abantu Book Festival’s opening tweet designed to restart the decoloniality conversation:

Quote of the Week: On Swahili Literature Denigrating Slaves

Much of Swahili literature, including proverbs and canonical works like Utendi wa Mwana Kupona, denigrate watumwa (slaves) as if blacks were not forcibly captured, raped, castrated, and uprooted from their cultures. The casualness with which slavery is treated, even by progressive poets like Muyaka, is the biggest scandal in Swahili letters.

(Evan Mwangi, in his essay We Need a Slave Rebellion in Literary Studies of Swahili, that reviews two books, The Story of Swahili and The Cultural Politics of Translation: East Africa in Global Contexts)

Quote of the Week: No “Whitewashing” Worries

“Cassava Republic is taking our literature to the world, as opposed to bringing literature curated by foreign publishers to the continent. This is remarkable,” he says. “I have always said that to correct the narrative about ‘Africa’, to tell our own story, we must be in charge of the production of our narratives, we must own the means of production.

“With Cassava I do not have to worry about a foreign editor ‘whitewashing’ my manuscript for an international audience until it is barely recognisable to the people where the story is set. I know that Cassava knows what I am trying to do and has the same vision for the integrity of narrative as I do.”

(Author Mr. John, cited in an interview about Cassava’s new subsidiary in London, Publisher’s Expansion Brings Nigerian Writers to World Stage)

Quote of the Week: Better Ignorant than Misinformed

“. . . a society is best when it is fully and truly informed, otherwise an uninformed society is better than a misinformed one.”

(Dr Negeri Lencho, Ethiopia’s new Minister of Government Communication Affairs, speaking in a 2013 interview)

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Let’s simply say I’m ‘from Turkey’

In a polished English accent, she began, “In my country,” but she paused, trying to reframe her sentence more academically. “You’re right,” she said instead. After giving this sign of acquiescence, sacred to all sane Oxfordites, she continued, “In my country, they grant the highest importance to the law that the height of minarets can’t exceed that of the government’s secular monuments. For this reason, in fact, they’ve built unbelievably ugly monuments to Atatürk all over Istanbul in recent years, just so they’ll overshadow the minarets of mosques that are hundreds of years old.”

Stevenson waited for the main course to arrive before emitting a short, quiet, acceptable chuckle.

Then he asked, “You’re Turkish, correct?”

“Let’s not say I’m Turkish,” Deniz said, smiling. “Let’s simply say I’m from Turkey.”

With glazed eyes, Stevenson combed the knowledge he had in his Turkey database. “Oh yes,” he said. “I believe Turkey, like Germany, is dealing with a national identity conflict. Am I mistaken?”

Deniz had discussed this with foreigners so many times that she’d memorized an overly simplified speech on the matter, which she’d titled “The Turkish Intellectual’s Problematization of Nationalism.” She recited it in a single breath, “You’re right. As a way of rejecting the nationalist strategies that appeared when the country was founded, and in reaction to the country’s destructive policies toward its various ethnic groups, Turkish intellectuals prefer to say they’re from Turkey rather than Turkish.”

(Excerpted from Banana Sounds, a translation of Ece Temelkuran’s Turkish novel, Muz Sesleri. The translation is by Deniz Perin.)

Quote of the Week: Wei Hui’s “Shanghai Baby,” Zhang Chengzhi’s “History of the Soul” and the end of an era

这个时代,正好就是我生活着并将继续生活着的时代,这个时代曾经以 《上海宝贝》的方式戏剧性地与我调情,而现在,通过《心灵史》,我将我自己治愈。尼采曾经说过瓦格纳是他的疾病,对我来说,以《上海宝贝》为代表的那种 “小资想家”就是我的疾病,我曾经如此并入高膏  —- 万幸的是,我遇到了《心灵史》这一味时代的良药。

杨庆祥 (Yang Qingxiang) writing “通向真实的世界” for 三联生活周刊 (2016.7.11) about the two books that initiated and terminated the 90s for him.

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Pu Zhiqiang and the Taboo “C” Word for Xinjiang

說新疆是中國的,就別把它當殖民地,別當征服者和掠奪者。

If Xinjiang belongs to China, then don’t treat it as a colony, don’t act like conquerors and plunderers.

(One of the Weibo messages for which China’s human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志強) is now being prosecuted, charged with “inciting ethnic hatred”. Cited in China’s Case Against a Civil Rights Lawyer, in Seven Social Media Posts)