Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Culture as “backroom bric-à-brac”

 . . . of course, the Chinese government enforcing Chinese as the language of the whole empire is based on the premise that if these unruly people can be acculturated, they can become part of the larger whole. When they check in at the door, their culture (like the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas) is denatured and assigned to one of China’s many back rooms as part of the general bric-à-brac. The Mongols, the Manchus, and others brought their own culture into China, but once they lost control their culture was also assigned to the bric-à-brac and the old Han culture was put back in pride of place, purified as much as possible to maintain the idea that the civilisation is still grounded in those ancient ancestors.

(From a correspondent who wishes to maintain anonymity)

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: Translation and the Looking Glass

It [translating] teaches the writer how to write in a way that nothing else can because you are inside of something. You’re not outside of it anymore. One can read something so closely that it’s only by translating it that you really do feel you’ve gone through the looking glass, that you are on the other side and you’re in that other world. I would wish that pleasure and education and marveling — that sense of amazement — for any writer.

(Excerpted from Why Jhumpa Lahiri loves translating Italy’s ‘finest living writer’)

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] Quote of the Week: Patrice Nganang on African Writers’ Focus on Life Overseas

Ngum Ngafor: As an artist, you follow in the footsteps of writers like Bate Besong and Mongo Beti to critique political and social issues. How urgent is it for today’s Cameroonian creative to be society’s conscience?

Patrice Nganang: It is more than urgent, particularly because Africa has had a very long disconnect between its younger writers and the countries of their birth. The culture of [focusing on] US or Europe-based African writers who are trained in creative writing has effectively curtailed the politicisation of writers. And this at a moment, when battles are so urgent on the continent. Just look at the landscape of homophobia, tyranny and poverty! People are sold as slaves in front of our very eyes – in Africa! It is amazing to see how the continent has sunk to a level of sheer public criminality, while writers are most of the time busy writing about the plight of their lives in Western capitals and how cool they are. It is truly amazing to see the number of voices that are silenced on the continent, as writers talk about their travails in Western metropolises that were built by people who showed courage in adversity and sometimes even in wars. Some soul searching is necessary for African writers, particularly the younger ones.

(Excerpted from interview, Out of the Chamber of Death: Conversation with Patrice Nganang)

Altaic Storytelling Quote of the Week: President Erdoğan, “Vous n’êtes pas en terre conquise”

L’histoire se rappellera des morts et prisonniers en Turquie, de la mise sous califat de ce beau pays, de vos purges et détournements, de vos avions de guerre et palais de justice selon votre justice. Des choses indignes de notre mémoire en Algérie. Il fallait vous le dire pour que vous ne reveniez pas chez nous en conquérant ottoman, en Barberousse libérateur. L’histoire des pirates qui se font passer pour des sauveurs nous la connaissons. Trop bien.

Nous rêvons d’une nation forte, libre, puissante, médiane et heureuse de ses racines et de ses récoltes. Acceptant les différences, la foi et la révolte, la religion comme choix, l’espoir comme devoir, la pluralité comme droit, le bonheur comme but.

Nous avons besoin d’amis et d’alliés aux mains qui ne soient pas tachées de sang. Votre ruse n’a pas chemin chez nous. Et vos agents ici n’ont pas de lendemain.

Vous n’êtes pas en terre conquise. Comme vos ancêtres qui nous ont colonisés, vous ne prendrez pas racine ici. Seulement une illusion de conquête. Comme tous les colons.

(Excerpted from Lettre ouverte à Erdogan as Turkey’s President Erdoğan begins tour of Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali. Authored by Algerian writer and columnist Kamel Daoud)

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] 本周精彩语录: 论四川话

Sichuan hua (四川话) sounds like a

remote mountain primate attempting rap-opera

(As uttered by rock musician and peripatetic travel writer 小飞, aka Thomas Bird)

 

非漂 [Fēi Piāo] Quote of the Week: Pamuk on Teaching His Own Novels

I teach comparative literature at Columbia University. At the start of every semester, if I plan to discuss one of my own novels in class, I always tell my new students an old story about writing and teaching.

It’s a very popular (but possibly apocryphal) anecdote about Vladimir Nabokov. In 1957, he was proposed for an appointment at Harvard University as professor of Russian literature. Not everyone welcomed the idea. “If Russian literature is to be taught by Russian greats,” the Harvard linguist Roman Jacobson reportedly told his colleagues, “then we must get elephants to teach at the faculty of zoology.”

(Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, quoted in Sometimes, to Teach a Novel Feels Like a Betrayal of Literature)

To Gloss or Not, That is the Question

There’s a part of me that just deeply resents the fact that there’re many parts of the world where the fiction that comes from there is read as anthropology rather than as literature. And increasingly that kind of anthropological reading then means that . . . you’re explaining your world rather than inhabiting your world.

(Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking in Glossing Africa, referring to the practice of briefly defining, footnoting, or otherwise clarifying the usage of an indigenous term in one’s fiction writing)

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)