This weekend, I finished reading Amin Maalouf’s Gardens of Light, a historical novel that traces the life of Mani, a Third Century Persian prophet who preached what is today known as Manichaeism. With this book, I have completed reading all of Maalouf’s novels (save one). I have also decided to read only one more “Arab” writer and then move on to other regions. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: March 2007
After having successfully surpassed phases one and two of the renewal process for my Spanish Residence and Work Permit, I finally completed the last phase today. The past two weeks have all been in the upper 60ºs F, but yesterday and today the temperatures fell by about 15ºs. This worried me and prepared for the worst — another interminable and unbearable wait in the long lines of the police station in Aluche in the cold. Although it was cold, it was a perfect sunny day, and I hoped this was a positive sign.
I boarded the metro and 50 minutes later, I arrived in Aluche. I then walked about 600 meters to the abandoned hospital that now serves as the police station for immigration. (In Spain, immigration and naturalization fall under the jurisdiction of the police, as opposed to, say, the INS in the U.S.). There were two long lines, one for giving fingerprints and turning in documents, and the other for general inquiries. I ignored both lines and went straight to the gates to speak with the police officer on duty. I asked, “for picking up a renewed permit?” And she said those magic words, “go right in”. That meant, no lines, BABY!
I fall in love too easily, I fall in love too fast. I already explained some months ago how I suffered with Natalia Verbeke (sorry, it was in Spanish), and the same thing happened to me a few years ago with Zhang Ziyi (as seen in the picture above). It always starts with a touch of love at first sight, and then I go on to renting or buying all of their DVDs. Unfortunately, Continue reading
Over the past few months, I have been reading almost exclusively novels written by Arab writers or about the Arab World. Nevertheless, I have decided to take a short break and read the new novel from one of my favorite authors, Nuriddin Farah, entitled Knots. All of his novels take place in his native Somalia, and while Somalia is not per se an Arab nation (though some people consider it to be so), it is a Muslim country and has many Arab influences.
While reading a particular passage today, I was reminded of something that I have witnessed in Naguib Mahfouz’ works as well as in other Arab novelists — the effect produced in the minds of young men by women covered by veils, masks or full-body coverings as dedictated by the norms of the societies in which they live. In Mahfouz’s works, for example, you can see the incredible and almost debilitating desire felt by young men when glimpsing a woman’s ankle or even a collar bone.
In the following passage from Knots, the main character, Cambara, reflects on how strange it is for her to return to Somalia after so many years and find women camoflaging themselves underneath veils and full-body covers, and how such disguises actually increase desire Continue reading
Lucio Battisti has two songs that I absolutely adore. The first one is “La canzone del sole” about a young man who, at the moment of his first intimacy with his young girlfriend, is shocked and intimidated to discover in her composure a much greater level of security and experience than in his (the nightmare of all Italian men, for sure, to discover that they are more innocent than their “innocent” targets).
And last night while listening to another friend describe how she is breaking up with her boyfriend (yes, everyone’s always confiding in me), I was remined of my other favorite song by Battisti, “Comunque Bella”.
“Comunque Bella” is about a man whose girlfriend arrives drenched in rain, with red eyes, obviously after a night of making love with a different man. She tells him that because he is a man she owes him no explanations and needs not ask for his forgiveness. As if after generations of being subjected to infidelities, women have no reason to justify their actions to men.
“Comunque Bella” would be translated literatlly as “however beautiful”, but I think in English it is more natural to translate it as, “but still you are beautiful”. And what I find so interesting about the song is its chorus, “you were beautiful, but still you are beautiful”. Thus, as the narrator looks upon his girlfriend entering the room with all of the evidence of having been unfaithful, he recognizes that not only was she beautiful, but that she continues to be beautiful. I really love this song, for one of the things that I most detest about my gender is its manifestation of weakness and insecurity through jealousy and possessiveness. Continue reading
Last Saturday, my Bro and I partook in Safe Democracy’s International Conference, Three Years after March 11: Regional Challenges for a Globalizing World. I was part of a round table discussing immigration in Europe and my Bro was on the one discussing Africa. Afterwords, my Bro and I reflected on some of the “cultural” differences we noticed between the United States’ worldview and that of the mainly European and Latin American experts present at the event.
My Bro mentioned two. First, in a similar conference in the U.S., a significant majority of those present would have been female; and second, that people were much more left-wing than he would have imagined (and he is VERY left wing). Here are my general impressions: Continue reading