‘Comfort has Brought Dangerous Silencing’
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a powerful speech at the closing lecture of the PEN World Voices Festival in New York last week. She appealed to her audience to ‘reject silence’. She explained how comfort has brought about a ‘dangerous silencing’, saying ‘the fear of ruffling the careful feathers of comfort, becomes a fetish.’
She discussed how she sees her role as both a citizen and a writer and asked the question ‘Does Literature Matter?’, justifying her love of literature by claiming ‘I would not want to live if I were not able to have the consolation that stories give me.’ She concluded ‘for this reason I will stand and I will speak for the right of everyone, everyone, to tell his or her story.’
Unsurprisingly, Adichie received a standing ovation for her powerful comments and concluded by saying ‘when you’re sitting there in front of your computer, hoping to write a good sentence, you really don’t remember that you’re black and African, you know, you just think, I want to write a damn good sentence.’
Censoring ‘Vulgar’ Art
Speaking of being silenced, this article discusses a survey carried out in Russia identifying that 82% of Russians are in favour of the censoring of artistic creations, be they books, theatre or film, which is thought to be vulgar, immoral or harmful to society. I suppose this depends on what the Russian government deems to be vulgar or immoral. The Oscar nominated film Leviathan was banned in some regions, as apparently the story of a provincial man’s fight against a corrupt mayor and Church officials was too disparaging of the Russian way of life.
Krigsdagböcker (War Diaries) Published from Entries by Astrid Lindgren
Astrid Lindgren appeared in the Lit Review a few weeks back when The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) was chosen to win the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2015. Now, seventeen in-depth diary entries dating from before Lindgren published her world-famous Pippi Longstocking books have been published in Scandinavia for the first time. The notes, which were written by the young Lindgren during World War II, document the progress of the war and how it impacted on her family life. The entries have been referred to as a ‘shocking history lesson’ according to Alison Flood in the Guardian, who quotes Scandinavian reviewers (time to test your Swedish language skills). It has taken Lindgren’s granddaughter, aided by a small team, two years to collate the diary entries which she named Krigsdagböcker (War Diaries). Lindgren’s daughter Karin Nyman (for whom she wrote the Pippi Longstocking books) describes the entries as ‘a fascinating read’. Nyman explains how the diaries demonstrate that her mother had already established her own, warm, humorous style as a writer, despite her inexperience. ‘At 32 years of age, [my mother] was not an established writer, no books published, but her style, when documenting and commenting, is mature and fully recognisable as hers; emphatic and humorous at the same time, down-to-earth.’
Dublin International Literature Festival
The Dublin International Literature Festival has finally arrived. I referred to it in an earlier Lit Review, but the incredible programme calls for yet another mention. The festival runs from the 16th-24th of May, and one of the highlights this year is the celebration of one hundred and fifty years of Alice in Wonderland. This will include live readings and a special appearance from Vanessa Tait, the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to create his fictional Alice.
There is a wonderful selection of workshops and shows available for children this year. This Saturday, 16th of May, Monkeyshine Theatre will present The Paper Princess, about a little girl who makes a Paper Princess who then blows away. How devastating.
For those of you in a pickle for that next read, the Book Doctor will prescribe the perfect antidote. Meet around Dublin on Saturday 16th and they can recommend what could be your new favourite book.
Tuesday, May 19th will focus on Human Rights. Guantanamo Diary was initially handwritten by Mohamedou Ould Slahi from his cell in 2005, and eventually published in 2015 after years of legal wrangling. It describes the ordeal of being imprisoned for fourteen years, despite never being charged with a crime. Editor of the book, Larry Siems, and Slahi’s lawyer Nancy Hollander will meet to discuss how Slahi wrote the book, as well as his life inside an institution that President Obama promised to close. I have no doubt such a discussion will generate much debate and discussion to stir your eager minds.
Download the full programme here.
Words on the Street
UNESCO’s ‘Words on the Street’ is being held in Dublin next Wednesday 20th of May in a partnership between the Irish Writers’ Centre and Alliance Française. The first reading at each venue will begin at 6.30pm and the last will start at 8.30pm. I intend to meander, taking in twelve European stories told by well-known Irish people in twelve venues around Parnell Square and North Great Georges St, many of which are not normally easily accessible to the public. Nothing more intriguing than a good story told in a beautiful location. You’ll find the full programme here.
Some Colourful Facts on Victor Hugo
A good way to tackle procrastination is to strip naked, give your clothes to your servant and ask for them back when you have written a chapter. It worked for Victor Hugo, surely it will work for us.
Travel Stories to Make Your Feet Itch
For those of you who are living vicariously through other people’s exotic travel adventures, you can rub salt further into the wound by taking a gander at this list of stories all about travel.