Joining the “Globals” and the “Locals” to Build a World Fit for Purpose

Project Neighbours

In England, I used to work in an office with thirty members of staff. Every day, we’d arrive at roughly the same time, and for about twenty minutes, we’d stand in the kitchen chatting about holiday plans and last night’s TV before migrating to our respective desks.

Throughout the day in an open-plan office, we progressed projects chatting about each other’s pets and occasionally revealing a neighbor’s deathbed confession. At eleven and three o’clock, someone made tea for everybody on the floor. By five in the afternoon, with many tasks ticked off, we said goodnight and turned off the lights.

Around ten o’clock on Fridays, I would go into the meeting room and wait for the green light on the phone to flash at the full hour. I’d pick up and say my name before the person on the other end said, hi, great to hear from you. Read More

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Playwright of Refugee Life – George Tabori

 

Today or tomorrow, I shall be taken to the camp.

May God help me to overcome this too.

—Regina Kandt, Last Letters from the Holocaust: 1941

Courtesy of Getty Images

The theatre’s nature is one of bringing people together, which makes it an apt medium to fuel collective memories. The type of theatre that best depicts the Holocaust is one that can provoke mourning for the victims and, at the same time, force the spectator to look within himself and ask himself if there is in him something of an executioner or of his accomplice. This is what George Tabori beautifully accomplishes in his plays The Cannibals, Mein Kampf and My Mother’s Courage.

 

Hungarian by birth, a writer in English, and a director (with occasional spouts of acting in German), Tabori combined his experience of British and American life with the cultural traditions of central Europe. What makes him so exceptional is not his widely known work as a translator and adapter of Bertolt Brecht, nor is it his screenplays of several Hollywood films, including the ones directed by Alfred Hitchcock—it is his experience. Would-be writers are often advised to rely on their own experiences when looking for a fresh subject matter. But there are a few writers that have as much rich material to draw on as George Tabori. His father was a prominent journalist who was arrested by the Nazis and was later killed in Auschwitz. His mother, however, managed to talk her way out of deportation to Auschwitz. Her story is told in Tabori’s play My Mother’s Courage and in the fiction film with the same name, directed by Michael Verhoeven (in which Tabori appears on screen through much of the film). Read More

Review: The Clandestine Poems by Roque Dalton

It is the 10th of May 1975, in San Salvador. The People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP) executes Vilma Flores, Timothy Lúe, Jorge Cruz, Juan Zapata, and Luís Luna. Five deaths, but only one body. These five young people were, in reality, the five identities of Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton; they were the protagonists of his last and most memorable collection, Clandestine Poems.

The collection consists of five chapters, each containing the poems of one of his identities. Dalton conjures these personalities from the distilled ethos of ideal Marxist soldiers in the war against “oppressive capitalism.” The roots of this history run deep in each of his personas. Take, for instance, Flores—the law student turned textile worker turned freedom fighter. Channeling Dalton’s own experience as a Law student in Chile, Flores epitomizes Dalton’s struggle to relate the revolutionary movement to women (who were the least educated at the time). Hence, the poems of Flores are the most humanistic and least intellectual, with examples like, “The woman’s domestic functions/ create time for the man/ for socially necessary work,” and “no one disputes/ that sex is a domestic condition/ …where the hassles begin/ is when a woman says/ sex is a political condition.” Read More

17th Edition Cecile’s Writers Magazine: Lost Identities

Many characters in this edition struggle with their identities or with finding their way. Who am I? Where do I belong? What is my place in society?

Some can’t face the reality they live in. Others don’t understand what’s happening around them. We see the situation objectively, like the flaws in their train of thoughts that sometimes lead to disastrous consequences.

Happy reading!

Cecile, Samir, Sofia & Vanessa

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Writing in the Digital Age

Sometimes I come across words and I think: did I miss something? Usually this has to do with digital advances. The new word I discovered recently existed well before the Internet, but I don’t think it was named until blogs began and the genre took real flight: the listicle. For those like me who have never heard of it before, it’s a mix of list and article and simply refers to a published article written in the form of a list.

It got me googling. What other new genres are out there that I’ve never heard of before. And in that spirit, I’ve written a listicle pointing out three other genres that grabbed my attention.

  1. Photo essays / Horizontal stories

I believe these are the same, although I’ve seen both names used. It’s a collection of photos on the same subject, each photo has a caption and they are presented in a specific order. The horizontal refers to swiping through the photos.

  1. Twitter Fiction

I’m not a twitter fan, so I completely missed this genre and I do realize that I’m extremely late. It’s a genre tried out by a lot of current writers like David Mitchell, Margret Attwood and Philip Pullman.

Read more on: The Rise of Twitter Fiction.

  1. iStory

An iStory is shorter than flash fiction, at a maximum of 150 words, but more than twitter fiction and the more widely known six-sentence story. Originally created for an iPod, Narrative Magazine still publishes iStory submissions.

 

Vanessa

Political Poetry?

Courtesy of Valentin Salja

The term ‘political poetry’ brings to mind impassioned verse denouncing dictatorships, demanding social change, or describing the struggle of oppressed groups. But this is only the surface of political poetry. Scratch a little deeper and you find that nearly all poetry is political when we take the broader view that politics is the struggle of taking groups of humans and attempting to make them co-exist with each other, with the environment, or with any other situation. A poem about flowers becomes an environmental love song. A love poem becomes more than just the human value of affection. The fact that poetry has allowed generations to wrap the voice of the oppressed in a non-political guise has led it to be one of the most political art forms in human history. These “quieter” poems, where the political message lies below the surface affect me most. My favorite poet, Chimako Tada, whose poetry—both subtle and introspective—demonstrates how a restrained voice can amplify the power of its hidden meanings, illustrates this.

Born in 1930 in the Fukuoka region of Japan, Tada’s adolescence was spent in the shadow of war. She went to college to study French literature, where she became a regular in the poetic and intellectual circles of the time, including the Japanese avant-garde movement. Her first collection—Hanabi—appeared in 1956. She continued to publish works and teach poetry for the rest of her life, though she almost always wrote in isolation. The recipient of numerous awards including the Modern Poetry Women’s Prize (for her book Hasu Kuibito), Tada has come to be acknowledged as one of the most important and powerful female poetic voices of the last century. Read More

Psychological Benefits of Creative Writing

Much of the research I am going to discuss is on writing and happiness. It deals with the therapeutic value of writing and its relation to improved well-being and reduced stress levels for those who do it regularly.

Research by Laura King, for instance, shows that writing about achieving future goals and dreams can make people happier and healthier. Another study by Adam Grant supports this claim. He found that when people did stressful fundraising jobs, and they kept a journal about how their work made a difference for a few days, their hourly effort had increased by 29% over the next two weeks.

This indicates that writing is not exclusively only for professional writers. In both emotional intelligence and hard sciences like mathematics, writing has been shown to help people communicate highly complex ideas more effectively. The reason is that writing helps eliminate the “it sounded well in my head” line of thinking by forcing your hand to put it out on a blank sheet and to give the thought a tangible form. Brains might forgive whimsical abstractions, but prose does not. Read More