Posts Tagged ‘Edward Said’

Desmond Painter. Mahmoud Darwish se gedig oor Edward Said

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Vanmiddag toe ek op Facebook gaan loer, kom ek af op hierdie mooi foto van Edward Said en Mahmoud Darwish – en onthou toe ook die pragtige gedig, ‘Counterpoint’, wat Darwish na Said se dood (in 2003 – dit is ook al 10 jaar gelede, kan jy dit glo?) geskryf het:

CounterpointMahmoud Darwish



Shards of light in a leaden sky.

In the shadows, I asked my foreign soul: is this city Babylon or Sodom?

There, at the edge of an electric chasm sky high, I met Edward thirty years ago.

The times were less impetuous.

Each said to the other:

If your past is your experience, make the future sense and vision!

Let us move forward, towards our future, confident in imagination’s sincerity and the miracle of the grass.

I no longer remember whether we went to the cinema that evening, but I heard old Indian braves call out to me: trust neither the horse nor modernity.

No. No victim asks his executioner: if I were you and my sword greater than my rose . . . would I have acted as you have done?

That kind of question arouses the curiosity of the novelist who sits behind the glass walls of his study overlooking the lily garden . . . Here the hypothesis is lily-white, clear as the author’s conscience if he closes his accounts with human nature . . . No future behind us, so let us move forward!

Progress could be the bridge back to barbarity . . .

New York. Edward awakes while dawn slumbers on. He plays an air by Mozart. Tennis on the university court. He reflects on thought’s ability to transcend borders and barriers. Thumbs through the New York Times. Writes his spirited column. Curses an orientalist who guides a general to the weak spot in an eastern woman’s heart. Showers. Drinks his white coffee. Picks out a suit with a dandy’s elegance and calls on the dawn to stop dawdling!

He walks on the wind. And, in the wind, he knows himself. No four walls hem in the wind. And the wind is a compass for the north in a foreign land.

He says: I come from that place. I come from here, and I am neither here nor there. I have two names that come together but pull apart. I have two languages, but I have forgotten which is the language of my dreams. I have the English language with its accommodating vocabulary to write in. And another tongue drawn from celestial conversations with Jerusalem. It has a silvery resonance, but rebels against my imagination.

And your identity? Said I.

His response: Self-defence . . . Conferred on us at birth, in the end it is we who fashion our identity, it is not hereditary. I am manifold . . . Within me, my outer self renewed. But I belong to the victim’s interrogation.

Were I not from that place, I would have trained my heart to raise metonymy’s gazelle there . . .

So take your birthplace along wherever you go and be a narcissist if need be.

– Exile, the outside world. Exile, the hidden world. Who then are you between them?

– I do not introduce myself lest I lose myself. I am what I am.

I am my other in harmonious duality between word and geste.

Were I a poet, I should have written:

I am two in one, like the swallow’s wings.

And if spring is late coming, I am content to be its harbinger!

He loves countries and leaves them. (Is the impossible remote?) He loves to migrate towards everything. Travelling freely between cultures, there is room for all who seek the essence of man.

A margin moves forward and a centre retreats. The East is not completely the East, nor the West, the West. Identity is multifaceted.

It is neither a citadel nor is it absolute.

The metaphor slumbered on one bank of the river. Had it not been for the pollution,

It would have embraced the other.

– Have you written your novel?

– I have tried . . . sought to find my image reflected in distant women. But they have retreated into their fortified night. And they have said: our universe does not depend on words. No man will capture in words the woman, an enigma and a dream. No woman will capture the man, symbol and star. No love is like another; no night like another. Let us list men’s virtues and laugh!

– And what did you do?

– I laughed at my own absurdity and threw my novel away.

The thinker restrains the novelist’s tale, while the philosopher deconstructs the singer’s roses.

He loves countries and leaves them: I am who I shall be and become. I shall construct myself and choose my exile. My exile is the background of the epic landscape. I defend the need for poets of glory and reminiscence; I defend trees that clothe the birds of home and exile, a moon still fit for a love song, an idea shattered by its proponents’ fragility and a country borne off by legends.

– Is there anything you could return to?

– What awaits me draws me on and urges me . . . I have no time to draw lines in the sand. But I can revisit the past like strangers listening to the pastoral poem in the gloom of the evening:

‘At the fountain, a young girl fills her jar with clouds’ tears. And she weeps and laughs at a bee that stung her heart when it was time to leave.

Is love pain in the water or malady in the mist . . .’

(And so on, till the song draws to a close.)

– So you could suffer from nostalgia?

– Nostalgia for times to come. More distant, more elevated, more distant still. My dream guides my steps and my vision cradles my dream, curled like a cat, on my lap. It is reality imagined, born of the will: we can change the chasm’s inevitability!

– And nostalgia for the past?

– That is only for the thinker who is anxious to understand the fascination a foreigner feels for the medium of absence. My own nostalgia is a struggle for a present that clings to the future.

– Did you penetrate the past the day you visited the house, your house, in Jerusalem’s Talibiya district?

– Like a child afraid of his father, I was ready to hide in my mother’s bed. I tried to relive my birth, to follow the trail of childhood across the roof of my old home, to run my fingers over the skin of absence, to smell the perfume of summer in the jasmine of the garden. But truth’s hyena drove me from a nostalgia that lurked, behind me, like a thief in the shadows.

– Were you afraid, and of what?

– I cannot meet loss head on. Like the beggar, I stayed at the door. Am I going to ask strangers who sleep in my bed for permission to spend five minutes in my own home? Will I bow respectfully to the people that occupy my dream of childhood? Will they ask: who is this stranger who lacks discretion? Will I be able just to speak of peace and war among victims and the victims of victims, avoiding superfluous words and asides? Will they tell me that two dreams cannot share a bed?

Neither he nor I could have done that.

But he is a reader who reflects on what poetry has to tell us in times of disaster.


and blood

and blood

in your homeland

In my name and in yours, in the almond blossom, in the banana skin, in the baby’s milk, in the light and in the shade, in the grain of wheat, in the salt jar. Consummate snipers reach their targets.




This land is smaller than the blood of its children, offerings placed on resurrection’s doorstep. Is this land blessed or baptised

In blood,


the blood

That neither prayers nor the sand can assuage? There is not enough justice in the pages of the Holy Book to give the martyrs the joy of walking freely across the clouds. Blood, by day. Blood, by night. Blood in the words!

He says: the poem could embrace loss, a shaft of light glinting from a guitar or a Christ mounted on a mare and blood- spattered with elegant metaphors. What is beauty if not the presence of truth in the form?

In a skyless world, the earth becomes a chasm. And the poem is one of consolation’s gifts, a quality of the winds, from both south and north. Do not describe your wounds as the camera sees them.

Cry out to make yourself heard and to know that you are still alive and living, that life on this earth is still possible. Invent hope for words. Create a cardinal point or a mirage that prolongs hope and sing, for beauty is freedom.

I say: life defined by its antithesis, death . . . is no life at all!

He replies: we shall live, even if life abandons us to our fate. Let us be the wordsmiths whose words make their readers eternal, as your extraordinary friend Ritsos might have said . . .

He says: If I die before you, I shall leave you the impossible task!

I ask: Is it a long way off?

He replies: A generation away.

I say: And if I die before you?

He replies: I shall console the mounts of Galilee and I shall write: ‘Beauty is merely the attainment of adequacy.’ All right! But don’t forget that if I die before you, I shall leave you the impossible task!

When I visited the new Sodom in the year 2002, he was opposing the war of Sodom against the people of Babylon and fighting cancer. The last epic hero, he defended Troy’s right to its share in the story.

Eagle on high,


Taking leave of the mountain tops,

For residing above Olympus

And the summits,

Brings ennui,


Farewell, poetry of pain!

Desmond Painter. Die Tye en Teenstrydighede van Jakes Gerwel

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012


Jakes Gerwel 

Toe Media24 Jakes Gerwel se dood ʼn paar dae gelede (toe nog voortydig) gerapporteer het, was ek juis besig om te soek na sy boek Literatuur en Apartheid: Konsepsies van ‘Gekleurdes’ in die Afrikaanse Roman tot 1948. Die boek, gebaseer op Gerwel se doktorale proefskrif en in 1983 deur Kampen Uitgewers in Bellville gepubliseer, het ʼn enorme impak gemaak op die Afrikaanse literatuurteorie. Gerwel se studie was ʼn soort eiehandige oopskryf en aftakeling-van-binne van die ‘wit mitologieë’ (om by Derrida af te kyk) wat die vroeë Afrikaanse prosa gekenmerk het en daardeur gereproduseer is. Dit was, sonder dat ek van hiperbool beskuldig hoef te word, ʼn boek wat in ons kleiner Afrikaanse konteks ʼn rol gespeel het soortgelyk aan Edward Saïd se Orientalism internasionaal.

Ek het na Gerwel se boek gesoek na aanleiding van verdere gesprekke oor my blog verlede week oor die uitbeelding van wyn en wingerd in Afrikaanse gedigte oor die Boland. ‘n Mens kan nie eintlik ernstig oor die politiek van uitbeelding, van representasies, in die Afrikaanse letterkunde dink sonder om Gerwel se boek weer te gaan lees nie. Gerwel skryf: ‘Die romanvisie op gekleurdes as hoofsaaklik ruimtelike figure, dus deel van die agtergrond, is onder andere daaruit vas te stel dat in die meeste tonele waarin gekleurde karakters optree, hulle aanwesigheid deur een van twee tegnieke aangekondig word: óf die vermelding van hulle teenwoordigheid is ʼn sintakties ingemesselde deel van die milieu-beskrywende sinne óf hulle word voorgestel as deel van die blanke karakters se gerapporteerde waarnemings’ (p. 111).

Jakes Gerwel se politieke en akademiese geskiedenis voor 1994 is niks minder nie as fassinerende en indrukwekkend. Hopelik sal dit nou, met sy afsterwe, behoorlik in herinnering geroep word. In later jare het Gerwel wyer bekendheid verwerf as een van die Nuwe Suid-Afrika se hoogs (en met reg) gerespekteerde establishment-figure (met al die teenstrydighede wat hiermee gepaardgaan): as Direkteur Generaal van die Staatspresident (Nelson Mandela) se kantoor en in vele ander openbare posisies, kommissies en komitees. Gaan lees weer die rubrieke wat Gerwel vir etlike jare gereeld in Rapport geskryf het: hy het oor die intellek, gebalanseerdheid, en bedaardheid beskik om ʼn uitstekende openbare intellektueel (eerder as net nog ‘n dime a dozen joernalistieke ‘kommentator’) te wees.

Tog het ek Gerwel veral ná 1999 dikwels jammer gekry: sy rol as ʼn soort ‘party-intellektueel’, iemand wat homself in ‘n posisie van politieke ‘lojaliteit’ bevind het, het sy kritiese stem (myns insiens) by tye amper onafwendbaar aan bande gelê. Hy was gedwing om versigtig te wees; soms selfs apologeties. Behoort mense soos Gerwel te kon voorspel het wat van die ANC sou word? Tot watter derderangse bordello die kantoor van die President gereduseer sou word? Ek weet nie. ‘n Mens se gevoel is in elk geval dat Jakes Gerwel se persoonlike integriteit die morele verval van sy party transendeer. ʼn Mens sal hom dus as ʼn belangrike denker, iemand met ʼn kritiese en rigtinggewende verbeelding, onthou – en mis.

Desmond Painter. Hennie Aucamp se Oor en weer geresenseer

Monday, July 19th, 2010
Hennie Aucamp

Hennie Aucamp

My resensie van Hennie Aucamp se gebundelde onderhoude, Oor en weer, het vanoggend in Die Burger verskyn. Dit is bykans onmoontlik om hierdie of enige ander boekresensies op hulle webblaaie te vind; en die weergawe wat op die blogruimte Boekeblok verskyn is net ‘n massa woorde, sonder enige paragraafbreke… So ek plaas dit maar hier ook — dan kan die nie-Kapenare dit darem ook lees! Hierso is hy:

Onderhoude met allerlei “bekendes”, oppervlakkig gefokus op hul besittings, prestasies en dikwels banale (self-)insigte, word vir jare al soos kulturele kitskos deur populêre tydskrifte voorgesit. Afrikaanse tydskrifte is geen uitsondering nie. Gesprekke met glanspaartjies sorg vir beter verkope, en ’n skrywersonderhoud in só ’n publikasie dien as goeie ­bemarking vir ’n nuwe boek.

Tog kan deeglike, deurdagte onderhoude met kunstenaars, intellektuele en politieke figure fassinerende leesstof bied. Soos Aucamp tereg in sy inleiding tot hierdie bundel onderhoude aandui, die onderhoud kan as ’n “essay geskryf deur twee” gelees word. Dit is dus ’n literêre genre in eie reg, een met sy eie konvensies, moontlikhede, en voorbeelde van voortreflikheid.

Om sodanige voortreflikheid te ervaar, lees gerus Philip Roth se gesprekke met skrywers in Shop Talk: A Writer and His Colleagues and Their Work. Of Daniel Barenboim en Edward Said se gesprekke in Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. Ek noem ook die onderhoudbundels van Michel Foucault – ’n Franse filosoof wat die ­onderhoud ingespan het as ’n volwaardige ruimte vir die uitbou van sy idees, naas die boek, essay en artikel.

Naas literatore en ander skrywers vind ook ’n breër leserspubliek skrywersonderhoude dikwels insiggewend. Dink maar aan die goeie bywoning van openbare gesprekke met skrywers op kunste- en literêre feeste, of die gewildheid van Daniel Hugo se onderhoude met digters oor die radio. Behalwe dat sulke gesprekke die leser insigte gee in die leefwêrelde en verwysingsraamwerke van ’n bepaalde skrywer, verskaf die goeie onderhoud ook literêre genot. Hier ervaar die leser en luisteraar die woordkunstenaar immers direk aan die woord.

Wat vakkundige studie en publikasie in boekvorm betref, is die onderhoud as genre in Afrikaans (soos briefbundels en dagboeke) egter ’n literêre stiefkind. Dat Aucamp in hierdie verband as bydraer en bloemleser weereens betrokke is by die agterhaling en bestendiging van ’n genre in Afrikaans behoort niemand te verras nie. Hy is immers bekend daarvoor dat hy literêre stiefkinders onder die vlerk neem en grootmaak. En mooi grootmaak ook: Dink maar aan sy bloemlesings en sy eie gepubliseerde dagboeke.

In die inleiding tot Oor en weer skets Aucamp die stand van die genre bondig, maar bevredigend. Volgens hom is die onderhoud “waarskynlik een van die twintigste eeu se belangrikste bydraes tot sowel die joernalistiek en die letterkunde.” Ek sou wou byvoeg: ook tot die sosiale wetenskappe.

Aucamp verwys na publikasies soos Playboy en The Paris Review, bekend vir hulle onderhoude, maar sonder ook plaaslike hoogtepunte uit: Rykie van Reenen se onderhoud met Cliff Richard; Amanda Botha se onderhoud met Marlene Dietrich; André le Roux s’n met Karel Schoeman en Annesu de Vos.

Die leser moet in gedagte hou dat die oorspronklike plek van publikasie bepalend (en dikwels beperkend) was vir die vorm van die onderhoude wat in Oor en weer opgeneem is. Omdat baie van die stukke in dagblaaie verskyn het, is hulle relatief kort, en neig na die vraag-en-antwoord-formaat, eerder as wat hulle volledige tweegesprekke, of essays geskryf deur twee, kon word.

Ook in dagbladonderhoude is Aucamp gelukkig deurgaans deur uitstekende onderhoudvoerders bedien. Francois Smith kry dit byvoorbeeld reg, in ’n ­onderhoud wat in Die Burger verskyn het, om met sy intelligente, analitiese vrae iets tot stand te bring wat veel meer geword het as bloot promosiemateriaal vir die bundel In die vroegte, maar ’n stukkie kultuurteoretiese besinning in die klein. Sonder om aan toeganklikheid in te boet. Dieselfde geld onderhoudvoerders soos Herman Wasserman, Abraham H. de Vries en ander. Baie van hierdie onderhoudvoerders is literêr uitstekend onderlê en boonop deurwinterde joernaliste. Bygesê, Aucamp se vermoë om aforisties te skryf dra natuurlik ook by daartoe dat selfs kort onderhoude met genoegsame ideë- en taalinhoude gelaai word.

Van die 16 onderhoude het nie minder nie as 11 sedert 2000 verskyn, en slegs 2 voor 1995. In hierdie verband speel die internet ’n deurslaggewende rol. Veral LitNet moet genoem word, waar vyf van die onderhoude oorspronklik verskyn het. Die ­internet maak meer en langer onderhoude in Afrikaans weer moontlik, en dit is ’n positiewe ontwikkeling. Maar natuurlik, selfs materiaal wat op die internet verskyn, smeek om bestendiging in boekvorm.

Feitlik al Aucamp se kreatiewe uitinge word aangeroer: die kortverhaal, kabaret, gedigte, dagboeke en sy rol as bloemleser. Daar is ook interessante besinnings oor kwessies soos taal, seksualiteit en die ouderdom. Aucamp is ’n boeiende en vrygewige gespreksgenoot. Hierdie kwaliteite word in Oor en weer uitstekend vergestalt.