Last October Sally Rooney decided not to give the rights to an Israeli publisher, Modan, to translate her latest book into Hebrew and publish it in Israel. Admirable of her to take a stand when we learn that Modan, a large Hebrew-language press, has ties to the Israel military. So far, so political. And the Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions movement must have been thrilled — global attention for their cause.
What happened next? Did a Palestinian publisher approach Faber, to buy the rights to translate Beautiful world where are you into both Palestinian, Arabic and Hebrew and publish it in Israel and the occupied territories? Let’s hope Faber/Rooney offer a small Palestinian press a good deal.
It will be a shame if those people who speak and read primarily in Hebrew or Palestinian Arabic don’t have an opportunity to reflect on her writing: the ‘polemic chapters’ presented in the form of Marxist and modern-day-gig-economy debates narrated in long emails between the main protagonist in the novel (a famous author) and her friend (a literary editor); the dialogue, artfully and seamlessly placed within paragraphs, so you often don’t realise you are reading a conversation buried within the characters’ unarticulated inner feelings. No need for Rooney to use the crudity of quotation marks and pressing a line-return TO LET YOU KNOW THE OTHER CHARACTER IS SPEAKING.
And the third element, her closing out of chapters with poetic notes. Small flourishes revealing the writer she is; bringing us stillness, the moonlight, the day sighing, the universe against which her imagined world rolls by.
It will be a sad thing if the Israeli and Palestinian people don’t have the opportunity, while living in their own territories, to buy and read this novel which has no questions to ask itself, just a desire to start a conversation.
#SallyRooney #publishing #Israel #Palestine #politics #writing #literature
This blog is another 'unpublished' letter, first written in October 2021.
© Alison Hackett, 27 July 2022
I recently read a devastating article in the New Yorker about a botched circumcision. Gary Shteyngart is to be admired for articulating, with searing honesty, the life-long pain and devastation after what happened to the most private part of him.
His tale involves a move from the Soviet Union in 1979, when he was seven, uncircumcised; a father who came under the influence of a Hasidic sect going door to door in Brooklyn and Queens, telling Soviet Jews that they had to circumcise their boys; being teased by American boys in his school for not being circumcised; the need to belong; too little foreskin removed; a skin bridge; improper healing; infection; pain; problems urinating; a disfigured penis; shame.
Although it settled down once the infection had subsided the problems returned with a vengeance in 2020, when a tiny hair formed a tourniquet around the skin bridge and became infected. The problems mounted as various doctors tried various treatments and he had second surgeries. And now he suffers constant sensitivity, pain and inflammation in the most tender part of his anatomy; his whole identity under siege.
The religious background to circumcision is covered in the article; it was news to me that it originated in much the same way as Female Genital Mutilation — as a way to control (male) sexuality.
Imagine the trauma of a seven year old, in order to please his father, allowing “the forcible removal of a part of me that had been intended by nature as a nexus of pleasure.”
Circumcision is an unnecessary dangerous life-changing (and sometimes fatal) operation performed on male infants and boys. Parents and governments around the world are reconsidering the practice. Denmark and Iceland’s parliaments have debated banning the procedure.
It is now time for Ireland to debate whether, along with FGM, the circumcision of any male under the age of 18, where not medically required, should remain a legal practice.
Let boys born in Ireland decide for themselves when they become adults. If this is what they want to do, for religious reasons or otherwise, it should be their decision, not their parents. Hear this Jewish woman's words to her son when he asked why he wasn’t circumcised: “You are a Jew in your head and your heart, not your penis.”
We don’t allow parents to (make arrangements) to chop off the tip of their son’s finger. Shouldn't we also not allow parents to (make arrangements) to chop off part of their son's genitals?
This is a delicate matter regarding a traditional religious practice; but by not talking about it the problem remains underground.
© Alison Hackett, 26 July 2022
I have written this opinion as a blog as none of the mainstream newspapers in Ireland wanted to print it as a letter to the editor. Perhaps the topic is too sensitive for their readers; or there is a legal issue and they would be open to litigation if they published it; or they didn't find it of any interest. Here's hoping it is the first or second reason 🙏
"....the writing of poems in itself provides deep insight into the problems of the individual. Both the poet and the reader find themselves expressing their fears, pains, hopes and goals in poems. And poems themselves have an ability to shape shift; be entirely private or a communal experience.” — The Journal of Poetry Therapy*
Why do I write poetry?
To understand myself 🤔to process uncomfortable feelings 😳 to examine my dark side 😔 to cry and scream in my own space 😱😢
Does it work?
Yes. Once I've written something down, it hurts less.
Then, and only then will I work on it further, to see if I can convert the writing into something to share with others, that will have meaning for others.
i.e. to see if I will publish it, make it public.
There is a delicate balance in what is working for the poet/writer and what is working for the reader — this is the space any good publisher aims for — the sweet spot.
Of Roaring Water Bay, published by University of Chicago in their literary journal, Euphony, Spring 2022.
The Dead published by The Nonconformist
A Decade of Pilates - a selection of 5 poems published by A Thin Slice of Anxiety.
Nineteen, Driven Home published by The Rail
The last two pots of Marmalade published as RTE poem of the day, 28 April 2020
*The Journal of Poetry Therapy is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal committed to the publication of original articles concerned with the use of the language arts in therapeutic, educational, and community-building capacities. Research (qualitative and quantitative), practice (clinical and education), theoretical, and literary studies are emphasised. The intended audience for JPT includes those in the allied helping professions; as well as those in literary/artistic fields with a concern for the healing/therapeutic aspects of the language, symbol, and story.
Alison Hackett — Director and founder of 21st Century Renaissance; author of The Visual Time Traveller 500 Years of History, Art and Science in 100 Unique Designs