In a short letter to the press, in which he referred to Mexico, Graham Greene substantially expressed his view of the world.
“I must thank Mr. Richard West for his understanding notice of The Quiet American. No critic before, that I can remember, has thus pinpointed my abhorrence of the American liberal conscience whose results I have seen at work in Mexico, Vietnam, Haiti and Chile.”
(Yours, etc., Letters to the Press. 1979)
Mexico is a peripheral country with a difficult history, and undeniably the very long border that it shares with the most powerful nation on earth has largely determined its fate.
After his trip to Mexico in 1938, Greene had very hard words to say about the latter country, but then he spoke with equal harshness about the “hell” he had left behind in his English birthplace, Berkhamsted. He “loathed” Mexico…” but there were times when it seemed as if there were worse places. Mexico “was idolatry and oppression, starvation and casual violence, but you lived under the shadow of religion – of God or the Devil.”
However, the United States was worse:
“It wasn’t evil, it wasn’t anything at all, it was just the drugstore and the Coca Cola, the hamburger, the sinless empty graceless chromium world.”
He also expressed abhorrence for what he saw on the German ship that took him back to Europe:
“Spanish violence, German Stupidity, Anglo-Saxon absurdity…the whole world is exhibited in a kind of crazy montage.”
As war approached, he wrote: “Violence came nearer – Mexico is a state of mind.” In “the grit of the London afternoon”, he said, “I wondered why I had disliked Mexico so much.” Indeed, upon asking himself why Mexico had seemed so bad and London so good, he responded: “I couldn’t remember”.
And we ourselves can repeat the same unanswered question. Why such virulent hatred of Mexico? We know that his money was devalued there, that he caught dysentery there, that the fallout from the libel suit that he had lost awaited him upon his return to England, and that he lost his reading glasses, among other things that could so exasperate a man that he would express his discontent in his writing, but I recall that it was one of Greene’s friends, dear Judith Adamson, who described one of his experiences in Mexico as unfair. Why?
The answer might lie in the fact that he never mentioned all the purposes of his trip.
In The Confidential Agent, one of the three books that Greene wrote after returning to England, working on it at the same time as The Power and the Glory, he makes no mention whatsoever of Mexico, but it is hard to believe that the said work had nothing to do with such an important experience as his trip there.
D, the main character in The Confidential Agent, goes to England in pursuit of an important coal contract that will enable the government he represents to fight the fascist rebels in the Spanish Civil War, though Greene never explicitly states that the country in question is Spain. The said confidential agent knows that his bosses don’t trust him and have good reason not to do so, just as he has good reason to mistrust them.
We, who know Greene only to the extent that he wanted us to know him, are aware that writers recount their own lives as if they were those of other people, and describe the lives of others as if they were their own. Might he not, then, have transferred to a character called D, in a completely different setting, his own real experiences as a confidential agent in Mexico?
Besides wishing to witness the religious persecution in Mexico first-hand, his mission might also have been to report on developments in the aforesaid country and regarding its resources -above all its petroleum- in view of the imminent outbreak of the Second World War. Read more
Someone else’s things are in the house: school notebooks that don’t belong to Asma, a cardboard box of cheap cookies Hala would never buy, a small bottle of Syrian perfume. My cupboard is full of junk, and there’s an unfamiliar dress hanging on the line.
Hala comes in around noon, in a hurry, plastic bags full of groceries in both hands. She looks tired – her face is swollen. ‘I thought you’d never come back!’ We hug, clumsily as always.
‘We have guests,’ she says.
‘Yes, I noticed.’
‘Sahar and Aisha, they’re not staying long.’ Sahar is a Christian, I suddenly remember, her husband a Muslim. There you have it – the religious differences everyone has been talking about during the last few days don’t apply to Hala and her friends.
‘Have you heard the news? They say the prisoners are going to be released. Sahar is having her house fixed up; that’s why she’s staying here.’
‘What about Ahmed?’
Hala shrugs. ‘He asked me to bring him his winter clothes. That means he’s planning to stay for a while.’
She begins peeling potatoes in the kitchen; the children will be coming home any minute. I bring in the folding table from the hallway, pull up a plastic chair and apply myself to the green beans. Hala gives me a searching look. ‘How was it? Anything interesting happen?’ She sounds skeptical.
I tell her about Father Léon’s weird cap, the grumbling hikers, the ups and downs of Louise’s love life. I suddenly realize that when I arrived in Syria I didn’t even know whether Hala was a Christian or a Muslim – we didn’t talk about those things back then.
‘Do you consider me a typical Christian? Have you ever thought of me that way?’
Hala laughs in surprise. ‘No, what makes you think that?’
‘Oh, I don’t know, I just wondered.’
At a time when UN Peacekeepers are trying hard to maintain peace in the Congo, award winning author and journalist Lieve Joris discusses her work in the region and shares the history of the conflict as seen by a Tutsi rebel leader who eventually became a high-ranking general in the Congolese army. Lieve Joris is one of Europe’s leading travel writers with reporting that has spanned the globe—from Hungary to Africa.
Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o once described language as “the most important vehicle through which that [colonial] power fascinated and held the soul prisoner”.
He illustrated this with a disturbing account of receiving corporal punishment, being fined and wearing a “plate around the neck with inscriptions such as I AM STUPID or I AM A DONKEY”. His “crime”? Speaking Gikuyu at his English medium school.
Today, decisions about which language resources should count in schooling – as the language of instruction, a subject, or a legitimate language for learning – continue to be informed by the relationships between language and power. Schools and universities in post-colonial contexts still operate within the logic of coloniality.
These realities have been thrown into sharp relief by revelations that some South African schools discipline their pupils for speaking any language but English (or Afrikaans) while on school grounds. At Cape Town’s Sans Souci High School for Girls, pupils obtain “losses” (or demerits) for a range of “offences” – like being caught speaking isiXhosa. For many of Sans Souci’s pupils, this is their home language.
Sadly this problem isn’t unique to South Africa. It’s been seen in other post-colonial contexts like Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie has spoken about not having the opportunity to learn Igbo proficiently at school. This, she says, left her with no option but to write exclusively in English.
These girls’ stories have foregrounded the crucial issue of language in processes of assimilation and exclusion. Over the past ten years there has been a major shift in our understandings of language, bilingualism and bilingual education which show the learning advantages of using more than one language in the classroom for learning. Read more
De historische importantie van de Kruistochten die tussen de 11e en de 15e eeuw plaats vonden in Europa en het Midden-Oosten wordt in het huidige tijdperk doorgaans door Westerse historici en politici onderschat.
Lejo Siepe en Robert Mulder volgden enkele jaren geleden het spoor van de eerste Kruistocht en ontdekten dat met name in de Arabische wereld de herinneringen aan de Kruistochten nog altijd levendig zijn. In de hoofden van veel moslims is deze historische gebeurtenis actueler dan ooit. De islamitische wereld voelt zich bedreigd door het Westen. Het Westen voelt zich bedreigd door de islamitische wereld. Een geschiedenis herhaalt zich. Heden ten dage worden in zowel de christelijke stromingen als in de islam de geloofsstellingen weer betrokken, gebaseerd op oude mythen, sagen en legendes. Hebben de Kruistochten in dit verband meer dan een symbolische betekenis?
In dit reisverslag langs de route van de eerste Kruistocht hebben Lejo Siepe en Robert Mulder geprobeerd antwoord te vinden op de vraag of er sprake is van een nieuw vijandsbeeld gebaseerd op oude vooroordelen. De auteurs spraken in Europa en in het Midden Oosten met vooraanstaande historici, schrijvers, filosofen en geestelijken (onder andere Amos Oz, Amin Maalouf, Sadik Al Azm, Benjamin Kedar, Halil Berktay) over de actuele invloed van de Kruistochten op onze moderne geschiedenis en de onverminderd voortdurende godsdienstige conflicten tussen moslims, joden en christenen.
Hoofdstuk Een – Reizen in het spoor der kruisvaarders – Inleiding
Hoofdstuk Twee – Duitsland: de vijanden van God
Hoofdstuk Drie – Hongarije: de koning der boeken
Hoofdstuk Vier – De Balkan: een eeuwig strijdtoneel
Hoofdstuk Vijf – Bulgarije
Hoofdstuk Zes – Constantinopel: in het kamp van de vijand
Hoofdstuk Zeven – Nicaea en Dorylaeum: Sterf dan honden!
Hoofdstuk Acht – Cappadocië: De vlakte des doods
Hoofdstuk Negen – Antiochië: het verraad van het harnasmasker
Hoofdstuk Tien – Antiochië: een teken van God
Hoofdstuk Elf – Syrie: twee grote leiders voor een geweldig volk
Hoofdstuk Twaalf – Libanon: het land van ruines
Hoofdstuk Dertien – Israel: het land van belofte
Hoofdstuk Veertien – Jeruzalem: God wil het!