Saturday, August 19, 2006

Writers - What Did You Do In The War?

What happens when writers find themselves caught up in the horrors of war?

Richard Lea in the Guardian checks in with authors on both sides of the current conflict in South Lebanon, including Lebanese novelists Elias Khoury and Hassan Daoud, Israeli author Orly Castel-Bloom and writer of surreal short-fiction Etgar Keret, and Palestinian author Adania Shibli.

Unsurprising verdict: war isn't very good for writing. My favourite comment comes from Castel-Bloom:
I used to write books they called post-modern, but now it is pure realism.
Meanwhile, Nobel prize winner Gunter Grass's shock revelation that he once served in Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS force has ignited a firestorm of criticism, writes Tony Paterson in the Independent,with some quarters demanding that he return the award. Grass claims that writing his new autobiography Peeling the Onion (supposed to be published next month, but I believe it has already been launched) finally gave him the opportunity to face up to his Nazi past.

Also well worth reading on the case is this post on the Done with Mirrors blog (via Tailrank).

The Nigerian Biafran war provides the background to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's new novel, which is dedicated to the grandparents Adichi never knew. Adichi's highly praised first novel Purple Hibiscus was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2004 and won the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. The novelist is profiled by Christina Patterson in the Independent. Although writing of war at second-hand, Adichie clearly gets things right. Patterson describes Half A Yellow Sun as:
... a magnificent novel, packed with memorable characters and their different worlds. Adichie's own childhood took place entirely within the bounds of a university campus, but she captures village life, and the cocktail-drinking coteries of the super-rich, as if they too were part of the fabric of her daily life. She also captures the horrors of war: the constant upheaval, the hunger and the brutalising fear that causes ordinary people ... to take part in acts of casual brutality.
In case we need reminding.


Greenbottle said...

i love mr gunther grass more than most other writers and i don't feel anything wrong that he has chosen his own time to confess that he once joined SS when he was seventeen....and i can well understand why he joined given the time and the situation... why, even the church supported the nazis (or at least did not oppose them) during those mad days...

i think this criticism of mr grass due to this late confession was not terribly fair to him... seems like anything that 'hurts' jewish feelings are deemed enormous sins of the world...nobody can touch jewish feelings,they have suffered enough...even when they bombed southern lebanon to rubble we can't blame them...they are just looking for two captured soldiers (taken from a farm from an israeli OCCUPIED land by the way) , that's as far as the 'root cause' goes to morons like george bush and the rest......but i'm digressing...

may be it's a good time now for me to resume that unfinished/half read gunter grass novel 'crabwalk' about the sinking of a ship full of fleeing germans and the furious defense of SS by an 'extremist' who turned out to be the son of the novel's protagonist least that's how i remembered what the book was about...

bibliobibuli said...

i loved 'the tin drum' - one of my favourite books, and look forward to reading more.

i guess that many people are outraged because he was so economical with the truth in his previous statements about his wartime involvement - even to his biographer. there's some suggestion that he decided to spill the beans before secret stasi files were revealed. no doubt we will kniow in time.

i guess that a sense of moral outrage springs from ones own political circumstances. europeans will definitely feel more strongly aggrieved by his revelation since they suffered under the nazis (not only the jews, y'know!)than folks in this part of the world ...

i don't think the israelis were looking primarily for the captured soldiers. they wanted to root out hizbollah entirely and the search for the soldiers gave them the intital excuse. what's most tragic is that the lebanese people are suffering so grievously caught between these forces ... in a war that is not of their making and after they have suffered years of civil war. and the destruction of the infrastructure which knocks the country back decades. it makes me as mad as hell too ... and even more so because i feel entirely ashamed of my prime minister.

you can digress all you want, greenbottle

The Visitor said...

this kidnapping and negotiating at the Lebanese border has been going on for a long time. Israel just decided to grab the opportunity this time to bomb the hell out of Lebanon. they thought they could beat the Hezbollah, but well, surprise, they never expected a tough fight.

this is not a religious war, as some would like to have us believe. it is a secular war that borders on racism. it's not Israel that's defending itself. it's the Lebanese and the Hezbollah. some blame the Hezbollah for kidnapping the soldiers. but hey, what else can they do in the face of a fully-equipped, armed to the teeth Zionist force? invite them to tea? the kids in Gaza are throwing stones at soldiers with machine guns, for God's sake!

you should read the Nasrallah interview. he explains the reason for their struggle, and it makes so much sense. theirs is the struggle against the oppression of global imperial hegemony, not just in the Middle East.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks visitor - can it ever truly be a secular war when the ideologies of the opposing sides are so deeply entrenched in their respective religions?

and as i understand it hizbollah are iranian and syrian backed. how far is their presence actually welcomed by the lebanese people???

The Visitor said...

Hezbollah's got a representative in the Lebanese govt. enough said!

u should read the interview with Nasrallah, then you would really understand what this war is really about. i dont hv the link, but Google it. am sure it's still online.

therese said...

a rep. in the govt. is not a popularity poll!

but yes will read and learn what i should learn

Dean said...

kill them all. long live israel.