Random NotesfarPhew! Getting back to regular blogging is difficult. Baby Elias is high maintenance. At least I have been able to read some novels, notably Sigrid Undset's Gunnar's Daughter (about sex and violence at the end of the Viking Age) and CF Meyer's The Saint (an interpretation of Thomas Becket as a convert and hero to the suppressed Saxon majority of England.) Currently, Maryse Condé's epic Segu, about the decline of the Malian kingdom with the encroachment of Europeans and Islam, is grabbing my attention.
Some of the notes that Condé strikes are present in "The Sufi Shaykh" by Ibrahim al-Koni, featured in Words without Borders look at Libyan literature. Reflecting the real conflicts between Islamic clerics and "fetishists" over slavery and marriage, the extract highlights the tensions caused by imposition of cosmopolitan religion over traditional practices.
"Tragedy on the Araxes" profiles an unfolding archeological tragedy in Azerbaijan. The government has been demolishing the cemetery of Djulfa and its distinct khachkars (burial monumnets) in an effort to remove evidence of Armenian settlement in the country.
... most of the famed khachkars are from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the town was at its most prosperous as a stop on the silk and spice trade routes between Asia and the Mediterranean. After the forced resettlement of 1604, the graveyard endured, and was visited by travelers from within and outside of the Caucasus over the next few centuries. They saw slabs of pink and yellowish stone, between six and eight feet high, intricately carved in relief. Most khachkars, which were believed to aid in the salvation of the soul, were decorated with crosses and representations of Christian holy figures, as well as depictions of plants, scenes of daily life, geometric designs, and epitaphs in Armenian ...
... In 1998, the Armenian government claimed that Nakhichevan's Azeri authorities were deliberately wrecking the cemetery in an act of symbolic violence and had destroyed 800 khackhars. The Armenians appealed to UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), trying to get "the entire international community up in arms," according to deputy culture minister Gagik Gyurdjian. UNESCO responded by ordering an end to all destructive activity in Djulfa. However, the demolition began again in 2002, according to RAA and local witnesses. The last remains of the cemetery were obliterated this past December. Over a period of three days beginning on December 14, 2005, a large group of Azeri soldiers destroyed the remaining grave markers with sledgehammers, loaded the broken stones onto trucks, and dumped them into the waters of the Araxes. That is what witnesses who watched the devastation from across the river in Iran say happened ...
Andrew of AIR, friend of this blog, has the new History Carnival. Check it out.
[ETA] I bought a copy of We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen. Very cool look at one of my favorite bands, perhaps the best to ever come out of Southern California, and certainly the most musical and literate post-punk/hardcore outfit. Essential for anyone who read Our Band Could be Your Life.
[ETA, part deux] I hope that people have been keeping up with Joel's 'Word Catcher Tales', his musings on Japanese language and culture, at Far Outliers. A few weeks ago he mused on the geographical mentality of humans to see some places as being up, others down, with reference to power rather than position. (Of course, I added my two cents.)