Thursday, August 31, 2006

Learning from the Best

Something to add to the question of the integration of French Muslims:
Despite considerable literature on the growth of identitarian consciousness based around Islam and its impact on French society ... such literature has not considered this migration as the colonial paradigm inverted by the former colonial subject’s relocation to the metropole.

[Homi] Bhabha argues that the colonial legacy involves more than migration: it is instead something that is deeply embedded within the social and cultural norms of the metropole itself. Viewed from this perspective, the assignment of a significant role in contemporary anti-Semitism to young people of Maghrebin origin can be read as a 21st century manifestation of a triadic relationship that took shape at the end of the 19th century when the politics of French colonial Algeria intersected with development of French anti-Semitism.

The implications for understanding the interplay between contemporary and colonial racisms and contemporary and historical anti-Semitism then take on new forms of meaning. Principal among these is a conceptualization of identity, whereby ‘the individual and the system reciprocally constitute each other”, but located within ... “the republican vision of the self-determination of civil society” and mediated by “the Jacobin idea that modernity can endlessly transform itself through the actions of political elites.”

--From Kay Adamson, "Issues of Culture and Identity in Contemporary France", in the current issue (August 2006) of Sociology

Not the benchmark I would want for measuring integration (if I would want to). Despite celebrating its victories against anti-Semitism (like the anniversaries of the Dreyfus Affair), the impulse to expel Jewish characteristics from public life has remained strong--even strengthening since DeGaulle's unfortunate comments.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Random Notes

Any Linguistic Historians of the US? Media Matters, usually so good at refuting nonsense said in the media, has no substantive response to Pat Buchanan's comments:
The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic.
Uh, Pat, we were there ... nothing happened. The republic still stands.

Goose-stepping: Ralph Luker links to Richard Overy's review of Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark. I'm eager to read more about the myth of Frederick the Great. Overy's own statement, however, has me scratching my head:
It could be argued that much of what has been laid at Prussia's door might with as much historical justice be blamed on Austria, which fought for more than a century, from the 1740s to 1866, to stifle Prussia's claims to represent Germany. The war of 1914 was Austria's war, not Prussia's; Hitler was Austria's revenge on Prussia for defeat in 1918. If Clark could give us a book on Austria half as good as his history of Prussia, it would be well worth the wait.
The Habsburgs were cramping the Hohenzollern's style? Another theory about how the imperial tradition unfairly contained Germans will to unity, or is this the survival of Ranke? No one gave an f--- about German unity until after Napoleon, and after that they were content to have both Austria and Prussia involved (since they suspected Prussia so much). Richard Overy, Kleindeutscher.

Perhaps he could have read Daniel Johnson's review of the same book, which also appears in the Telegraph (for some reason):
Prussia's militarism compensated for its political inferiority to the other great powers.
I'll pass on his optimism in the democracy of Weimar Prussia, which was really more circumstantial than desired.

Cities in Dust: Ralph also links to this review of Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan by A. C.

Not victims, but partners: Oxblog's assessment of imperialism in the Middle East.

Carnivalesque: It's up at Early Modern Notes. Go read.

Traditional Chinese Medicine? More ideology than ideas? [HT: Jonathan Dresner]
TCM developed in a tradition of an authoritarian culture. Independent thinking and argument were discouraged. A tradition of objective science did not develop. Diseases were not described. Symptoms and physical characteristics were related only to natural elements and the cosmos. Ideas conformed to those of the emperor and state. TCM contained no concept of physiology, biochemistry, organ function, heredity, or infectious disease.

Julian Green on Language (from his soon to be published diaries):
Langage. La liberté de toucher à une langue et de la transformer a pour limite sa beauté. On en veut aujourd'hui aux règles du français, aux difficultés de l'orthographe, aux exceptions, qui paraissent des subtilités difficiles à accepter en nos jours de disette, tout ce qui participe à la musique et au charme de notre langue. Bientôt on voudra la simplification à outrance, on ne redoublera plus les consonnes, on écrira toutes les formes de é de la même manière (é, ais, et, ès, aie, est, etc.), on en arrivera à noter des sons uniques et à écrire en borborygmes, mais c'est déjà l'usage, si on ouvre au hasard les livres qui paraissent.

(I'll translate later.)

Lost in Time: Sark, the so-called last vestiges of feudalism in the world, and its Norman dialect. [HT: Céline]

Finally: Hoodathunk? Vincent won a challenge rife with zaftig models.

More French Exceptionalism?

[Use Don Adams voice:] Would you believe that French Muslims are among the happiest Muslims in the Western World?

A study by the Pew Research Center suggests that the riots of Fall 2005 don't reflect a failure of the French model of assimilation, nor do they reflect special dissatisfaction among French Muslims for their place in society--at least vis-à-vis other western nations.

Based on poll results, French Muslims 1) have the same concerns of Muslims in other countries, 2) although they are more likely to regard unfavorably the US and the War on Terror, they are more likely to regard them favorably as well, 3) more suspicious of the ascent of anti-Israeli politics (a.k.a. Islamo-Fascism); 4) more likely to feel at home in the West. Here are some charts:

French Muslims appear to be moreopinionatedd, more skeptical, and generally more accepting of the values of their nation than their brethren in other countries. Are French Muslims more French than Muslim? Perhaps, although the conclusion of the pollsters--that "the French need take no integrationist lessons from their European neighbors"--is dubious. French Muslims may feel more French than British Muslims feel British, but the question of how minorities feel about their citizenship and nationality has, in the past, produced highly deceptive results. Those who claim to be true French may have more to say about how integrated French Muslims really are.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Death comes to the Archduke

I wish I had posted my reflections on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict and the start of World War One when I first had them one month ago, but it looks like there were plenty of bloggers who thought obvious comparisons could be drawn: a whole war over one or two men. However, a deeper analysis of Austria-Hungary's war might reveal (especially to neo-conservatives) the problem posed by replacing war with justice: you can go to war over the death of Franz Ferdinand, but you can lose it all in the end. The empire's war ultimately had nothing to do with its reasons for going to war in the first place. It drew in other powers; it backed up atrocities committed by its allies; it incited its non-German ethnic groups (and made them causes celebres among American immigrants); and it effectively lost autonomy to Germany, only to be restored at Versailles. The end of the Habsburg Empire came despite whatever justice that it originally sought. Indeed, the decision to go to war was equally a decision to do without justice, and the death of the empire reflected how it conducted itself in war, not what started it.

No Justice without Victors' Justice: Milošević

From "Milošević in Retrospect" by David Rieff (Viginia Quartlery Review, Summer 2006):
Milošević's death accomplished what all his delaying tactics and coutroom antics coudl never do--cement perception of the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugolsavia's failure. In retropect, it is obvious that the idea so fervently promoted by advocates for the ICTY--that convicting Milošević would somehow win over Serbian hearts and minds--was always the purest wishful thinking.

But this is not to say that victors' justice can never succeed; what it cannot do is succeed in a political vacuum or when the outcome on the battlefield has been indecisize. By now the principal reason Germans came to accept the burden of Nuremberg and South Africa (in the main), the conclusions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, seems clear: decisive defeat, whether military or political. [Emphasis mine]

And in Serbia, this is emphatically not the case. Even in Bosnia, nationalism burns almost as fiercely in the Serb areas as it ever did, and certainly few ordinary Serbs, let alone the former leadership, feel any remorse for Srebrenica or the siege of Sarajevo. In Serbia proper, the current government, while not extreme itself, depends on the support of Milošević's Socialist Party in order to remain in power. Under those circumstances, it is almost impossible to imagine that had Milošević lived and been convicted, the Tribunal's judgement would have seemed legitimate to many Serbs. With his death, one more name has been added to the martyrology of extreme Serb nationalism--a victim, in this accound, of a kangaroo court whose pretensions of delivering justice ring hollow.
Rieff's postmortum troubles me. Milošević talked his country out of responsabiltiy for the attrocities, turning sovereignty into a shield. He was neither the first, nor the last, to put forth the state's unquestionable monopoly on violence (and no state has really come forward, no matter how supportive of international justice, to question this monopoly). If victors' justice is necessary for justice to be founded, then the cost of justice on the international scene will be high.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Random Notes

Some reflections baby products: few receiving blankets are actually made for swaddling (either they have rounded corners, or they are sized as rectangles), and the sizes in which most varieties of formula come in force mothers to make strict choices on how to feed their babies (no mixing and matching.)

manufacturing Nature: Jonathan Shaw profiles David Blackbourn and his new book on Landschaft in German history, The Conquest of Nature (HT: Jonathan Dresner).

Power to the Undocumented? "Are Illegal Immigrants Pioneers? The Irony of American History" looks at how squatting was legitimized in the process of land settlement. (HT: Ralph Luker)

Brandon at Siris has links on the theology of Catholic Saint Edith Stein. [ETA] Yesterday was the feast of Maximilian Kolbe (HT: Mom) .

Some occasions to note: Clark Goble has a beautiful new daughter. Zid (formerly of Blitztoire) marks his first anniversary at Médiévizmes. And a certain someone has made her way back to the blogosphere.

Grass, continued: The revaluations of his literary and political career are coming hard and fast. Die Welt looks back at his political speeches, many of which he suggestively placed himself opposite those who fought in the war. The funny thing is, Grass' career and political activism need not have suffered (if his relative innocence is intact): as I have pointed out many times, my favorite, Heinrich Böll, was part of the Wehrmacht, yet remained a vital critic of power in Federal Germany.

The New Antisemitism or the New Imperialism: Joostein Gaarder's rant about the religious content of Israeli nationalism drew some necessarily sharp responses. I felt it was a bit gratuitous to criticize one nationalism, when the secular society of Norway enjoys what Christian ancestors built. But perhaps all western societies share this dirty secret: the transition from religious to secular society does not call into question the existence of the nation; rather it seeks to recreate its foundations, often on specious grounds.

History Carnival will be up today is up at Mode for Caleb. Go read. Recommended are Natalie Bennet's "A cycle tour of the architecture of Hastings, Winchelsea and Rye", richly illustrated, and "In the Flesh in the Museum", about the representation of Native Americans in natural history museums, at Savage Minds.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Indeterminacy of Space

From FWJ Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism:
If intuition becomes wholly indeterminate, absolutely without concepts, nothing else remains of it save the general intuition itself, which, if it is itself intuited once more, is space.

Space is a conceptless intuiting, and thus in no way a concept that might have been first abstracted, say, from the relationships of things; for although space arises for me through abstraction, it is still no abstract concept either in the sense that categories are, or in the sense that empirical or specific concepts are; for if there was a specific concept of space, there would have to be many spaces, instead of which there is but one infinite space, which is presupposed by every limitation in space, that is, by every individual space. Since space is merely an intuiting throughout, it is necessarily also an intuiting into the infinite, such that even the smallest part of space is still itself an intuiting, that is, a space and not, say, a mere boundary; and this alone is the basis for the infinite divisibility of space. Geometry, although it draws all its proofs solely from intuition, and yet does so no less generally than from concepts, ultimately owes its existence entirely to this property of space; and this is so generally admitted, that no further demonstration of it is needed here.

Schelling's conceptualization of space is by no means unique: infinite, infinitely divisible thus is divisibility is without import; no part of space holds special properties over others, save its position relative to others. Space as a whole, however, holds a special place in Schelling's thought because of complete exteriority to self: awareness of that which is outside the self is intuited in distance, whereas inner sense is intuited in time. Only one real place exists with regard to consciousness--that which is occupied by the self, which is isolated from space by the self's growing awareness of the differences between inner and outer. Indeed, as time defines inner intuition, space becomes dependent on it as space becomes an object to consciousness.

What makes Schelling's interpretation of space problematic (if not atypical) is that the same work introduces concepts of organism/organicism that contribute to the evolution of Gemeinschaft in German philosophy and sociology: the self belongs to a non-mechanical system, plant like in nature, that places it in relation to nature:
... it has framed itself outwardly from within everything that is external to it, and that which constitutes the universe for it is merely the grosser and remoter organ of self-consciousness.
It is this sense that the differences between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft would be understood, and the naturalness of Heimat celebrated.

[ETA] With the weakened importance of space in Schelling's romantic thinking, organic, communal concepts such as Gemeinschaft and Heimat lack qualities of location and place. Belonging to a community, necessary for the formation of the self based on its own experiences, nonetheless is an abstraction, its specificity carrying no merit, and the self remains separable from the community around it.

What Sci-Fi Crew am I?

You scored as Enterprise D (Star Trek). You have high ideals and know in your heart that humanity will continue to evolve in a better people. No matter what may happen, you have faith in human beings. A rare quality. Now if only the Borg would quit assimilating people. (ETA: What? Not the Lexx?)

Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Moya (Farscape)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Serenity (Firefly)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hero takes a fall

Günter Grass, German novelist and Nobel Prize winner, broke sixty years of silence to admit that he belonged to the Waffen SS.
Als Fünfzehnjähriger hatte er sich noch als Hitlerjunge freiwillig zu den U-Booten gemeldet, mit siebzehn wurde Grass einberufen und kam vom Arbeitsdienst zur Division „Frundsberg“, die zur Waffen-SS gehörte.

When he was fifteen he freely reported to a U-Boat as part of the Hitler Youth, at seventeen Grass was conscripted and joined as part of his service the Frundsberg Division, which was part of the Waffen SS.
The Frankürter Allgemeine carries an interview in which Grass talks about the Waffen SS and the forthcoming memoir on the subject:
Mein Schweigen über all die Jahre zählt zu den Gründen, warum ich dieses Buch geschrieben habe. Das mußte raus, endlich. ...

All these years of silence is the reason why I have written this book. It must come out, finally.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Not Your Daddy's Totalitarianism

Daniel Vernet, in Le Monde, explaining why WWII and Cold War analogies don't describe Islamic fundamentalism, and the War on Terror is not a repeat of the history of the 1930s and 1940s:
If Islamic fundamentalism is a totalitarian ideolgy, sometimes using terrorism, and if it should be fought as such, it does not use the instruments of the state that the great totalitarianisms of the 20th century applied to their ambitions. The methods of classical war will come to nothing in the end. To make the wrong diagnosis unleashes an error of prescription and new catastrophes. See Iraq.

Click here to read untranslated extract.
Le mot n'est pas choisi au hasard. Dans les années 1930, il caractérisait l'attitude des démocraties occidentales vis-à-vis du nazisme et du fascisme et, pendant la guerre froide, la politique de ces mêmes démocraties vis-à-vis du communisme soviétique. Ces parallèles fleurissent dans les écrits des néoconservateurs et de ceux qu'on a appelés par analogie les néolibéraux. Pour eux, le fondamentalisme islamiste est le totalitarisme du XXIe siècle. Et il est vain de se demander s'il est contenu dans l'islam ou s'il contrevient à ses enseignements, comme il était vain de s'interroger jadis sur la fidélité ou l'ignorance des Soviétiques par rapport aux écrits de Marx. Les progressistes partisans de la fermeté ont quelques scrupules à approuver George Bush dans son soutien inconditionnel à Ehoud Olmert, comme ils en avaient eu à soutenir la guerre en Irak afin d'en finir avec Saddam Hussein. Mais après tout, disent-ils, les Etats-Unis et les démocraties se sont bien alliés avec Staline pour vaincre le nazisme.

Le problème avec cette approche est moins la caractérisation de l'islamisme fondamentaliste comme forme de totalitarisme - qui ne peut pas être en effet rejetée d'un revers de main - que le raisonnement par analogie. Pour justifier les actuelles politiques israélienne et américaine, dans les textes des néoconservateurs comme ceux des néolibéraux, les références se multiplient à l'occupation de la Ruhr par Hitler en 1936, aux accords de Munich en 1938, symboles de la pusillanimité occidentale, ou encore - a contrario pour souligner la nécessité de la fermeté - à la crise des fusées à Cuba en 1962.

Si le fondamentalisme islamiste est une idéologie totalitaire, utilisant parfois le terrorisme, et s'il doit être combattu comme tel, il ne dispose pas des appareils d'Etat que les grands totalitarismes du XXe siècle mettaient au service de leurs ambitions. Les moyens de la guerre classique n'en viendront pas à bout. Se tromper de diagnostic débouche sur une erreur de prescription et de nouvelles catastrophes. Voir l'Irak.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sunday in Shelburne Falls

Sunday we drove out to Shelburne Falls--his first trip to see the Bridge of Flowers and the Glacier Potholes.

The Bridge of Flowers was particularly beautiful.

OK, I tried to get a little Caspar David Friedrich with the camera. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 06, 2006

HOLY and ROMAN and, yes, an EMPIRE

Voltaire got it wrong. Well, not entirely wrong, the Holy Roman Empire of the Germans was not the shining example of the state that France should become. His famous dictum, an unfortunate bit of the pablum that professional historians repeat uncritically, drew attention from the real state of the empire, its real strength and role in Central Europe. True, it was not the Roman Empire, but an entity that emerged through cooperation between German princes and the Papacy (hence Holy Roman), and few empires were as centralized and rationalized as Voltaire would have preferred. ([ETA] The notion of being 'Holy Roman' leads to a complicated, but necessary, exploration of the empire's relationship with the Papacy and its defense of Catholicism. The empire's empire-ness (if you would) is more solid: there are plenty of examples of loose systems based on variously constituted (including self-constituted), independent sub-entities, including early modern France.)

The Holy Roman Empire, nonetheless, survived the era of nation-states, becoming a metaphor empire that explained how Germany could transition from dictatorship to democracy and from threat to European order to its rock. There should be little surprise that Germans are nostalgic for the Holy Roman Empire, seeing it as strength from complexity. The Rheinische Merkur has several looks back at the legacy of the Empire and its current resuscitation. The most notably is Peter Claus Hartmann's (professor emeritus of history at Uni-Mainz--his German Wiki-entry is here) "Aus der Vielfalt kommt die Stärke", in which he describes the accomplishments of the empire, especially post-1648:

  • The empire established the principles of federalism and subsidiarity (at least for Germans.) It provides an example of balances authority, both within Germany and in Europe, thus being the beginning of the larger continuity in German history (according to Fritz Fischer.) It also provided a model of cooperation, even if the Soldaritätsgemeinschaft did not always function well.
  • Being that no one court held hegemony over all the others, the cosmopolitanism of the 17th and 18th centuries spread out throughout the empire to numerous court cities (unlike France.)
  • The empire regulated the relationships between the member states, the Rechts- und Friedensordnung (ordinances of rights and peace) established the conditions for the consolidation of the German territories into a nation-state.
  • Balancing the interests of the smaller states against those of the larger, militarization was kept at a lower level--small and medium-sized states persisted without armies.
  • Perhaps most important, the post-Westphalian system necessitated a certain amount of religious tolerance (at least between the three major Christian confessions.) Small pockets of Catholics, for instance, could exist in a see of Protestants or Calvinists. The result was a Germany that was more religiously diverse than other early modern states (Denmark, England, France, Italy, Spain ... all being highly homogeneous.) Hartmann insists that this was the limit of tolerance possible in the Early Modern world.
  • Finally, the complex confessional makeup helped to cultivate modern German culture: each confession dedicated itself to different areas of art and literature, allowing a diverse modern culture to emerge.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Who will get their doctorate first?

I think I have a distinct advantage, but I don't think that the little guy will take long. Tuesday, Elias made his first trip into the stacks. He slept, for the most part, as babies are apt to do. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The New Yugoslavia

Matt Christie raises serious alarms about Cuba's future. Let me turn up the volume. The communist government, for whatever else it was, did a lot to resolve Cuba's ethnic inequality and extreme racismo. Of course, many of the elites, whiter than the Africanized and mixed populations, left after Castro came to power. By no means has racism been eliminated, but many of the formerly repressed people are the bosses (especially in the military.) What will happen when Cuban immigrants in America decide to 'go home' and claim what is 'rightfully theirs'?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


What is Amadé? The middle name of the person more commonly known today as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Indeed, it was the name that Mozart preferred. An article in Die Welt describes how Tübingen theologian Reinhold Köstlin took the French accent of Mozart's name, largely for nationalist reasons, 'emancipating' him from the 'error' of Gallicization of the Enlightenment and reflecting the spirit of German unity. (Click here to read quote.)
... Zwei Argumente waren es vor allem, die in den Augen des Professors gegen die Schreibung "Amade" sprachen: Nationalgefühl und Philologie. Offenbar noch ganz unter dem Eindruck der patriotischen Welle durch die Reichseinigung von 1871 stehend, bekannte dieser Schwabe fünf Jahre darauf: "Daß M. sich in seinem französisierenden Zeitalter Amadé schrieb, ist natürlich. Aber aus diesem Französismus sind wir längst heraus und wird die deutsche Nation immer mehr herauskommen, und es würde daher einem Werke, das derselben einem ihrer größten Künstler für immer sichern will, nicht gut anstehen, diesen Mann französisiert vorzuführen, man bekäme gleich einen die Freude des Nationalgefühls am Besitze eines solchen Geistes und Genius trübenden Eindruck." Dann kommt Köstlin auf den philologischen "Übelstand" zu sprechen, den die Schreibweise "Amade" darstelle: "Korrekt ist schon Amadé nicht, sondern Amadée; durch Amadée aber wäre die Französisierung des armem Mozart ganz vollendet. ,Amade' vollends ohne Accent, wie bei Köchel, ist ganz und gar unzulässig; es verwischt die Etymologie total, es ist hierdurch ganz und gar unverständlich, und die Meisten würden mit diesem Namen gar nichts anzufangen wissen und ihn ,Amad' aussprechen."...

Die "Emanzipation" ist geglückt. Ein deutscher Professor hatte gesprochen. Man muß jedoch nicht frankophil sein, um sein Votum ein wenig zu bedauern. "Wolfgang Amadé": das wäre dem Geist des Rokoko gerechter geworden. Und sind nicht Österreicher diesem Geist schon immer und auch heute noch näher als die Preußen, ja selbst als die glücklicheren, sympathischeren Württemberger? Egal. Karl Reinhold Köstlin hat es anders gewollt. Er selbst ist nahezu vergessen. Aber sein Wort setzte sich durch. Sein Nationalstolz scheint übrigens mit den Jahren etwas schwächer geworden zu sein. Seinen 70. Geburtstag jedenfalls feierte der Junggeselle zum großen Erstaunen seiner weitverzweigten Familie in Italen.

Suicide as Justice

From an interview of Maryse Condé (in Conversations with Maryse Condé by Françoise Pfaff):
Q: In Segu there are a fair number of suicides, whiche are not frequent in Afrian cultures ...

Condé: Actually, this impression is quite incorrect. I found that women often committed suicide in Africa and that 30 percent of them did it by throwing themselves down wells. Dr. Colomb, a well-known psychiatrist who headed a team working in a Senegalese village, found a frightful suicide rate there and observed that the most frequent way of committing suicide was to jump down a well. Women did this to prevent members of their community from drinking the well water, thereby punishing their group and retaliating against it.

Q: Why did these women commit suicide?

Condé: For various reasons: unfaithful husbands, co-wives who cast spells on them, not having children, and because of the tragedies inherent to African women in villages.
Segu is truly an impressive work: inspired by research that she intended for her dissertation, Condé creates a rich, multi-generational saga from Malian history. What's glaring is that her female characters are, in general, secondary figures and, more often than not, victimized. For Condé, realism is more important than idealism:
I was not interested in writing militant and exemplary stories about sword-brandishing women. I saw the African world as it was, with women standing almost always in the background. I simply narrated how things happen in most cases ... It is obvious that women are, for the most part, oppressed.
Her attitude stands in stark contrast to the women portrayed in Ousmane Sembene's Moolaadé. Although one unwilling girl throws herself down the well rather than face ritual genital mutilation, the rest of the women of the village hold out against tradition until the men agree to abolish the ritual. Sembene's women are more heroic, but they really reflect his optimism in social solidarity (as in his novel, G-d's Bits of Wood.) Condé's women reflect constraints of cultural and social structures and the limited ability to imagine one's own agency.


The last week has been rough. My wife developed some problems following the cesarean section, and had to check into the hospital. Elias, just one month old, made it all a bit easier: he was quiet, playful, and spent as much time as possible curled up in my wife's lap. And he smiled for the first time--not gas or imitation--staring into her eyes.