Sunday, February 27, 2011

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

In just a few days I finished Franzen’s latest book. It is a rich tapestry of contemporary America. Different ‘issues’ are dealt with: nature conservancy in the form of a cerulean warbler, a small songbird, MTR or Mountain Top Removal, indeed a blight on the landscape not only in the Appalachian mountains, but also on the Hopi and Navajo reservation. Of course family entanglements, networks, the pain, the mistakes, the loyalty, the hurt and goodness of human relations, poignancy about growing pains and the music scene, all is etched with a sharp needle and colored with a touch of compassion. Also the dealings with contracts for the war in Iraq is a cynical criticism of the warmongering and corruption in the Bush era.
I for one don’t like to read weighty books, so with 582 pages in my edition I struggled sometimes but the insightful comments on our times proved to be riveting. The real estate bubble is as much part of this book as are forays into drugs and infidelity. Yet there seems some redemption or warning in this book, for all of us. Find the time, you’ll enjoy to learn and think. One caveat: by his seeming realism one tends to read this as a classical naturalist novel and thus as the truth. The ambition of the book to be all encompassing however makes that at certain points I felt ill at ease with the flow of the narrative. Yet, a good read.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


PVV photo:
© sms:foto duisburg/rhein 2011
Pre-election Breda gave two pictures that give hope: The PVV flyer thrown away in disgust by a citizen who obviously doesn't agree with the 'gedoogbeleid'.  This extreme anti -immigrant and anti-Islam party 'tolerates' the present government in Holland, a government which doesn't have a majority and needs that party on board for all legislative initiatives. It is a situation the extreme right wing factions of Dutch society just love. The other poster is guide about the points of view about the current  'gedoogbeleid' concerning soft drugs. In recognized coffee shops each person above 18 years old can buy in all safety 5 grams of weed or hash. Also in the USA the discussion about legalization of soft drugs is no longer inadmissible.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Freedom for Liu Xiaobo

This space is dedicated to an appeal launched on behalf pf Liu Xiaobo by internationales literaturfestival berlin appeals for a signing of this letter and a worldwide reading on 20th March 2011 of the co-authored ‘Charter 08’ and the poem ‘You wait for me with Dust’ by Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2010.
Liu Xiaobo is currently the world’s only winner of the Nobel Peace Prize still held in detention. In 2009, after co-authoring ‘Charter 08’, a manifesto calling for greater freedoms and democracy in China, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to eleven years in prison on a spurious charge of “inciting subversion of state power”. His continued imprisonment is a basic breach of human rights, and also a violation of China’s own constitution where Article 35 states that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”.
1936 was the last time neither the winner, German journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, nor any of his family members, could go to Oslo to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. They were all barred from leaving Nazi Germany. This historical comparison should disturb the Chinese government
China has made extraordinary economic progress over the last few decades. The country is now the world’s second largest economy, and a powerful player on the global stage. China is rightly proud of these achievements, but it should also value democracy.
The preamble to ‘Charter 08’ states that “Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly aware that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, republicanism, and constitutional government make up the basic institutional framework of modern politics. A “modernization” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives people of their rights, rots away their humanity, and destroys their dignity. Where is China headed in the 21st century? Will it continue with this “modernization” under authoritarian rule, or will it endorse universal values, join the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic form of government?”i
Now is China’s chance to take a magnanimous step towards democracy. China can do this immediately – by showing pride that one of its citizens, Liu Xiaobo, has received the world’s greatest award in recognition of a struggle to uphold human rights. This award should be an honor for China, too.
In 2005, Liu Xiaobo wrote: “Didn't they say that China was in a golden moment of historical peak, and that the state of human rights is at the very best? Didn't they say that the present government wants to treat "the people as the foundation" in order to build a "harmonious society"? Then why is the government which has built the golden and
almighty China so panicky? Why in this "harmonious society" in which "the people are the foundation" are I and other dissidents treated like trash to be stomped upon? Why must the "harmonious society" be constructed only with police officers posted at stations?”ii
It does not befit a great country to denounce the Nobel Peace Prize, expand the restrictive security net around a peace laureate to include his friends and relatives, and persuade foreign diplomats to boycott the prize ceremony. Since the prize announcement, there has been no let-up in the harassment of Liu’s family and supporters, and all others attempting free speech activities in China. Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest. Several Chinese human rights activists have been prevented from leaving the country in case they go to Oslo, and Liu’s brothers are pessimistic about their chances of being able to travel in his place.
Chinese citizens make up one fifth of the world’s population. Liu Xiaobo’s case is not the story of one man: he is a symbol of the aspirations and treatment of 1.3 billion people.
The call for worldwide readings of ‘Charter 08’, and Liu Xiaobo’s poem ‘You Wait for me with Dust’, signify support for the campaigner, and a call for his release from prison.
A courageous activist all his life, Liu Xiaobo once wrote that “in a dictatorial country, open letters signed by individuals or groups form an important method for the civilians to resist dictatorship and fight for freedom.”iii And so we, citizens of the world, sign this appeal – some with our names, and many, many more with our voices, which will be raised on 20th March 2011 to read Liu’s words – and show solidarity with him, and others in China, who are not free to say what they want.
We will continue to speak up until there is an end to the unjust incarceration of Liu Xiaobo, and others like him.

WIPC Flanders shows its solidarity.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Seven degrees of separation

Just in the last two days I rediscovered how true it is that all humans in the world are connected to each other in just seven steps.  My sister in law, working as a volunteer for the democratic Party in Nevada, met Michele Obama and actually spoke to her. That is two degrees of separation. The other person, I knew about since his tragic death in July last year in Villeneuve Grenoble in France is Karim Boudouba. He was a convicted thief, armed robber, yet loved and respected in his neighborhood which protested violently after Karim Boudouba was shot in pursuit by the police. After his death riots broke out in Villeneuve Grenoble in the modernist area of town. My daughter, a future researcher, interviewed an impressive and wise and very sociable man, who happened to be Karim's uncle. Once again just three degrees of separation to a thief and victim of police action. I can only conclude that what Native Americans hold dear is a simple truth: we are all related.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt and Freedom of expression

Iqbal Baraka, President of Egyptian PEN, has written for the Cairo based Al Masry el Yom newspaper. The following is a translation of her piece, which we are sharing with PEN members.
The assassination of freedom of expression
Voor de nederlandse versie, klik op onderstaande link:
By Iqbal Baraka, President, Egyptian PEN
Al Masry El Yom paper  (
Thursday 4/02/2011

Those who stormed Al-Tahrir Square last Wednesday were not citizens in favor of Mubarak, but a handful of beneficiaries of his existence, stepping briefly into the limelight while they enjoy the freedom of looting the nation's resources in the backstage.

They were not individuals standing by the President’s continuation of his office term, but rather bands that the ousted regime purchased and pushed into areas of conflict to take over clashes on their behalf.

Who handed over Molotov grenades to them? Who instigated them to shoot live bullets and use knives to stop citizens whose only fault was to declare their views and ask for reforms in politics ?

The Tahrir Square on bloody Wesnesday was an arena of wrestling between two victims: the “haves,” protesting against political oppression, corruption, and chaos, and the “have nots” protesting against the widening gap between social classes.

Old Romans at the fall of their empire enjoyed watching combats between two slaves who had no grudges towoards one another, but each one had to kill the other or lose his life .

The Egyptian regime used to convince security soldiers—who came from the depths of rural areas, deprived of educational and employment opportunities and a decent life—that the communist and leftist detainees in their care were disbelievers in Allah striving to eliminate Islam; hence the soldiers beat, kicked and cuffed some of the finest intellectuals in the country.

Following British occupation theory  (divide to rule),  those loyal to the ousted regime circulated rumours earlier this week among ordinary people that the protesters are seeking to spread chaos and destruction in Egypt.

They knew very well that the youths were sitting in Al Tahrir square because they are fighting for an Egypt without poverty, ignorance and injustice . ...

Instead of joining hands together against corrupted officials who had regularly looted the wealth of the country over the past three decades, becoming barons and billionaires… instead of listening to the honest voices in the peaceful march, they surrendered  to the incitements of the beneficiaries of the continuation of the status quo.

They accepted money to continue to be themselves humiliated, poor and ignorant forever, and scrambled under the leadership of a clique of tails of the NDParty to repeat the scenario for which they were trained and which they practiced in every election: abuse, chaos and barbarism, under pre-prepared banners and fake slogans that had nothing to do with the situation in the arena of engagement.

A signboard saying “Yes to Mubarak” shown on satellite TV World in fact showed people all over the world the brutal aggression towards Egypt's youth, hence denigrating the image of Mubarak and increasing the number of conscientious objectors to his ongoing leadership after he proved unable to maintain order in his country.

Another sign said “We give our souls and lives for  Mubarak.” This slogan is no longer acceptable, because nobody would sacrifice himself for a president whose term in office has expired. No one should trade a whole bleeding nation and thousands of youths killed or wounded for  the  authority of a totalitarian ruler .

They were like the Bear that killed its owner with a rock in order to protect him from a fly.

Aggression against protesters peacefully expressing their views is an assault on basic democratic principles. Meanwhile, the president himself has declared in two speeches the legality of their demands and promised to implement them—a wise position and to his credit, no doubt.

The new minister of interior, Mahmoud Wagdy, should have protected the protesters; he should have asked wise men among the Opposition to convince them to end their sit-in after making an appointment to meet with Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, who welcomed a meeting with them.

Furthermor, the so-called “pro-Mubareks” should have been  prevented  access to the square, and directed to other sites wherein to demonstrate and declare their opinions. This is their right, but they do not have the right to attack opponents.

When will we learn the principles of democracy? When will the statesmen of this country remember that history shows no mercy for  despotism and those who connive with it, and recognize that future geneations will try them for the crimes they committed during the last thirty years in which they monopolized power? They will pay for what they did on the last bloody Wesnesday .

What has happened since January 25 was an attempt to assassinate freedom of expression. But it will never die, God willing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Open Heart

Offenes Herz- Open Hart- Open Heart is the title of the trilingual book of poetry by Bart Stouten to be  published in May 2011, world internet books.
Translation with music and tea is name of this picture.

© sms:foto duisburg/rhein 2011


The process of translation.
We first speak to the auhors, propose a choice of their work or let them choose what they would like to see in a trilingual book. Then I start working. If I know the poet/ess, or the work of the poet/ess it is easier. I get what they are trying to do, understand the images and feel where they are going in the poems. it is harder to translate for an anthology, because then one works with only a few poems per author. The real joy is in sending a translation, waiting for the remarks, mulling them over and finally sit together and reading the poems and their translation out loud in all the languages . The reading out loud is essential in poetry, one hears the inflection of the voice of the author, the pause, the parts stressed and so sometimes one discovers an extra nuance one hadn't spotted before. So in close cooperation the best possible text emerges.

Read: Poetry is...