Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Writerly Crush

I am crushing on a writer after such a long time. And like any other crush the full enjoyment can only be had by not knowing too much about Breyten Breytenbach. I keep bumping into him. Mostly in Harper's magazine. Its a thrill everytime. And why not? He is lucid and learned. He presents difficult truths in language that is tender. An earlier essay comparing Mandela and Obama, strung together marvellous sayings from African languages - Cameroonian, Hausa, Rwandan. Who can do this without sounding cheesy and acquisitive? Only someone of exquisite sensitivity.

This excerpt is from a more lengthy excerpt of an essay published in the September 2009 issue of Harper's Magazine. The full essay appears in his collection, Intimate Stranger. As for me, I am going to stop hoping to bump into him, take a little more control in this relationship, and buy the book
Unfortunately, as we know, large sectors of humanity (let's call these sectors "cultures" for the sake of convenience) are led to believe that in the beginning there was Truth, and maybe innocence, and all of history since then is a sorry story of decadence and decay. When any culture, however rich or ancient, is but a confirmation of prejudices or the conservation and parroting of so-called truths, it is doomed to be exclusive, voracious, totalitarian, ultimately fundamentalist. I am not referring here only to known expressions of fundamentalist monotheism, although I'd venture to say that monotheism inevitably predisposes to fundamentalism and thus to intolerance.
Let me jump (I said): When the president of the United States and the prime minister of Britain suggest that September 11 was an attack on civilization, they are in effect equating civilization with globalization (which is but the married name of whorish expansionist capitalism), and therefore by implication making a case for Western global fundamentalism.
For my part, I don't believe that "revealed" Truth is ever innocent or benevolent. It can be dangerously evil. For me, the story of mankind is the nomadic search for many, many truths along harsh roads bordered with the flesh and bones and the apparitions of truths long since eaten by birds; it is looking for truths to fill a grumbling stomach, and spitting them out like pebbles when they have lost their flavor.

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