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Believing in literature

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ismael kadare, originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

Ismael Kadaré accepted the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in Edinburgh last night with an inspiring speech full of huge ideas about life and writing:

'Believing in literature means believing in a reality above that which is. Believing in literature means saying that the ghastly regime holding sway over your country is altogether insipid, compared to literature in all its funereal majesty. Believing in that art means being convinced that the regime to which you are subjected, with its policemen who spy on you, its top leaders and its functionaries — in sum, that the entire edifice of tyranny is but a passing nightmare, something dead in comparison to the Supreme order whose disciple you now are.'

Meanwhile, Chair of Judges, John Carey, sparked off a well overdue debate in the press on the question of translation which is beautifully summarized at The Literary Saloon.

I couldn't agree with Carey more. I'm always hearing about things I want to read and then looking in vain for (good) translations...

And I don't believe that the British public are just not interested in reading literature in translation. In fact, it's my experience that people are hungry for new writing from far-flung places; writing that opens up a world beyond their own experience.

Come on, British publishers... Stop being so lazy or you might just wake up one morning to a world where everyone's selling their translations online...

ID Card Bill goes to Commons for second time

Monday, June 27, 2005

database, originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

Tomorrow, 28 June 2005, sees the second reading of the ID cards Bill. Actually, the most scary thing to me is not necessarily the idea of ID cards but the 'database state' that's being proposed.

All the evidence suggests that it's not going to tackle terrorism or illegal immigration, to say nothing of the massive costs involved and the impact on some fundamental ideas about human liberty.

Get the latest discussions and sign the petition at the No2ID site.

Adopt a Chinese blog

Friday, June 24, 2005

adoptablog, originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

Via Global Voices

It's now been confirmed that Typepad blogs are blocked in China, where Blogger has already been blocked for some time.

There's a lively debate going on about the role of corporates in this kind of censorship at Rebecca MacKinnon's blog.

Meanwhile, Adopt a Chinese Blog is calling on anyone with web space to help to promote freedom of speech in China by adopting a blocked blog and hosting it for free.

So much more than a load of old fridge magnets

Monday, June 20, 2005
Of course, it could be that my thesis-writing is very, very boring right now...

Thirty people trying to move fridge magnet letters around a screen shouldn't be quite so fascinating and yet somehow it is...


If you haven't been following Hossein's visit to Iran, take a look at his blog right now.

He's writing about the changing mood in Tehran, plus the frustrations of blogging with a bad dial-up connection in a dangerous political climate.

And this Iranian-based blog, a recipient of the Reporters Without Borders' Freedom Blog Awards, recently earned its author, a two-year prison sentence.

I am full of respect for bloggers in Iran - and for bloggers in all the many other parts of the world where freedom of expression is routinely suppressed.

In the UK, although we don't get jailed for expressing our views (and I think we should pause to celebrate that fact alone) what we do hear in the media seems to be getting narrower and, perhaps, less representative of the rich mix of people and cultures that we are. I'd like to hear more voices, to look at things through different eyes, so that I can understand things better.

A few simple shots

Saturday, June 18, 2005
Three years in the making, 'A few simple shots' is a feature-length documentary by Iranian director Joseph Akrami which attempts to tell the untold stories of political prisoners of the Iranian government.

It includes interviews with UN officials, human rights organisations, doctors and lawyers as well as former prisoners themselves.

You can see this brave piece of film-making at the Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf in London tomorrow, Sunday 19 June, at 4pm.

Supported by the International Organisation of Iranian Refugees.

Microsoft considers 'freedom of speech,' 'human rights' and 'democracy' to be profanities...

Friday, June 17, 2005

When Rebecca McKinnon at Global Voices Online tried to set up a freedom-loving Chinese language MSN Spaces blog, this is what happened ...

Bogus Woman selling out fast...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

bogus woman, originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

Just a reminder that the brilliant The Bogus Woman starts its run in Leicester today. Tickets selling out fast, so grab 'em...

Write your world

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
40 writers from around the world come to Norwich as part of a New Writing Partnerships initiative.

Plus, tell your story at My Writing World and get feedback from 'online editorial experts'.

'Whatever you want to write about, we want to know.' Now, that's the kind of project I like...

Home truths

Monday, June 13, 2005

asylum, originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

Fantastic piece of reporting from BBC Radio 4's 'Home Truths'.

Lansana's story is only too common but we rarely hear about it in the media. A Ghanian asylum-seeker, he occupies that strange limbo where he's not 'illegal' but has no rights to remain, and no rights to claim benefits. How can someone survive on a charitable handout of £5 a week?

Thanks, Tom.

Surveying black and Asian poets

Friday, June 10, 2005

Are you a poet from a Black or Asian background? Do you know anyone who is?

Spread the Word has been commissioned by the Arts Councils of England, Scotland and Wales to undertake the first ever survey into publishing opportunities for black and Asian poets throughout the whole of the UK.

'The aim is to find out why, in a culture where black and Asian authors are topping bestseller lists, poets of the same background are failing to make an impact in print.'

Not actually sure myself that black and Asian poets are 'failing' in quite this way, or why the controversial 2004 Next Generation Poets list is being used as the main benchmark. Let's face it - the world of poetry publishing is so tiny that it's hard for anyone to get published or reviewed. Do black and Asian poets need this kind of (positive?) discrimination? I don't know, but I'd like to hear what you think...

Where are you really from?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

ekow eshun, originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

Black Looks discusses 'Black Gold of the Sun,' the just-released book by British journalist and new head of the ICA, Ekow Eshun.

Eshun describes his personal journey to Ghana in search of his roots, family and identity and the answer to that question: 'No, where are you from, REALLY?'


Saturday, June 04, 2005
The actress

If you're in Leicester between 15 and 18 June, don't miss this award-winning play, The Bogus Woman, by Kay Adhead, on at the Haymarket Theatre.

A young woman seeks refuge in England but discovers a land more isolating and dangerous than her own country. Winner of a Fringe First Award at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival, this is urgent, explosive theatre.