Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lorna's Marriage

&   Liminality of life in Exile

          The Dardenne brothers are not immigrant producers; they are EU citizens born in Belgium who tell the story of an immigrant woman that goes through situations that happen to people like her perhaps more than to those living in material easiness; because of her social situation, she is ready to do things that other people would not, because they have no need to. 
   







  In Lorna’s Silence the Dardenne brothers sympathize with the reality that EU immigrants may be forced to go through to attain the dreams they attempt to reach, although the Dardenne film directors are not immigrants, Lorna’s Silence represents the cinema of diaspora and exile in many ways. They, as émigrés directors do, operate independently and their film does not neatly fit into generic or typological category of films. Lorna’s Silence is not a diaspora film in the sense of having been produced in exile, but it juggles thematically with central issues of displacement and with life, times and figures that are in exile. 
         Lorna’s Silence narrates the story of the in-vogue subject of the century; immigration as a cinema of despair. 

     Small-time gangsters contract Belgian heroin dependent Claudy (Jérémie Renier) to marry the Albanian immigrant Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) so she can become an EU citizen for then later divorce him, and marry a Russian mobster to become an EU citizen too, for then she can divorce him to finally marry his Albanian long-distance chauffeur boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj) and live forever after in the for-to-buy snack shop. 

      It sounds effortless and a very good all-winners plan so far. Characters have its own good dream for a better life, they diplomatically agreed and coolly planned to use and vend each other for their own benefit and there’s collecting funds out of these playing-with-the-law transactions. 
         Lorna has the modest dream of opening this snack bar but the few obstacles she has will multiply and she’ll never get it in spite of hardening hearts because life wasn’t designed to be lived in a so selfish fashion. 

       At first, Lorna regards Claudy with polite contempt. Although she lives in his place, she treats him as an annoying tenant, setting down clear rules of separation. But she feels more sympathy for Claudy as he tries to kick his addiction when he becomes more a burden to her. She does everything she can to accelerate the divorce proceedings, banging her arms and head against a wall in order to file the case for domestic violence. But her accomplices plan to rush things up by killing Claudy with an overdose (Thom Andersen)
Hard men, indeed. 
      Then gangsters walk in her appartment as if they owned Lorna’s life and her destiny, and going over the deceased’s belongings like vultures on carrion split his personal effects.

     Lorna now in a round table with the gangsters and the Russian listens the instruction for the “meeting settling” arrangements for her next matrimony with arranged witnesses. But now is Lorna the one who became a problem; out of guilt she believes is pregnant of her deceased husband, and at attempting to find out whether the Russian would accept her in this condition or not, he cancels the contract. 
Furious gangsters and boyfriend redirect Lorna’s collected funds back to each other and  send her back automatically to her homeland Albania. Fugitive, she lives lost, insane and isolated in the woods. 
The freedom in Lorna’s story just means being your own boss. They lose their dreams, but Lorna discovers another kind of freedom in the woods outside Liège. 

         According to Naficy on his works on ‘Recurrent Themes in the Middle Eastern Cinema of Diaspora’, diaspora cinema is structurally contradictory because is both; oppositional and assimilionist. Lorna’s Silence is oppositional in its critique of the politics, policies and ideologies of the host societies; Lorna makes matrimony a commerce in order to get her freedom in the arrived land. Lorna deals with the marginalia of the host society to close her business; in this sense the film is assimilionist, if marginal, function as a cultural force within the civil society. 

      The Dardenne brothers, by producing film about exiles, intervene in the larger discourses and debates of their host societies and reinforce the prevailing negative representations of the EU as an elitist society. At the same time, according to Naficy, through this representation they help the community to identify and negotiate for themselves new individual and collective identities, facilitating their move from being ‘exiles’ to become ‘ethnics’. At the same time, by focusing on problems of living and working in the big cities, the film addresses to immigrant tensions and concerns participating in means of self-assertion, self-fashioning and acculturation (Naficy, 1995). 

      Differently to the immigrants to America at the end of the 19th century that came from Europe, where woman, barred from participating in the public sphere, worked at home and kept their families together, caring and nurturing of members creating ethnic linkages and networks with other immigrant populations, Lorna is attached to the petty ruffians that help her business. They rather represent an advanced stage of capitalist development; Lorna and her associates are all business: no small talk, no charm, no colorful lines, no philosophical speculations. There’s work to be done, and they’re doing it as efficiently as possible, with a harsh attention to detail. Even Lorna’s Albanian boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj), a long-distance truck driver, is always preoccupied with some obscure criminal endeavor during their rushed encounters (Thom Andersen).








       Nothing about nurturing and cultivation mirrors Lorna: although her fake husband and heroin addict Claudy begs for affection in many ways and his longings are strengthened as he tries to kick his addiction, Lorna shows incapable to provide nurture, care, nor even sympathy because her chances of obtaining a divorce would be even closer if she became a widow. 

       So, while waiting for the divorce letter, the minute that Lorna gets to her living place she closes every window and lacks herself in the bedroom. Claudy, sick in a never-ending rotation of helpless misery, burning his money-share in drugs, starves for attention and care. Attempting to kick the drug habit becomes a problem when he reaches an edging desperate need. It’s not that he grew affection for her or anything but it’s more that she has what he lacks; a plan, hope, that freshness when she passes by, so healthy and desirable, so alive... and at the same time so selfish, so careless, unsociable and inhuman that at some point you may feel you hate her. She tries to stick to the original business plan and “helping” was not part of the contract (he received €5000 for marry her and will receive the double to divorce her). That will be all. 

       They live in a den where minimal furniture and white washed walls has nothing to say but that its tenants are not building a home there. Theirs is and interior den where they can’t get out. They force to live a miserable life, victims of themselves. All characters will live a life when they reach their dreams; meanwhile they're just wrecked people that wait to get there. These are the signs of homelessness that characterize the lives of exiles that find a way to escape from pressures dreaming with ‘another place’ yet to achieve. 

      Potentially liminal spaces are mobile entities such as buses, tracks or trains that transit between homeland and other destinations in the films of diaspora, as in Lorna’s boyfriend waits to obtain EU citizenship works as a long-distance truck driver and assures to Lorna that will meet her in her homeland after stopping in Milan, when she’s being sent to Albania. These transitional and mobile sites are potentially liminal and highly suggestive of the exile condition. 

     Nothing is referred in the film about the place where Lorna and her associates came from other than they came from Albania, and nothing is referred in the film addressed to an integrative cultural struggle in the host society because the global media has taken care of that ahead of time. Bizarrely enough, the novel immigrant of the 21st century will struggle for assimilation and acculturation way after they have obtained their citizenship and not the way around; that they’re granted citizenship after they become assimilated and integrated to the new society because the acquirement of this social status is the first step in the only path to integration. This is reflected during the first seconds of the film when Lorna interacts with a bank clerk asking for the loan to open the snack bar saying ‘I’ll be Belgian soon, so I can do it’ (1:15). 

      One similitude of these two types of immigrants if nothing is said about their affective relationship with their home country (although negation is anyhow rejection) it is their devotion to the new country; the minor-league hoodlums will do anything to advance their schemes. 

       The immigrants that the Dardenne brothers portrait, are somehow more related to the second wave of immigrants America had around the 1960 which came from Third World and the newly industrialized nations. They had a higher level of education, skills and capital and a desire to neither give-up the ‘old ways’ nor completely embrace the new ones. The only way that Lorna shows that she has not given-up ways from her homeland is when she desires her Albanian boyfriend Sokol; her desire of building a new life in Belgium with him is a desire to extend her Albanian way of life in the new land. And the way Lorna shows that she has not embraced the new ways of life is the ways she connects with her environment; except for the nurse that helps her to declare her self-inflicted bruises to the police, other surrounding people from her workplace, hospital, streets, pharmacy, bank clerk and detectives are unidentified, anonymous and vacant to her life. She is cut-off from her environment that is indifferent to her presence; she only performs. 
      The liminality of exile necessitate a stress on nature and the natural order; In the absence of the native habitat the exiles seek what only nature is capable of providing: wilderness, timelessness, boundlessness, reliability, stability, and universality. Many exiles in cinema consider wilderness to be a sacred space of uncontaminated spirituality and safety: during Lorna’s final escape from her masters, a hint of realism is introduced when she comes upon an abandoned cabin in the forest, as well as a bit of music. This space is contrasted with the profane and insecure spaces of culture and civilization. In the forest, all of a sudden Lorna regain her woman nurturing nature; there she remembers how was to be maternal and to take care of someone, but is late because Claudy is dead and out of guilt she has a psychological pregnancy.
Then there is a profound sense of loss; the dead and the lost dream are symbols of an unattainable life. The wilderness in Lorna’s also represents a space of liberation and reconciliation. 

      In the liminality of diaspora and exile, the boundaries between self and other, female and male, inside and outside are often blurred and must be continually negotiated (Naficy, 1995) . The spatial configuration in Lorna’s Silence is driven by structures of identification and alienation. In the exilic films as Lorna’s the enclosed claustrophobic spaces as her bedroom and place of residence represents a prison expressing anxiety and fear about life in exile. These phobic spaces perceived as representations of an hostile, oppressive social order are often opposed to the spaces of immensity of the wilderness. Strategies to create such spaces in Lorna’s include tight close-ups, closed shot compositions, tight physical spaces, barriers in the mise-en-scene and the shot that impedes vision such as car passing by while she walks on the streets, a net-metal curtain between Lorna and the pharmacist, dialogs inside cars while characters deal large quantity of cash, etc. And a lightning scheme that creates a mood of constriction such as the lightning in her apartment, her rushes through the night and the all-cloudy days during the exteriors daytime locations.





      In Lorna’s Silence, the security that the confinement of her apartment offers her, although violent and degrading far outweigh the external world of the host society, which remains a threatening presence. This is shown in how she looks at strangers in the street throughout the film and the fear she feels at seeing police officers passing by and when addressing to the pharmacist; as if she wouldn’t feel with the full right of being there. 

      Another key of most exilic filmmakers of the accented cinema is that they are multilingual, as Lorna speaks French with society but Albanian with her boyfriend Sokol, who at the same time speaks Italian with his associate for language, serves to shape not only individual identity but also regional and national identities prior to displacement (Naficy, 2001)

      Common elements of exilic films that are found in Lorna’s are keys, that close and open different worlds and represent immigrant’s opportunities to succeed, huge amounts of cash movements that represent unsettling since citizens don’t need to carry so much cash, police, panic to doorbells, the closing of curtains as protection from the external world and isolation in the new land, the nearness to death, the fear to be continually under surveillance, visits to hospitals, close spaces and frequent moving as when after Claudy died Lorna moved quickly to her former flat. 
  
      According to Deleuze, in the cinema of the “action-image”, “perception is organized in obstacles and distances to be crossed, while action invents the means to cross and surmount them.” In the modern cinema “perceptions and actions cease to be linked together.” A link has been broken, and the character can no longer act effectively. But Lorna is not a neorealist character; her perceptions lead her immediately to actions; there is no dissociation between them. Against the tide of neorealism, the Dardennes insist that action is character.

***

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lawrence Of Arabia:

                                       ~  The Lyrical Abstraction Of David Lean

    Lawrence of Arabia(1962) by David Lean, a mastery of the British epic cinema, narrates the ‘civilizing mission’ of colonizing Africa motivated by a desire of pushing back the frontiers of ignorance, disease and tyranny through a warrior’s passion to unify Arab tribes. 
    The film evolves through a colonialist discourse in its representation of ‘the other’ over all non-western territories and cultures which are viewed from an imperialist and white supremacist ideology of a colonizer’s perspective. It under-girds the traditional colonial binarisms such as order/chaos, activity/passivity, devolves into idealized symbolic hierarchies that embrace class such as ‘lower class’, ‘high culture’, non-European worlds as less luminous, African people as belonging to a ‘dark continent’, rationality/light versus irrationality/darkness ‘Sight and vision are attributed to Europe, while ‘the Other’ is seen as living in ‘obscurity’, blind to moral knowledge’ (Shohat/Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism). The binary logic of imperialist establish relations of dominance (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, Post-Colonial Studies)


    In the short scene of torture (2:51) are exemplified the underlying traditional imperialist narratives at work. Lawrence, who until the date lives naively facing the colonized Arab world as an unruly land in need of discipline, intends now to ‘pass as an Arab in the Arab town’ (2:50) of Deraa. After being halted by a Turkish brigade, he is beaten and released. This fact will dramatically affect the course of the narrative and the life of Lawrence. 

     During the exposition of the dramatic structure Lawrence is presented unchanged since the beginning of the film ‘locked in his whiteness’ leading his revolutionary Arab revolt with this ‘White civilization’s attitude’ (Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks) of mastering the uncivilized. The raw floor, washed walls and highly geometric image composition of the interior of the Turkish headquarter anticipate abuse of power and coming discipline to the still too naïve Lawrence while he is lined up and scrutinized along marginal detainees. 
A raising action is quickly triggered in stages by the emotional weight that the General’s asthmatic coughs add denoting internal conflict when addressing Lawrence after other criminals are dismissed. While the General Turk leisurely approaches him we are immersed into a deep religious significance through the image composition of naked walls, simple wooden furniture, brown tunics, cloth belts and oppression resembling of that of the European medieval monasteries where clergies were punished. Altogether bring a recollection of all of those moments where Lawrence has compared himself with the Biblical Moses throughout the film, such as wishing to offer ‘his people’ freedom through the war, be driven by heart and faith, asking ‘his people’ to walk through water with him (2:45) and asking them to do only-miraculously deeds and the like (like the legendary ‘Prince of Egypt’ he wears royal Arab garments). Here the first evident culture collision is made explicit by Dir. Lean by the following dialog descriptive of Lawrence’s complexion with the first purpose of meaning ‘you are different and vulnerable here’ and the second purpose of breaking his strength by forcing him to recognize it. 

      The dramatic tension rises at the pulse of the General’s coughs; the added detail of the General raising heals while undressing Lawrence has colonial overtones at differencing race levels; from an imperialist/Eurocentric point of view this fact implies that ‘the Turks are at a lower level than the British’ even in disadvantaged situations, signifying that the race blood does not mind physical appearances, since some ‘Black” people are lighter than some “White” people (Shohat/Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism). In fact, one of the Turks has also light eyes as Lawrence’s but still he’s being counted among ‘cattle’. 

        While Lawrence’s tunic is being torn, an unattractive weak and numb body uncovered then gleams such as the images of the desert sand; virgin, conquerable, feminine, luscious and desirable through the inspecting General’s eyes. The General’s tough breading resembles those same blind desires claimed by Mayotte Capecia in her book I am a Martinican Woman where she declares that all she wants is having ‘just a touch of whiteness in her life’ following the reasoning of ‘One is white, so one is rich, so one is handsome, so one is intelligent’ (Fanon). 

    The General is puzzled: Lawrence is an embodiment of contradictions, a confusing zone in which a culture of an imperial power clashes with that of its victims; his is not entirely British, nor entirely Arab; he is trapped between both the ‘modern’ and the ‘traditional’, he is ‘almost an Arab’ (3:05) therefore, reduced to a half man. 
 

   The pale and luminous spaces enhancing the brilliance of whites resembling spirituality as Lawrence’s complexion and garments signifying a ‘White man of God, of Good and of Virtue, a true man of choice and of moral’ as an ambassador of a puritan empire juxtaposed to the colonized that is placed in a situation which no longer allows him to choose, a ‘creature of evil’ (the general compares himself in being in the dark side of the moon, 2:53) make Dir. Lean’s cinema a representation of Lyrical Abstraction where the choice is not defined by what it’s being chosen but by the power that it possesses to be able to start afresh through scarifies; therefore, a spiritual determination (Deleuze, The Movement-Image)

    This binary logic of imperialism of religion/sex, pure/impure, impotence/power, conqueror/captive, civilized/primitive, good/evil, teacher/pupil, refinement/brutality, superior/inferior is crystallized in the Deleuzian affection-image of the close-up of the militant’s lips glittering of admiration and desire making it a cut off from the lineal time-space bringing the narrative to a climax. 

      Then we realize that the General has started a revenge against colonialism in sexual terms such as Mustafa in Salih’s Season of Migrations to the North, where he appoints himself the mission to inflict suffering and pain to British women taking the war at a personal level using his intellectual power as a weapon to conquer white women both mentally and physically as a way to throw back colonialism to the colonizers becoming ‘a heartless machine’ (Salih, 25). 

    All of a sudden the naïve, innocent and wounded colonial Lawrence, from a prophet is raised to the category of that of a saint foreseen a religious leader who must suffer and be sacrificed for his people and cause by bestial ignorance, according to the imperialist discourse; he is being raped and wounded as the colonizers have being raped and wounded by the violent forces of the British empire. 

      Due to the greatest damage caused by this close encounter with the colonized has been done psychologically in a way that it can’t be restored, consequences will reverberate in the following decisions that Lawrence will take, causing his detachment from the war. 

     Lawrence is now a mature man aware that his unchangeable ‘epidermic color’ (Fanon) decides his destiny. 
          From the hero who thought that ‘a man can be whatever he wants’ because 'Nothing is written' and that was willing to make the war just for passion, he decides first to go home to become an ordinary man to do an ordinary job alleging ‘personal reasons’.

     A culturally overdetermined geographical-symbolic polarity North/South, East/West axis when Lawrence decides to ‘go North’ as a going home and returning to his people, while South and East is metaphoric reduced to desert, dreariness and a return to barbarism, like Marlow goes South to conquer the ‘unknown’ in Conrad’s Hearth of Darkness, Mustafa in Season of Migrations to the North, who moves from Sudan to Cairo and London to ‘civilize’ himself and as in Naipaul’s A Bend in the River compares the people of Africa as boys that after ‘coming out of a bush’ came late into a ready-made world. 

      But as this task is impossible since Lawrence has never been an ordinary man, he decides to return to the desert as a greedy man full of revenge, (as a heartless machine) who will fight for money along gathered murders and mercenaries that know nothing of the Arab revolt and prophesies (2:23). Now his enemy has an identity; Turks. 

      Now, that he has received a dose of his own poison, he’ll return it back to the colonizers by satiating his thirst of revenge obliterating a column of wounded Turks that slaughtered an Arab village, that happened to be in their way to Damascus (3:22). The sensitive Lawrence that once felt guilt for the death of one, now feels pleasure spreading blood becoming as ‘barbarous and cruel’ as his colonized enemy. 

    The cinematic production of Lawrence of Arabia is representative of ‘Third World Cinema’ as well every time its narrative weights the recognition and exploration of the Arab world raising awareness of the anti-imperialist, or First World/Third World struggle for domination, although it was made by U.K., a First World nation.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Broken Identity:


    ~ Pina Bausch and The Pulse Of The German Soul

‘Anything moved by hatred will endure’ 
 (Freire, 1921)

             When considering how societies are doing at integrating its waves of immigrants, what one first notices is the clash between the guest, who wrestles to become a new self in a foreign environment and the host, who struggles to preserve itself balancing cultural forces versus upheaval and change. In the human quest for peace in upgrading cultural heritages to new realities, both, immigrant and citizen pursue the same goal but at the pulse of their own distinctive cultural resources. 
Germany, that nowadays pairs with the heads of European leaders and that is today’s Euro Zone’s richest nation, hasn’t in fact grown at the same pace than its counterparts, neither its core was carved by the same chisel to expect to respond to global issues within current customs.


           As an effort towards social integration, liberal societies have introduced social plans such as bilingual education in elementary schools and ethnic studies at the third level. Unfavorable approaches regarding integration include repatriation, deportation, and denial. Germany, since it has systematically denied the social participation of its immigrants up to their third generation, like all liberal states that after the postwar period had failed in culturally assimilating its members, has now to tolerate the fragmented character of the multicultural transformation of its society.
       In spite of since the collapse of communism Germany has taken in more immigrants than any other country in Europe making it ‘the nearest thing Europe has to a melting pot’, multiculturalism is not about foreign affairs   but an exclusive debate of national identity (The Economist,  1994)
         As a result of the defeats of the two great wars and the National Socialism that paved the dark successes of the 20th century, a positive national identity became impossible in postwar Germany, and rejecting all external influences, citizens retreated to themselves. Immigrants of postwar Germany found an unavailable host too consumed by the urgency of working on a new awareness of self, sense of dignity, and hope towards launching a new place in the world to be concerned about them beyond basic commitments.
       But factors that account for the unreconstructed ethnic nationhood, in which the transformation of foreign migrants into German citizens remains unsolved, not only entail the notion of nationhood that has been discredited by Nazism, but a general consent that accepting and assimilating the foreign would mean to abandon the homogeneity of society as well   (Joppke, 1996).

           The blood-based (‘jus sanguinis’) society of citizens in which one cannot become a member unless of course, one already is one, in which European nations stand, had a defensive yet punitive origin in the very nest of the German identity. According to the political rhetoric, German identity primary corresponded to the cultivation of cultural values like education, freedom and enlightenment. By this standard German identity was available to any individual. But gone were those days when German identity had functioned as such an earned virtue; social closure began as a defense against both; stubbornness from Eastern Europe neighbors to become Germanized, and perceived aggressive tactics of foreign infiltration. In a time of increasing social and political mobilization, Germanness became less a mark of cultural achievement and more an essentialized form of identity to differentiate from 'others'. Calls for purification typically insisted on re-establishing endogamous national identity by ridding language and culture of so-called foreign elements to fight the "spreading plague of foreign words, to cleanse the German language of foreign influences, and to strengthen the general national consciousness of the German people." And nationalist writers made several claims to a kind of moral superiority, based on empirical evidence of German economic prosperity (Judson, 1993). 
         At the outbreak of revolts of the turning to the 19th century, western nations constituted themselves by intra-state revolutions, secularism, freedom, and equality, but distinctively, the German nation born from a succession of inter-state conflicts and from the negative features of resentment and closure; from the ‘us’ versus ‘them’, restricting migrant policy dividing the world into ‘Germans’ and ‘foreigners’.
          While multiculturalism is the attempt to break the ‘us’ versus ‘them’, in which Germans have traditionally defined themselves, the ‘völkish’ conception of nation as a community of ‘descent’ is an anachronistic conception towards European integration that both actual political parties left and right, unabashedly still share. 

         German’s society has been judged of being intolerant with foreigners, sunken in self-pity and tangled in ‘compulsive self-analysis’ more than once within the present political arena. A third generation of Turkish-German activist explains it: ‘The problem is simply that the German have not found a healthy national identity. They are torn back and forth between self-denial and a völkisch-German [blood based] identity. That makes it difficult for the ethnic immigrant groups… we Turks find it strange and can’t respect it if a German says that he doesn’t like being a German…   How can you identify with a nation that has a broken identity?’    (Joppke, 1996)
    

     First notions about narcissist personality report the ones developed by S. Freud who proposed two different concepts of narcissism 'the first identified with self-love, whereas the second presuppose a state of mind antecedent to any awareness of objects separate from the self. According to Ch. Lasch in his studies about narcissist societies, love is first a centrifugal motion impelled by an urgency toward others; this is an extraneous concept of love for the contemporaneous narcissist. In fact, the mythological Narcissus (meaning numbness) never took account of his lovers because he was so fond of his handsomeness that at attempting to kiss his own reflection on a water pond, he sunk in it and died. His sinking wasn't prompted by casualties but by a distortion of realities. Narcissus drowns in his own reflection, never understanding that it is a reflection. The point of the story is not that Narcissus fall in love with himself but, that he fails to recognize his own reflection; that he lacks any conception of the difference between himself and his surroundings’  (Lasch, 1978).


          Caused by historical factors, then, Germany may be judged for being extremely consumed about the purity of their blood and driven by self-love, but while knowing that art forms of a society are but the internal representations of a generation, an even closer study to German idiosyncrasy will tell us anything about self pride and vanity, but about a crying society consumed by self-hatred, intense pain, and exhaustion. 
          Film critic S. Kracauer, who focused in the mental processes crystallized on artworks, explains that art forms such as films, while conditioned by the particular stage in which the society is undergoing, reflect a nation's character;  'In the course of its history every nation develops dispositions which survive their primary causes and undergo a metamorphosis of their own. They cannot simply be inferred from current external factors, but, conversely, help determine reactions to such factors. We are all human beings, if sometimes in different ways. These collective dispositions gain momentum in cases of extreme political change. The dissolution of political systems results in the decomposition of psychological systems’   (Kracauer, 1947).
            Metropolis, the most expensive silent film ever made, was an idea conceived when from shipboard, film director F. Lang saw New York for the first time ‘a nocturnal New York glittering with myriad lights’. The film elaborates upon the rebellion of workers, (which are rather slaves of the system where the elderly works and machine is exalted over men) are misguided by a robot looking exactly like their spiritual muse Maria, that incites them to revel against the upper world, and ends with reconciliation. It shows the easiness in which the German is inclined to follow a cerebral elite (Judson, 1993).    
            Regarding inner and outer worlds of the postwar period he describes how millions of Germans seemed to have shut themselves off from a world determined by allied pressure, violent internal struggles and inflation. They acted as if under the influence of a terrific shock which upset normal relations between their outer and inner existence (…) while this mind neglected, or obstructed, 'it made an extreme effort to reconsider the foundations of the self, to adjust the self to the actual conditions of life.’ (Kracauer, 1947)
          When we observe the exposure of the German soul through history, we realize then it oftentimes crystallizes in macabre, sinister, morbid, insane, chaotic, riddlish and in ached forms.

       Pina Bausch, choreographer and former student of the Tanztheater, (theater which blends artistic and historical contexts of post-war Germany and whose works will be staged as a highlight of the Cultural Olympiad preceding the Olympic Games of 2012 in London), never reflected völkisch-love connotations. Instead, she used to compare herself to a migrating bird without any national identity. Through her works she questioned the roots of the welfare society by exposing the country’s Nazi past. ‘Her pieces usually did not follow a tightly scripted story or plot, but rather were composed of sketches, scenic montages, associations, and images (...) The agony of working through that painful legacy often took a more personalized form in the shape of expressing the cruelties of the gender struggle in Bausch’s earlier work’ (Stegmann, 2010). Since she was more concerned about what drives movements than the moves themselves, she sustained a divided audience because, as a critic explains, ‘her style is so antithetical to the trends in American dance’ (Tashiro, 1999). But what makes her remarkable is ‘her ability to decipher what people are revealing through their bodies’ (Win Wenders, 2009)
             Only Pina Bausch knew well the limitations of history and artworks to connect the men of our era with the feelings of painful facts of the miseries of war. Café Müller, one of her earliest and possibly the most biographical of her works, is, in effect, a neo-expressionist German dramatic dance about a recollection of childhood memories.
           Having grown up in a café inn run by her parents at the end of WWII, young Pina Bausch used to hide under tables to take refuge from conversations and encounters of customers and peasants of the post-war Germany. What she remembers then, are not words or detailed stories, but deep feelings of incurable sorrows and infinite loneliness caused by the inability of humans to make well-founded connections, despite of our great need for love. While a child she was unable to understand the adult world with a realistic perspective  but she did understand and could translate the codes of a surviving world pregnant with violence, and the intense sufferings of the human condition beyond words.

             There are no casual coincidences in Café Müller. What may be judged as disorganized improvisations are indeed, hard scrutinized and rehearsed works all building toward sensibilizing the calloused feelings of compassion of the contemporaneous spectator. In a single line; Café Müller portrays the inability of two lovers and a café owner to communicate. A fugitive paranoid, a personified ruler, a neutral assistant and an animated soul personified by Pina Bausch complement and add volume to the scene.
Pina Bausch, embodying fragile memories enduring in the coldness and darkness of the confinement of the human mind, remains lost, inoffensive, and undisturbed, until 'it's called to remember’. Her immaterial character is put in evidence from the opening scene when none of the characters acknowledge her presence and when she doesn't run into furniture,  although, she does bumps on walls since these are the merciless limits of her imprisonment and a determinant of her state. She, while barely sustains her own weight, will manipulate the characters from this place as a storyteller. The successes remembered have happened so long ago, that details of the facts seem to have been lost in time, (or that don’t matter at all) but the paths leading to its impressed feelings seem so familiar to her, that tell us that she recalls them frequently as being trapped in a  labyrinthic nightmare. In this way, what she remembers is the disarray in what the shop was left from the night before, and the futility of the busyness of the owner. 

            Irrupting the scene enters the woman. To Pina Bausch the woman represents in the first instance, love. A sensitive and imaginative creature, with luscious hair, exuberant and fertile body; a motherly love-type characterized by wild passions. Even so, she seems so gravely affected by internal sufferings, that lusterless, is unable to function, and self-consumed on her sores, blindly walks, articulates and dismays bumping on chairs, walls and people around. The material world is but a source of distress and obstacle for her untamed expression form. Worn out and sick of her pain, her clothes, that uses just to cover her nudity (this is, not as a social instrument) are an obligation and a nuisance for her, thus oftentimes she'll simply get rid of them. She has eyes, still are useless since her life is driven by emotions, not by sight. There is an assistant (Pina Bausch’s real partner at the time) who knocks chairs and tables down at clearing her way, causing noise, disturbance, violence, and discomfort in the audience.  
            Eventually, the woman meets a man who comforts her. Their love relationship will be promptly regulated by the ruler (click on the blue words to see this scene) who is quick to instruct them in appropriate 'socially acceptable' behaviors. Choreographer Pina Bausch represents social norms with a tiresome and grieved male figure that imposes the collective canon with the strength of dedication, patience, and discipline until stubbornness persists. Its major weight and force is innate in its sole presence. Unfortunately, these same social norms that once have been detailed confectioned by men with the sole purpose of enhance and serve him in a well-designed, and man-shaped society, are now not only foreign and unfit, but so structured, inadequate, and inert that they reduce the couple’s love's flames unfailingly to ashes. The lovers' personal inner conflicts impede them to generate new routes to accomplish their desires or even to acknowledge the other's needs. 
        
         The man in spite of his disarticulated, mined with cramps, blackouts, runaways , paralyzed and mystifying discourse, is still the richest and noblest of all representations on stage. At the same time, he is the most heartbreaking and shattered character; the most conscious, tormented, and mortified by his fate. He passionately desires norms to shape his life in society, in spite of that the rigidity of the available order is unfit to satisfy his actual needs; he has a vast raw unnamed passions that burn inside of him. In addition, he is capable to be loyal to a distressing love, despite of the café owner’s seduction, and his considerable need for love. According to Pina Bausch, he is also the most honest and genuine of all characters because, besides of being able to acknowledge his own internal struggles, he recognizes the need of others, and the existence of a superior being outside of himself as well. For his efforts of intensive reaching out, he seems to be the only one with chances of, one day, getting out of the trap of the self in which got all tangled. 
He makes continuous references to the woman although, she's not his exclusive concern, since the center of his monologue seems to be placed rather on pleading for forgiveness at stressing his discourse around the phrase 'Forget my Fate', in which he reaches momentum. He exalts the woman, still he’s been stepped by her while she let herself be blindly managed by the norms. While Germany sustains an egalitarian society, violence surrounds the man anywhere he goes, because he causes it as a natural reflex of what he lives, not with the purpose of harming, but because it is men's instinctive way of expression (Sontag, 2003)

    Lastly, the café owner, (or Pina Bausch’s somehow representation of her mother, or her future self, or her actual self played in society, since at the end (click on the blue words to see both clips) she’ll ‘must carry her burdens’ bumping on furniture after becoming a human representation) is an excellent social norm user and people-pleaser who exhausts herself focusing on other’s well-being. Her solos, monologues as well, express solitude e ingenuity in the core of a grotesque and vicious world, that does not take account of her. After taking off the masculine heavy shield that protects her from the outside world, she displays naïve and dreamy stanzas highly contrasted with the elements around, signifying a delicate, feminine  and vivacious woman type, who's eager to live. Concerned about looks, she’s in any way more satisfied about life outcomes.
' When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast.
Remember me, remember me, but ah...! Forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah...! Forget my fate'
(Queen Dido's lament 4min aria that inspired Pina Bausch to dress her personal discourse, was also interpreted by the moving voice of Lucy Crowe in 2009 for the 350th anniversary of composer Henry Purcell's birth). There's much to say about the election of the music, the micro-structure of the individual stanzas, their politics and significance, but they'd make a too extensive analysis for a single blog, but contact me for a more extended study.

           It is sure that an occupied mind submerged on retrospective thoughts can help an unappealing present be less real, but a prolonged apathy, lack of hope or courage can have detrimental effects in a society at large, indeed, these attitudes are more resultant from an inner decision than from the undesirable external influences alone.
           Clearly, Pina Bausch wasn’t anxious to stir the demons of the past. Rather, thinking that past errors are like tutors for our present, her work is a denounce of an insensitive world that instead of working on making up failures is too quick to forget.
          In 'Regarding the Pain of Others' S. Sontag concludes that the digital media cooperates in hardening the sensibility of postmodern cultures; ‘Citizens of modernity, consumers of violence as spectacle, adepts of proximity without risks, are schooled to be cynical about the possibility of sincerity. Some people will do anything to keep themselves from being moved. How much easier, from one’s chair, far from danger, to claim the position of superiority (…) There is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited. If the goal is having some space in which to live one’s own life, then it is desirable that the account of specific injustices dissolve into a more general understanding that human beings everywhere do terrible things to one another’ (Sontag, 2003)


***





Pina Bausch brings awareness about the internal state of the German soul. What consumes the introspective thoughts of the contemporaneous German, is the insight that there's no beauty in pain. That war is hell, and its repay is death.
        But acceptance is a great healer. 

     Until Germany won’t accept itself in its inner world, forgive itself for its wrong doings, and reconcile itself with the past, it won’t be able to define itself, restructure its identity, nor regain its humanity to have compassion to find a suitable place for others.

***

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Forced Immigration:

                  ~  The Fragility of the African-American Family

    Circumstances of the particular arrival of the African-Americans to the United States, and inefficient plans of actions toward their instauration and support to establish them in society motions have projected unfavorable socioeconomic conditions and racial stereotypes that overstressed male-female relationships throughout today.

     The initial factor that sabotaged African-American marriages was the significance of slavery. As African-American were seen as belonging to an inferior race who had no legal rights as a person and were constitutionally declared as ‘no fully human’ they were violently separated from their families. While emotional bonds were diminished, females were sexually exploited. Males were regarded as oversexed, promiscuous, considered incapable of marital commitment, were denied the fatherhood rights of their offspring and treated as invisible, their names were not listed on birth records but only the slave’s mother name and the owner were recorded on born children.

       The legacy of slavery, Post-War instability, northward migration and inappropriate programs to establish African-American in the society, left marriages vulnerable to continued assaults on the stability of their families. 
In the wider society and at every class level, restrictions of economic opportunities and the discrediting of African-American identities have generated social inequality affecting employment, housing, health and education; blacks tend to have less prestige, power and wealth, greater difficulty gaining acceptance, often viewed as dangerous, aggressive or subordinate, more likely to be ignored and given lower quality services than whites.

    Currently, while African-American value marriage, they marry less. When they do marry, they separate or divorce, and are less inclined to re-marry. According to a study of Elaine Pinderhughes about African American Marriage in the 20st Century, responsible factors increasing the fragility of African-American marriages derived from their legacies and societal role, other than the socioeconomic aspect that make men unattractive for marriage are associated with the male/female unequal sex ratio. A smaller number of marriageable men than women derived from higher death rates from disease, poor healthcare, high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, gang activity, violent crime and consequent imprisonment and psychiatric hospitals residencies (28.8% are black males) reduce significantly the suitable men spectrum. Subsequently, half of African-American children live in one-parent families and these children constituted half of all awaiting for adoption.  
    Orlando Patterson's Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in two American Centuries comments that the most devastating impact of the ‘holocaust of slavery’ was ‘the ethnocide assault on gender roles, especially those of father and husband, leaving deep scars in the relations between Afro-American men and women’ (1998, p.25) 

    Today, African-American suffer disproportionately and have higher morbidity from stress diseases and higher rates of cancer and HIV-AIDS. Byrd and Clayton's An American Health Dilemma: A Medical History of African-Americans and the problem of Race (2001) claim that since they arrived as slaves, ‘they have had the worst health care, the worst health status, and the worst health outcome of any racial or ethnic group in the United States’ (p. 33)
    The actual increased nurturance of African-American men transmitted by mothers throughout generation should not need to be more subtle to that offered to white men in order to compensate for the psychological risks which males are exposed, since this cultural attitude sets up distorted expectations, affecting them in ways that later contribute to problems in marital intimacy. In order to pare social maleness, they should be raised with equal treats.
     Another important factor weakening marriages is the existing stronger ties between blood and kin than the bond of family.
   The decline in marriage is also affected by the increased income of African-American women and the higher like-hood of receiving professional degrees than black males. This historical tendency of southern families to educate female child was to keep her out of domestic service and sexual exploitation.

  While most black women prefer being married and some marry down in socioeconomic class, high-income and highly educated females fear loosing what they achieved to a less successful male partner. Women are most likely to remain single or never marry because they emphasize achievement, independence, and self-reliance. Although, the need for a father for the children and financial considerations tend to outweigh romantic love as the primary reason for remarrying, African-American women (which have the higher rates of mother-only families through the States) are less likely to remarry for economic reasons, since wives of this subculture earn about the 90 percent of the income earned by their husbands, according to Betty Yorburg's Family Realities.

National programs should be established to support African American people’s pair-bonding choices, reinforcing economic equities and help to lower the high male mortality and undesirably, making these prime targets for policy changes. Considering the devastating impact of the ethnocide assault on gender roles done throughout generations especially those of father and husband, since family nucleus has been broken and manhood stereotype degraded, plans of action should focus particularly on the African-American male function. Strong ties should be enhanced inside the family nucleus between spouses or lovers, rather than between blood and adopted kin in order to lower the rates of marital instability and divorce.

***
  The legacy of slavery and the subsequent treatment that has destroyed African American cultural practices placing them in a disoriented and destructive situation falling into undesirable social patterns, project an absence of guidelines for marital behavior. Promoting programs towards the African-American culture should be founded to conform positive patriarchal traditions enhancing inspirational roots, roles, models and ideals. The significance of studying the African-American culture is to place an in-risk-of-disappearing community from the social 21st Century landscape in the societal spectrum; sociopolitical improvements must be done in order to avoid that their relative invisibility became a physical reality.         


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Trapped Between Cultures

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih:
Encounter between East and West; Salih struggles to create a new culture.


      In Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih chronicles the story of two Sudanese men who migrated to Europe in pursuit of knowledge, that at their homecoming, find that during their absence, their homeland has changed as much as they have.

     In Seasons of Migration to the North, Salih utilizes love and war to create innovative ways of seeing and feeling reality. In Post-colonial societies, local intellectuals felt trapped between the traditional culture and the dominant culture of the colonizers which was associated with imperialism. In response to the colonial and pre-colonial past, Salih, through Seasons of Migration to the North makes the effort not only to go back to revise and re-narrate the past, but to contribute in reinventing a possible life as well. Abounded in binary contradictions, as for the very reason of being written, Seasons of Migration to the North is the battlefield of clashing dual postcolonial forces. It lies between the confusing zone of the culture of an imperial power and the values of the traditional culture; between modern and tradition, fresh and old ways of life, West and East.

    This feeling of assurance is reinforced by his several visits to his grandfather, to whom he sees as a stable image of an unalterable past, ‘as he were though something immutable in a dynamic world’ (Salih, 41). His grandfather, Hajj Ahmad is his link to a pre-colonial past that he now tries to construct when he says ‘I go to my grandfather and he talks to me of life forty years ago, fifty years ago, even eighty, and my feeling of security is straightened’ (Salih,7). In his home village, past, nature and inhabitants are intricately related as a piece of artwork to be admired. The way the narrator describes his grandfather’s house it seems the way he assumes is the pre-colonial past of his country; as of its actual state, although chaotic to the eyes, were like a continued line of events where everything has a distinctive function linked to its inhabitant’s needs and a natural reason of existence. As he says ‘This large house is built neither of stone nor yet of red brick but of the very mud in which the wheat is grown, and it stands right at the edge of the field so that it is an extension of it’ (Salih, 60).

Salih’s writing is transcribed in the way of an oral tale narrated in the African-Arabic traditional style addressed to an audience of ‘gentlemen’. It begins with the joyful homecoming of an unnamed narrator to his home village which seems unaffected for the track of the time or for social events. It opens with him claiming ‘It was, gentlemen, after a long absence -seven years to be exact, during which I was studying in Europe- that I returned to my people’ (Salih, 3). ‘Effendi’, as he is being called (meaning ‘Sir’), returns with an overflowing affection about his village claiming while staring at a steep side of the Nile ‘I want to take my rightful share of life by force, I want to give lavishly, I want love to flow from my heart, to ripen and bear fruit’ (Salih, 6).
       While in love at seeing what he dreamed during earning his highest degree in England, he attempts to close the gap caused by his time away. This gap between himself and his people, his actual time and his past. He sees his homecoming as a going back to a place where he belongs, to his proper place, a place where he could be re-attached and where his life could have a meaning. Back in his village The narrator feels like a palm tree that he saw standing in the courtyard of his house, ‘a being with a background, with roots, with a purpose’ (Salih, 4). That after feeling ‘like a storm-swept feather’ (Salih, 4) while being abroad, now, hearing the familiar noises of his village he declares, ‘I feel a sense of stability, I feel that I’m important, that I’m continuous and integral’ (Salih, 6).

      Although, the narrator needs to be in contact with the past as if it were present, he sees himself as an active force who draws new paths to the future, as later on adds about his grandfather ‘[his] tranquil voice sets up a bridge between me and the anxious moment that has not yet been formed’ as becoming ‘bricks in an edifice with perspectives and dimensions’ (Salih, 61). He has this driving need to grasp and absorb the pre-colonial past that his grandfather can pass on to him as if it has not entirely passed, as if it were alive as long as it is brought to the present. Somehow as a reaffirmation of the traditional culture and ways of life that were disrupted, and as if both his absence and the fifty eight years of British occupation of Sudan have gone unperceived.
The narrator, as a part of Salih, attempts to brush aside the heritage being presented to him and to his people through colonialism. As a consequence, he renounces his immersion in British culture and his doctorate in English literature and reengaging his Arab heritage, he teaches pre-Islamic Arabic poetry at a secondary school level.
Although he acknowledges some physical changes his village has gone through, he still assures ‘Yes, life is good and the world as unchanged as ever’ (Salih, 4) and later ‘But I am from here, just as the date palm standing in the courtyard of our house (…) The fact that they came to our land, I know not why, does that mean that we should poison our present and our future? Sooner or later they will leave (…) and we’ll speak their language without either a sense of guilt or gratitude. Once again we shall be as we were-ordinary people-’ (Salih, 42).


      But a number of events, as the disappearance of Mustafa, the uncovering the triangular room, the murder of Wad Rayyes, and the suicide of Hosna Bint Mahmoud, precipitate the reality of that things have indeed, changed. Becoming aware of that he has permanently changed as well, his doubts about the very things he saw as immutable then, multiply. He asks himself ‘And my grandfather, with his thin voice (…) where is his place in the scheme of things? Is he really as I assert and as he appears to be? Is he above this chaos? I don’t know’ (Salih, 90). ‘The world has turned suddenly upside down’ he finally realizes, ‘Now I’m on my own: there is no escape, no place of refuge, no safeguard. Outside, my world was a wide one; now it had contracted, had withdrawn upon itself, until I, myself, had become the world, no world existing outside of me. Where, then, were the roots that struck down into times past?’ (Salih, 111).

In several passages of the novel, colonialism is been compared as an infection or a disease which Sudanese people try to get rid off by many means. As recounted by one of his characters ‘[The British] imported to [the Sudanese] the germ of the greatest European violence’ (Salih, 79). In this literary work then Salih, while gradually manages his characters through the exploration of the damages that post-colonialism have left, starts a decolonization process. With Seasons of Migration to the North  the author ‘writes back’ to the colonizers with both; love and war. Love; represented by the narrator, and war; personified by Mustafa Said, the vengeful side of Salih.
     

    With Mustafa commences the story inside the story; one narrative is about the return and the other takes us in flashbacks to compose the fifty years story of Mustafa’s exile in Europe.
Contrary to the narrator, Mustafa, whose life time coincides with the period of direct occupation of Sudan and his disappearance year with its final independence, spends his life trying to reverse the history of colonialism. Mustafa born in Sudan in the year of the final collapse of Sudanese resistance to British intrusion, twenty years earlier than the narrator. At an early age enrolled himself at a school run by English missionaries and as a gifted child supported by the school headmaster, left his mother to continue his studies in Cairo and later in London, where he graduated in economics publishing later works on the economics of colonization.
      In London, by self-appointing a mission of inflicting pain and suffering to British women, begins a misogynistic campaign of revenge against colonialism in sexual terms. Taking the war at a personal level he uses his intellectual power as a weapon to conquer white women both mentally and physically as a way to throw colonialism back to the colonizers. This campaign of ‘bringing down’ the British Empire is then, more damaging psychologically than physically since he drives his victims to commit suicide. As he describes to the narrator ‘My mind was like a keen knife’ (Salih, 27) and as he is been told by one of his victims ‘You’re not a human being (…) you’re a heartless machine’ (Salih, 25).
Since in Sali’s novel East and West encounters are based on illusions, Mustafa uses the stereotypes British women have about Arab and African men to accomplish his conquests. Beliefs theses based on lies; generalized constructions and misrepresentations of ‘the Orient’ that widespread out and crystallized in Europe through Imperialism, called Orientalism. It is an elaboration that intends to control or manipulate what is a manifestly different world. As it is explained by literary theorist E. Said ‘it is a discourse that is by no means in direct, corresponding relationship with political power in the raw’ (E. Said, 12).

    He befriends many British women luring them into bed using charm and deceit as described in these passages ‘Then, returning to my lies, I gave her such terrifying descriptions of how I lost my parents that I saw the tears well up in her eyes’ (Salih, 33),‘Yes. Our house is right on the bank of the Nile, so that when I’m lying on my bed at night I put my hand out of the window and idly play with the Nile waters till sleep overtakes me’ (Salih, 34) and ‘I related to her fabricated stories about deserts of golden sands and jungles (…) I told her that the streets of my country teemed with white elephants and lions and that during siesta time crocodiles crawled through it’ (Salih, 33). His apartment in London then, is packed with Persian rugs, mirrors and perfumes all but to enhance this Orientalist myth-fantasy.

      Mustafa lives this intense life of lies, manipulation and conquests during the period of thirty years until he marries Jean Morris, to whom he, after finding himself incapable of dominating her both mentally and physically due to her refuse to give in to his mental games, murders her. He describes ‘No longer capable of taking any more, one night I stood over her with a knife’ (Salih, 131).
      The descriptions used by Mustafa for his conquests are consistently told by the military terms of such of the traditional Arab campaigns: when going to meet new victims ‘I would saddle my camel and go’ (Salih, 26). The process of courtship is like laying siege, involving tents, caravans and the desert. He would say ‘I’m a thirsty desert, a wilderness of southern desires’ (Salih, 32) and later ‘I was the invader who had come from the South, and this was the icy battlefield from which I would not make a safe return’ (Salih, 132).  The imagery associated with the sexual acts are those of battle using swords and knives. He compares himself with the commander of the Arab army that conquered Spain in the eight century, as he tells ‘For a moment I imagined to myself the Arab soldier’s first meeting with Spain (…) a southern thirst being dissipated in the mountain passes of history in the north’ (Salih, 36). The connection between Mustafa’s sexual actions and the fight against colonialisms through the novel is evident.
   After serving seven years of sentence for the murder of Jean Morris and for driving three other women to commit suicide, he returns to his native Sudan to take up residence in the narrator’s village. Marries a local woman, fathers two children and lives a quiet, perfect life.

   Mustafa, the child of colonialism, presents himself to the narrator and to the villagers as ‘I am this person before you, as known to everyone in the village. I am nothing other than that- I have nothing to hide’ (Salih, 15). Indeed, Mustafa, lives locked out between two lives and two worlds. He acknowledges that the pre-colonial world has permanently changed, reality that the narrator repress, but he never really succeed to bind past and present. The mysterious life that he represents for the villagers only intensify with his sudden disappearance, presumably drowned in the Nile, as he leaves behind a will where names the narrator as a trustee and the key of a secret room where he preserved his British self. Mustafa’s deepest secret lacked in this triangular room attached to his house, was that it was an exact replica of his apartment in London. The narrator is shocked by this calling it ‘A graveyard. A mausoleum. An insane idea. A prison. A huge joke. A treasure chamber’ (Salih, 114).

     Mustafa carried a life as a normal Sudanese peasant farmer on the outside, and sophisticated intellectual on the inside proving that he has failed to amalgamate the two cultures that lived in him.
    Mustafa’s problem, and the narrator’s, is that they are neither black nor white, but grey; neither wholly Eastern nor wholly Western, neither completely European nor completely Arab nor entirely African; they are trapped between cultures. The narrator responds to the trap by trying, unsuccessfully, to wish it away.
    Mustafa’s response is not more successful. Rather than wishing away experiences, he tries to maintain them, while completely separating them from each other. He does so not by becoming entirely European or entirely Arab, but becoming both, but never at the same time, in the same place, or with the same people.


   As the novel presents it, a natural process of the assimilation of this modernized knowledge brought through these two travelers to the Arab world, is impossible. Adding the learned western elements to their lives is to become Other, the same Other who violently took over their land in the name of civilization, and disrupted the natural track of events. These attempts then emerge as a double alienation and its clash further emphasizes the binary oppositions of East and West, colonizer and colonized, male and female and oppressor and oppressed. The narrator is questioned by villagers ‘Are there any farmers among them?’ (Salih, 5) (and they mean ‘farmers like us’). The narrator, that at his return wished to stretch together the gap between the ‘Them’ and the ‘Us’, the ‘They’ and the ‘We’ as his thoughts remark ‘just like us they are born and die and in the journey to the cradle to the grave they dream dreams some of which become true’ (Salih, 5), gradually realizes that bringing these cultures together is an actual unattainable utopia and that he has lost his proper place.

     Later in the novel he compares the distance of this cultural gap with the shores of the Nile where the narrator is left metaphorically between east and west, north and south and between day and night, so that ‘The objects on the two shores were half visible, appearing and disappearing, veering between light and darkness’ (Salih, 137). Salih’s characters are forced to negotiate the acquired knowledge of a modern world to the ageless traditionalist culture they choose to live in. But the lives that they imagined for themselves back home of a post colonial future are frustrated and they are confronted with an unshakable sense of loss.
Salih’s attempts to resolve the contradiction of these two worlds decides rather leave it unconcluded leaving the reader waiting for a resolution that never arrives.

      The last character Salih needs to confront to have a clear way to creation is such one that can represent the embodiment of tradition; Wad Rayyes.
Wad Rayyes, who ‘changed women as he changed donkeys’ (Salih, 81), in a conversation about female circumcision comparing women of different Muslim countries declares; ‘As for us, we dock them like you do animals’ (Salih, 68) is the extreme side of traditionalism. Salih rejects his representation killing the character by the hand of Mustafa’s widow, Hosna, who also kills herself. Hosna, while living with Mustafa has become ‘westernized’ through contact with him. Having changed ‘like a city women’ (Salih, 84), she revels to traditional rigidities as for her forced marriage to Wad Rayes; in defying her husband at actually killing him, defies tradition.


       The lost of Hosna in the novel is double weighted after the narrator let us know through this metaphoric description, the strength of the sudden love for her: 'I said something that made her laugh and my hearth throbbed at the sweetness of her laughter. The blood of the setting sun suddenly spilled out on the western horizon like that of millions of people who have died in some violent war that has broken out between Earth and Heaven. Suddenly the war ended in defeat and complete and all-embracing darkness descended and pervaded all four corners of the globe, wiping out the sadness and shyness that was in her eyes'. (Salih, 75).

       This dualism game, then is broken down and destroyed in Salih’s novel at making his characters realize that there is not going north or west to become European, and that there is not going south or east to return to tradition. And Post colonial discourse suggests in this novel, that their present circumstances can not be analyzed isolated from their imperialist past which first produced it.

Liberating himself of this double negation, and after bringing down and destroyed what was in the way, Salih submerges the narrator naked into the Nile. While Mustafa’s blank pages of his life story book dedicated ‘To those who see with one eye, speak with one tongue and see things as either black or white, either Eastern or Western’ (Salih, 125) are for a reader that could not possibly exist, the narrator’s cries for help open the path that is being opened by Seasons of Migration to the North; to those who can simultaneously see things as both as black and as white. In other worlds, for a reader of the post imperial world that has yet to come.

Salih, just as the narrator who studied in Europe, has chosen this oral literary style to emphasize his African-Arabian roots. However, contradictory, leaves the story with an indeterminate ending unfinished, as the modern European novels. Seasons of Migration to the North makes explicit references, through both, his characters and content to Othello and Heart Of Darkness, of Joseph Conrad (as when Mustafa compares the Nile river with a snake (Salih, 34), and the choosing of the hero’s traveling toward the unknown, just as Marlow does). Salih’s text takes its inspirations from Europe as much as from Arab traditions.