A pink taxi

A pink taxi

May 31, 2010

A Fall Vignette in Spring

"A Flurry of Leaves"*, by Hussein Maadi

This painting floats behind my father's desk at the office. I wouldn't say that it hangs. Leaves don't hang. Perhaps like a square of wallpaper, they are affixed. Captive in the perimeter of canvas and yet blowing in a flurry.

We looked at it closely today and my father observed some Matisse inspiration. He pointed  out to me: "Look the leaves look like human figures". I admired his perspicacity and noticed there were indeed Keith Haring-like figures all around. The leaves became children jumping off a trampoline in sumersaults.  Just look closely!

*Painting renamed by me

May 30, 2010

Les Deux Laureats

Je m'adresse d'abord au compatriote de mon mari et de mes enfants, Atiq Rahimi, prix Goncourt 2008 pour "Sangue Sabour". Le privilege de le tutoyer, a ete, j'espere, merite, depuis le temps que je corresponds avec lui. Atiq, te souviens tu de ma surprise quand tu m'as ete presente, que j'etais ebahie par ta jeunesse, toi, l'ecrivain a l'histoire grave de Terre et Cendres? Ensuite j'ai lu ton livre evenement, "Sangue Sabour", au titre obstinement Afghan, qui avait recu les memes honneurs que Sartre et Duras?

Je me suis interrogee sur le talent que tu as eu a te cacher, ou plutot a  t'identifier, a ton heroine, tel Flaubert et son "Madame Bovary c'est moi!". Cette heroine sans prenom et pourtant souveraine de ta narration. Une heroine solitaire dans une chambre sans vie, a se fracasser les ailes contre des parois trop etroites. Une narration languide et pourtant theatrale, pareille a une toile blanche contemporaine ou tu aurais eclabousse les peintures aux couleurs vives d'Afghanistan. Quelle celebre exportation afghane que celle de "Sangue Sabour"!

Dans cette meme lignee, celle commencee par Taher Ben Jelloum avec sa "Nuit Sacree", est la laureate de 2009, Marie Ndiaye, une francaise d' origine senegalaise. Je ne peux vous tutoyer car ma rencontre avec vous est toute recente ( a peine le tiers du roman lu), mais cette rencontre unilaterale (car vous ne connaissez
rien de moi, lectrice impressionee). Dans "Trois Femmes Puissantes", je vous ai decouverte, derriere la facade de votre syntaxe, et non derriere vos personnages.

Des la premiere phrase, vous m'avez aspire vers vous. Je vous ai rencontre dans la dedalle de vos phrases labyrithiques, formees d'une litanie interminable de complements, d'adjectifs, de propositions subordonnees et coordonnees, de sujets inverses, de propositions juxtaposees. Une celebration grammaticale.Je lis, ma confusion s'accroit, mais parce que la grammaire est perfectionnee, ma comprehension reste intacte. Vos phrases sont taquines. Vous allez toujours a la ligne, comme font les poetes apres leurs alexandrins interminables, et les phrases sont de longueurs diverses.

Votre prose n'a aucun paragraphe, pas un seul. Pourtant vos phrases ressemblent a des paragraphes faulkneriens; difference est que vous manipulez la ponctuation que l'Americain avait refute.

Je vous iamgine de personnalite forte avec cette fierte qui peut etre hautaine mais qui a pour base cette certitude et confidence d'etre surdouee. A l'ecole primaire, vous auriez compris vos lecons de grammaire et deja en secondaire vous defiez vos professeurs avec vos contorsions grammaticales. Presque par jeu, mais
aussi par addresse. Vous composez avec dexterite et puissance. Avec pretention mais sans complexes.

Marie Ndiaye, c'est comme si je vous connaissais personnellement. Avec votre nationalite francaise et couronnes du prix Goncourt, vous et Atiq Rahimi, vous etes notre fierte, nous les Francophiles d'origine etrangere.

May 29, 2010

Before my Four year old tells you....(New ways of communicating news and absorbing the shock with humor)

On my way to see Shrek 4 this matinee, with my 4 year old and ten year old sons, I took the wrong turn in Mirdiff. The mall was on our right but a sanded area separated the two roads.

I have been driving our bourgeois sedan for a while now (the touareg's AC went bust) and we were still running on good time (it was a birthday party at the movies that were invited to).

But this is where fate takes the direction of your path and my older son nagged me into it: look, that car did it!

So I followed the four wheel drive.... And got stuck in the only remaining patch of sand left in Dubai.

We didn't call my husband or my father for help ( mostly out of fear of their reaction--my brother's been there before me!). We looked out and waved to two poor SouthAsian workers who came to our rescue voluntarily. It was noon and the sun was at a May apex.

But before I could call: push! a four wheel drive flew to the rescue, driven by an Emirati, who hopped out and was glad I could communicate with him in Arabic, albeit in a Levantine accent.

Minutes later another SUV came to our cooperation and we had a team of kind young Emirati guys attaching the car with a rope to theirs and getting us out in minutes.Grateful, my oldest son began handing out water bottles (that we always carry in case we get stuck on a dune) to the Emiratis and SouthAsians.

It felt like old Dubai again!

This memo was typed on my blackberry with 3d glasses on. I will get back to Shrek later. I was just
afraid that the little one would tell his dad before I could: "Baba, kanat  al sayara fil 3amel!" (the car was in the sand :)

May 28, 2010

Teaching the Teacher

The fitness class I attend traditionally every fourth friday of the month had its regular intercontinental representation: Indians, AngloSaxons of all kinds (from Australia to the UK), the American instructor standing in for that continent, Asians, Africans, I, the only Arab, and  the  Western Europeans were represented today by three French individuals, one of them waving a surprised hello at me (perhaps his first time here): my son's Science teacher.

I smiled vindictively: "Aha! Now he will know how it feels to be a student. French (in the school environment) just don't workout the same way as the Americans. And since this wasn't a judo class (where the French excel) I was predicting the predictable!

In this exercise class, instructions are given in academic terms: step by step "consignes" (to take from the French), with a combination of geometrical and anatomical terminology. The requested discipline (tainted lightly by American military philosophy) is similar to the mandatory one at French schools: listen carefully, do as you are told and "surtout" no daydreaming. Simple enough, I thought, as I peered toward the French group.

Have a taste of your own medicine!

The French who predictably were clustered in a triangular island of their own were picked on the most (for all the cone hats our teachers put on me and my son's head)! They even got a carthesian parable frisbeed at them (and I still don't think the instructor  had guessed their nationality by that point, which is the same as French philosopher Descartes): "Mind over body!" And when the instructor asked theroom: "what is up with this group, where were you guys last night, partying hard?" I wanted to venture my own answer: well I was at swarvosky- themed women's only wedding last night, but that is not it. There is a cultural barrier here, can't you see?

That cultural barrier that took me so long to surpass when I first participated in this Americanized fitness activity. I battled with the terminolgy, struggled with the energy and misunderstood the mandatory concentration. And that was the moment compassion instead of cruel petty vengeance overcame me.

I tried all my telepathic energy. My mind's reflex was to simultaneously interpret: thorastic cage for "cage thoracique", elbow for "coude", heel for "talon". Happily, I think the instructor also felt the language barrier: now he was slowing his instructions, omitting some prepositions (doesn't every english speaker do that when speaking to a foreigner?) and precisely describing: the elbow is the bump between the arm and the showlder. I kept thinking gauche et droite for left and right and we got to that contorsion that ressembles the blue painting by Matisse, and the air loosened, and suddenly we were sweating less in that hot room.

Yes it was bikram we took this morning, but I saved that for last because it got in the way the  last time I got inspired in that room.

When my 10 year -old son heard that his poor science teacher took a bikram class (and he knows the  bikram instructor's disciplinary code of conduct) his only remark was: "Maman, do you think he will ever go back?"