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Registration at the Border

Date: 11/18/2015
Erica Johnson Debeljak

Refugees under police escort to Brežice last October.
(Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images, from The Guardian)

During the month of October 2015, Hungary closed its southern borders and refugees crossing Serbia were diverted through Croatia and Slovenia. Each day some eight thousand refugees began entering Slovenia, a country with a population of less than two million. Upon entering the Schengen zone in Slovenia, refugees were gathered at three collection points—Dobova, Rigonci, and Brežice—where they were required to register before continuing their journey onward to Austria and Germany. On October 20, a fire erupted at the Brežice collection...

The Absence of Power

Date: 11/14/2015
Jim Hicks

   Jean Jullien, "Peace for Paris" (from @jean_jullien on Twitter)

Every discussion about the Middle East today, understandably, turns sooner or later to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Talking heads may not have yet sounded this particular theme in connection to what happened in Paris on Friday, but it shouldn’t take long. The US war in Iraq, and the long agony of Syria, are surely fewer squares away on the geopolitical board game, but I/P is still just a hop, skip, and jump. What will tie it all nicely together, as usual, is religion (from the Latin, re-ligare, “to bind”).

It might easily be assumed—and perhaps is dreamed today by the most delirious of religious radicals—that the key aim of...

Hanging with Dubravka

Date: 10/29/2015
Ellen Elias-Bursac

It was already great that Columbia's Slavic Department and the Harriman Institute, at Radmila Gorup's prompting, invited Dubravka Ugrešić to teach a month-long mini-course this October.  And then Aleksandar Bošković, who teaches Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian language and literature in the Columbia Slavic Department, decided to share the joy: he organized a two-day conference dedicated entirely to Ugrešić's work, bringing together scholars from University College London, the University of Rijeka, York University, the University of Michigan, and Eastern Michigan University to talk about her novels and essays. Even better, Ugrešić herself was there to give the keynote. It's not often that a writer is present at a conference dedicated to their work; the panelists agreed they were fine with her hearing them present their papers, so we had the additional pleasure of her comments, notably in a lively discussion on the configuration of "nostalgia" in the post-war period.


The Persistence of Contrarian Speech

Date: 10/19/2015
Erri De Luca

Final Statement from the Defendant, Erri De Luca 
Tribunale di Torino, 19 October 2015 

Even if I were not the writer on trial here for instigation, I would be in this courtroom today. Beyond the insignificance of my personal case, I believe the charges that I answer to are a social experiment, an attempt to silence contrarian speech. As such I believe this courtroom is an outpost that reveals the present state of our country. I’m self-employed as a writer and consider myself an injured party in any case aimed at censorship.

I have been charged according to a section of the penal code that dates from 1930, from that period of Italy’s history. I believe this section of the law has been superseded by the drafting of our Republic’s Constitution. I am in this courtroom to learn whether the Constitution is in force: whether it will prevail or whether this indictment has the power to suspend and invalidate Article 21 of the Constitution.


Erri De Luca's Freedom of Speech

Date: 10/17/2015
Ariane Chemin and Raphaëlle Rérolle

Le Monde, 17 October 2015

Erri De Luca didn’t make that trip he’d planned to the Frankfurt Book Fair on the October 14. He just didn’t feel like it … didn’t feel like talking about “that subject… in a marketplace atmosphere,” didn’t feel like hearing his case brought up, between one sale and another, and he certainly didn’t feel like letting these events take his French editor Antoine Gallimard hostage, even if the author had been invited to appear at the bookstand of his prestigious publisher. Instead he’d wait at home—in that long and narrow house just north of Rome, built with his own hands back in the days when he was a construction worker, surrounded by mimosa bushes and tree...

In Memoriam: The Carnage in Lampedusa, 3 October 2013

Date: 10/03/2015
Erri De Luca

         Operation Mare Nostrum, June 2014  
Photo by Massimo Sestini

A person runs out of his burning house. Outside he finds firemen, but before letting him go they ask for his papers. If he doesn’t have them, then he can die in the flames.

This is what happens today on the borders of Europe. Women, children, the elderly, and men—fleeing from their homeland in flames—come here and find our barriers on sea and land. So they look to the heavens and ask for wings. Not a passport, a pair of wings.

We citizens of Europe, we’re not waiting for the powers-that-be to give them papers. We are the border, opening our arms up wide; we’re making the right move, the gesture that looks closer to wings. Because we are their wings.

Translated by Jim Hicks

Popular Dystopia Meets Croatia

Date: 09/29/2015
Iva Kosmos

The debut novel from Croatian-American writer Sara Nović, Girl at War, has received significant praise from both readers and critics in influential publications such as the Guardian and the New York Times. According to such reviews, the book succeeds in representing distant experience as universal; it enables readers to empathize...

The Red Hammer

Date: 09/27/2015
Erri De Luca

“Even when we’ve got the seats and they’re standing up, they’re still taking our places.” With this line the Brazilian poet Ledo Ivo captured our sense of intolerance towards the foreigners that misfortune has thrust among us.

It was Easter in 1997 when the Italian military ship Sibilla rammed its bow into the Albanian vessel Kater i Rades, sinking it and causing more than one hundred to drown. So began the present series of attempts—the most desperate and criminal sort—to discourage and repel immigrants. The concentration camps were begun, the detentions that defined prisoners as “guests,” when the only crime was unauthorized travel. Their imprisonment could last up to eighteen months.

In the meantime, back in Lampedusa, the wrecks of barges done with their duties were piling up. No census will ever be capable of listing the numbers lost. Estimating on the basis of what’s known, the equivalent of at least...

No Sacred Cow Unbutchered

Date: 09/09/2015
Michael Thurston

A Review of Najwa Barakat, Oh, Salaam! Trans. Luke Leafgren. Interlink, 2015. 

Once upon a time, Beirut was a famously cosmopolitan capital, its cafes and clubs overflowing with culture in multiple languages. Riven and demolished by decades of sectarian conflict, civil war, and the predations of its neighbors, the city and its country, Lebanon, have joined the list of failing states whose citizens struggle to pick up the pieces and live in peace.

“Peace,” of course, is the meaning...

ef you now what eye mint

Date: 09/04/2015
Derek Pyle, with Marcel Zabaloy

(Link to Part One)

In the modern era, reading as well as writing are often solitary acts. Ulysses of course has its public celebration every Bloomsday, while Finnegans Wake has inspired countless monthly or even weekly reading groups. Has your engagement with Joyce been a solo journey, or do you count yourself amongst other Joycean colleagues and peers?

It has been, as you call it, a solo journey. I am in close contact with Hervé Michel [French translator of Finnegans Wake] as I consider his work Veillée Pinouilles something extraordinary, to say nothing of his “Intraduction”. And the proximity of the French with the Spanish language helps me a lot in the procedure of revising  own translation. I always have Hervé’s text at hand. It is my reference, my main guide. What he dares do I...