بناء السلام في عقول الرجال والنساء

Women between two shores

Whether or not in exile, they are far from their country of birth. They travel from one place to another, by force or by choice. They live in one country, think of another. They build bonds between opposite worlds. They are ‘in-between.’ Their work, too, is manifold, universal.
 
At 89, British writer Doris Lessing remains strongly attached to the country of her youth, present-day Zimbabwe, to which she dedicates a large part of her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature last December. On the occasion, she denounces our “fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world”.
 
Véronique Tadjo, born of an Ivorian father and a French mother, lives in South Africa. Before the Ivorian crisis, she was a world traveler. She has since been in exile. “Exile begins when it is no longer possible to return to the country you left behind,” she says. She continues to travel between the worlds of literature and painting.
 
From her Parisian apartment, novelist Spôjmaï Zariâb recounts the torment of leaving Afghanistan. She was a young, happy girl in Kabul, surrounded by books, fascinated by Don Quixote, The Count of Monte-Cristo, Father Goriot, and others. Then, the Taliban arrived. She fled the bombings with her two daughters. Today, she recalls a touching short story about exile, written by Rabîndranâth Tagore, which she had nearly forgotten: A Man from Kabul.
 
As for Michal Govrin, she has always needed a certain distance to ask the right questions. She left Tel Aviv, her native city in Israel, to study in France, and then returned to live in Jerusalem. She now lives in New Jersey (United-States). She performs theatre in her novels, and writes novels when she performs, with young Jews or Palestinians, who express their own pain through writing or staging plays.
 
Kiran Desai, in turn, did not choose to leave India. Her mother, famous writer Anita Desai, brought her along at the age of 15, first to England and then to the United States. And it is in the New World that the young woman felt more Indian than ever before, when writing The Inheritance of Loss, for which she won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2006.
 
And what of Argentine poet María Medrano? Without leaving Buenos Aires and her suburb, she builds bridges of words longer than that of the Gulf of Hangzhou! Once a week for the past five years, she passes over the walls of the Ezeiza women’s prison to animate poetry workshops. She also organizes translation workshops, since the women she works with are from different countries and continents. This bridge between inside and outside which breaks through linguistic barriers, has become a vital space for prisoners.
 
So many very different and, in some ways, very similar destinies. So many women between two shores.
 
This issue of the Courier, produced in collaboration with the Division for Gender Equality of the Bureau of Strategic Planning of UNESCO, however also brings you men’s words. In celebration of 27 March, World Theatre Day, our Spotlight feature highlights the message of one of today’s greatest stage directors, the Canadian Robert Lepage. And to celebrate World Poetry Day on 21 March, we pay tribute to the great Tadjik poet Abu Abdullah Rudaki, who was born 1150 years ago!
 
In celebration of its 60th anniversary, the Courier explores several new features this year. Last month, it became interactive and we thank all our readers who sent us their comments. This month we have reintroduced the PDF format. Take a moment to revisit our last edition, “Languages matter”; you will find all the articles in PDF format.
 
Jasmina Šopova, Editor-in-chief

Discover this issue. Dowwnload the PDF.

 

February 2008