peteg's blog

Jamil Ahmad: The Wandering Falcon

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Another eBook from the Chicago Public Library. According to Wikipedia, Ahmad spent a lifetime in the tribal areas along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and he shares some of his experiences and accumulated knowledge here. Unfortunately he started late and this is the entirety of his literary output. In some ways it is like Kipling's Kim, reflecting on colonialism, the reverberations of the Great Game and so forth. His account of the closing of the Af-Pak border to the nomadic peoples is despondent. Score one more to the nation state. There is little of beauty here — more hard-scrabble people eking out hard lives in breathtaking surroundings — and while the women are accounted for, they never amount to personalities or have much volition. There is, of course, generational tribal/family feuding and slave trading, some city life. The overarching conceit is of a violently-orphaned boy who learns to survive, even thrive, by doing as needs must. He appears in all the stories but is almost never at their centre.

Basharat Peer and Kamila Shamsie both reviewed it for the Guardian. (I somewhat disagree with her about the portrayal of women, though I don't fault Ahmad for this given the culturally-enforced separation of gender.)

... and Coke Studio Season 8 has started!

Oracle Theatre: This House Believes the American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro at the Public Access Theatre.

/noise/theatre | Link

Free, $20 donation at the end, booked 2015-08-27. Took the red line up as I was feeling lazy, and the weather was supposedly dicey. This was a recreation of a debate in the Cambridge Union in 1965. Apparently the original is online. The opening statements by the two Englishmen were provocative; for the negative, the argument was that the American Dream would be further along if the American Negro had been treated better. (The title elides "has been achieved".) The main part of it was essentially a pair of monologues from James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr, and I found neither particularly edifying. Buckley in particular made it clear how much American rhetoric rests on the invocation of tribal shibboleths that are substantially irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is perhaps why it is unconvincing to foreigners. I gave up trying to process his assertions very early on. But where are the contemporary debates held now?

The production is quite OK, and has been staged multiple times. Aimee Levitt at the Reader got right into it.