‘And for five years it was no longer possible to enjoy the call of birds in the cool of the evening. We were forced to despair. We were cut off from the world because to each moment clung a whole mass of mortal images. For five years the earth has not seen a single morning without death agonies, a single evening without prisons, a noon without slaughter.’
Albert Camus, Lettres à un ami allemand
To recover from the intensity of my adventures in Ethiopia, I stopped over in my beloved Istanbul for a few days to rest, reflect and eat dessert for dinner!
After finishing The Iraqi Christ a few days ago I wanted to return to Camus to help me understand what I felt by Blasim’s lauded collection of stories. The notion of ‘désespérer de force’ (to despair by force) intrigues me and, in Camus’s case, seems justified. And that’s where the intrigue lies: my scale of appropriate responses to experiences I haven’t had. What factors shaped my scale? Food for thought.
Weaving through the violence of colonialism, atrocities committed during the Algerian War and the overriding sense of injustice, hope remains a consistent theme. Though forced to despair, to long for the disappeared and to exist when others try not only to kill your physical being, but to deny your right to exist, and to still choose hope is not only remarkable, but also feels very natural. Herein lies my issue with Blasim’s work: darkness won.
I’m drawn to the longevity of Camus’s writing and its diverse applicability, though that in itself is a condemnation of humanity. The terror and despair he writes of could easily apply to religious groups, ethnic minorities the world over, and women. The English title is Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, for those interested.