Africa


In the Country of Men
Hisham Matar

In the Country of MenIn the Country of Men is basically story about life in Libya after the colonel Muammar El Qaddafi’s revolution. The year is 1979 and the narrator is nine years old Suleiman so we see revolution and its consequences through the eyes of nine years old boy. Boy who was much protected from the truth by his parents. It was interesting how some obvious facts (obvious for us, adults) are presented in some naïve language of a kid. We have impression that we are sailing through the sea surrounded with peaks of icebergs. The difference is that we (adults) are aware what’s beneath the surface unlike the child who is telling us the story.

Then there is one nice picture about customs in the Muslim country and again position of woman in it. Suleiman’s mother has been forced into the marriage when her brother saw her in the café with mixed company. Immediately “husband hunt” begins and the Scheherazade-like story. Therefore she was very unhappy with her marriage but in the same time in the husband’s absence she’s even more miserable and becomes “ill”. Her “illness” is another peak of an iceberg and I must say I liked how Matar has described bond between mother and son making her “illness” something sacredly secret.

Suleiman’s family is relatively rich. His father is businessman often on the trip abroad but also man who is part of democratic wing in new Libya. Wing you don’t want to be part in post Revolutionary, Qaddafi’s Libya; full of secret police, man in dark suits and sunglasses, land where national TV is broadcasting public execution of “traitors of the revolution”; where phone lines are tapped, etc. And inevitably consequence for being wrong winged came. But even then it’s a peak of an iceberg.

Matar has done great job in conveying kid’s confusion toward all the events around him. Politics is absolutely incomprehensible to him; he doesn’t have a clue what his father supports or what he actually is doing in spite the fact that some glimpses have been presented accidentally to him. He is confronted with the mechanism of the regime when secret service is following their car or watching his house or taking away his friend’s father but somehow he manages to not recognize that as something bad. He’s explaining that in the most impossible ways. On the other hand his parents aren’t teaching their son anything, they are worsening situation even more and make him confused ‘till the breaking point when he start to scream (finally!):” You always lie. I am not a child and you always lie.” In the meanwhile I was so irritated with the kid and had to (too) often remind myself that he’s only a child.

But what disappointed me the most are last few chapters when we are actually see that the story tells 24 Suleiman and not nine years old boy. I’ve found myself confused why on earth he made this unnecessary contrast with the rest of the novel who has convinced us that the narrator is a boy? The whole novel was through the eyes of a kid, who is not kid anymore and therefore it completely spoils the earlier approach. Now when I know Suleiman is an adult I’d expect story from a point of view of an adult person.

The story itself is nothing new. It’s more/less the same story from a country under oppressive regime. There are only few specifically Libyan spices in this dish.
Indeed this is sad and sometimes poignant story but is that should be enough?

This is part of my Winter Reading Challenge 2008

A Long Way Gone – memoirs of a boy soldier
Ishmael Beah

A Long Way GoneNew York City, 1998
My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven’t told them the full story of my life.
– “Why did you leave Sierra Leone?”
– “Because there is a war.”
– “Did you witness some of the fighting?”
– “Everyone in the country did.”
– “You mean you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?”
– “Yes, all the time.”
– “
Cool.
I smile a little.
– “You should tell us about it sometime.”
– “Yes, sometime.”

 

This is how begins this vivid, heartbreaking testimony of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone.

Ishmeal Beah was born 1980 in the village in Sierra Leone and lived life common for boy of his age, was in loved in rap music, have his own “bend” who imitated famous rap performers, he recited monologues of Macbeth and Julius Caesar at the gatherings of elder people in the village (did I say common for boy of his age? I guess I should add “more/less common”), and knowing that there is a war “somewhere”. The only war he was familiar about was from the movies like “Rambo”.

Sadly he will find out very soon what the war is. On one common day war came into his life; when he was 11 Sierra Leone swept into chaotic civil war between Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the official (and corrupted) Action People Congress (APC). Of course there is no good war but while reading this testimony I was so confused with the extreme confusion (sounds stupid). Namely, as if there were numerous fractions that have fought against each other. Everyone who is not in your group is potential enemy (and the best/safest way to find out is to shoot before question is asked). Beah with his friends was running away from the RUF through the country and in every singe village people were so frightened by them and have leaved the village. They were trapped more than once and they had to explain that they are running away from the war so they can’t be soldiers!

Now the question is Why on earth the whole village is so afraid of one group of 7 boys? And indeed, question sounds quite reasonable but then, the main characteristic of the Sierra Leone civil war (as well as the civil war in neighboring Liberia) were precisely groups of boys (child) – soldiers. I was finding myself numerous times speechless toward the brutality they were capable to commit! I was often observing smiling face of Ishmael on the back cover in disbelief that he (and his friends) have took part in those events described in the book. It was really hard to believe.

In the same time it is very positive that we have a chance to read chronicle of the brutal life of child soldier because this is something that is happening in this moment as well and I’m not sure how much we are aware of that. There are more than 300.000 child soldiers around the world (according to UN) and huge majority is from the conflict region in sub-Saharan Africa (where Sierra Leone is) so this book is actually the voice of those 300.000+ children and is trying to break the wall of deafness of the western world.

You could ask yourself how come such an enormous brutality in the mind of one child (I was wondering the same) and this book is describing so perfectly process of brain washing. Of course children are quite easy material for manipulation.

Ishmael tried to avoid all this. As I said he was running away from the war with his friends, he was separated from his brother and later from the friends, he was living alone in the forest, sleeping on the tree but eventually government corps have found him and offered “sanctuary” in one village under their protection.

But as I said, mind of a kid is easy to be washed, especially mind that longing for its happy days from the past which will never be back and in the same time the main culpable have been presented to it. In order to help there is always sufficient amount of drugs, memory of their killed families, films with “Rambo” and his powerful fist of revenge. And of course on the other side are (imagine this!) vengeance seeking groups of children soldier! And that is the never ending circle.

Life in Rehabilitation Centre and the process itself was everything but not easy. He was drug addict, brain washed, full of hatred toward “civilians”, tormented by nightmares and of course sadness. But workers in the centre were constantly repeated mantra: “This isn’t your fault” and that was the hardest thing to adopt. Children in the camp were completely lost, they were taken from the forest, from the war and settled into the place were there is no need to be constantly careful, where there is no killings, shooting, and there is no drugs! We can see how slow but constant progress of the method is but sadly we’re seeing how little is necessary to destroy the whole process when the war reappears.

Ishmael lives in New York and is a member of Human Rights Watch and some other international organizations and considering this is the well known fact (as well as the topic of this book) I wrote liberally this review and therefore you might think there are some spoilers. I think whatever I wrote here will not spoil your impression (meaning, will not decrease shock while you reading quite graphic descriptions from Ishmael’s childhood).

And don’t object his writing style, it would be ridiculous (sometime I was forgetting what I’m holding and was analyzing construction but then I asked myself “What are you doing???”)

You can visit his site here: A Long Way Gone and check my Beats of No Nation review, novel written by Uzodinma Iweala with very similar topic.
This is the page of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

Infidel
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

InfidelIf I ever decide to make a list of the most important books I’ve read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali would surely find its place on it.

First time I’ve heard about Miss Hirsi Ali it was after murder of Theo Van Gogh because of his film “Submission-part one” which he made in collaboration with Hirsi Ali. Theo has been shoot and slaughtered in the middle of the day and the letter for Hirsi Ali (in which assassin is promising the same to her) was staked with knife in Theo’s chest. It was really a huge shock with big impact across the Europe.
Later “Submission-part one” was in the program of the Free Zone Film Festival here in Belgrade and among the guests was Belgrade’s Imam and the conversation after projection was very interesting (I wrote about that evening HERE). Sadly I would have much more and much better question now after reading this book.

Anyhow Infidel was one of the most wanted books on my wish list and you can’t imagine my thrill-ness when I saw in Belgrade’s bookstores that it has been translated in Serbian. I’ve read book in one swallow and then reread it slowly but it raised the same emotional reaction.

It starts with the life of her grandmother and later mother in Somalia with such a vivid description of very strict life in Muslim community. Her grandmother was an incredibly strong woman capable to accept the destiny and justify it as an Allah’s wish. You might think that her actions might be quite brutal with her granddaughters (and also comparing with the treatment with her grandson) but she was following tradition and was believe that she’s doing right.

There in first part we are introduced how important is to know who your ancestors are. It is actually fundamental to be familiar with entire family tree hundreds of years ago because in Somalia first question when you meet someone will be “Who are you?” and then they are starting to recite all ancestors until they find a mutual one. That can save your life (it saved Ayaan’s) because the whole population of Somalia is divided in several clans and everything there is based precisely on that. Any kind of help: health care, shelter, financial helps … etc. It’s horribly tight bond between them (and horribly huge risk if you disgrace your clan).

Later we see first “rebellion” in the actions of Ayaan’s mother but still she was women who followed the rule and also was able to accept her destiny because that was Allah’s will. Ayaan’s family was a kind of nomadic ones because due to her father’s political activism they had to hide and run away from one place to another. Therefore she lived during her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

While reading those pages it was as if I’m reading some fictional story from another dimension. Of course accent was on the women in Islam. Obligation to be covered, obligation to not leave the house without a man, obligation to accept (everything), obligation to not argue, obligation to bear, obligation to be sexually available to her husband whenever he wants to “plough his field”, obligation to be obedient, obligation to submit. Because word “Islam” means “submission”. Moreover she was unfortunate enough to belong to the Muslim community where girls must be circumcised (I wrote about Female Genital Mutilation HERE). So indeed that part was like something from another world.

We can see how she was growing up physically and religiously. How she wanted so badly to be a good Muslim woman who follows all the rules but in the same time she has had many questions in spite the fact that questions are forbidden. It is one breathtaking image of immense mental struggle between her believes, what she has been taught it’s the only truth and the life facts which were quite opposite. It was literally painful to read, emotion was quite similar to claustrophobia.

Eventually she started to talk with criticism about her own religion, she was loud in her statement against position of women (that especially refers in Muslim communities in European countries i.e. Holland) and naturally pile up the anger of Muslim world on herself.
It is a breathtaking story of a woman who (in her own words) was lucky. Once she was a child from the desert with extremely limited possibilities but who became elected member of a Dutch Parliament.

But what has the biggest impact on me is that I “found” myself in the book. Namely I realized that I belong to the huge majority of European (say) Christians (I guess) who are trying to avoid speaking with criticism about other religions because that might be connected very easily with racism (nationalism, fascism, etc). Since I lived in the country that has fallen apart in undoubtedly religious war (it was civilian war of course but in first place it was religious one) I’m trying to be very tolerant and to understand the point of views of the “opposite” side.
I realized that I do have very (say again) “Christian” look on Islam and religions in general. I honestly believed that all religions (therefore Islam as well) are good, are love, peace, tolerance etc. Right? Wrong!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in this book is telling us that Islam is love and tolerance (in very limited sense) but ONLY inside the Muslim world. For all others who aren’t belonging to that world it is a threat because it gives a strict order to all believers to convert or kill the rest of us who are considered as nonbelievers. Another amazing thing is that many inside the Muslim population are not aware of that because the Holly Koran is written in Arabic, language they don’t understand. What a paradox!

What is written in Koran is not only religious message but an absolute constant that is defying every singe aspect in believer’s life. It is quite unbelievable that it is expected from nowadays believers to strictly follow the rule (and apply sanctions) of desert tribes of Saudi Arabia in the 7th century! But still if they’re not following those rules (or even if they think of theirs reasons) they’re not good believers and deserve to be punished. And those things about unbelievers are written in Koran.

Now I really don’t know what to think? That’s why I’d love if I could have another opportunity to speak again with Belgrade’s Imam who is a very dear man, but I’m wondering if he’s not aggressive toward Christians and doesn’t call his believers to be aggressive; if he doesn’t think that he lives in the country of nonbelievers; if he preaches love, peace and tolerance he must be considered as a bad Muslim from the point of view of the followers of traditional Islam about whom Hirsi Ali is writing because that is not what Koran demands.

This book, her entire life is a monument of freedom of speech. Her criticism has arguments. Europe is also criticized with every right. Remember Danish cartoon scandal? A cancellation of theater plays which has the theme Prophet or even include Prophet together with representatives from other religions etc? That culture of self-censorship will completely ruin European values. That is not our heritage; that is not heritage of modern world! Allowing speech of hatred which is targeting people who are not Muslims (that can be heard in the mosques across the Europe) we here are accepting and justifying it with freedom of speech; When Muslim communities in the Europe are practicing traditional Islam that violates numerous human rights, we here are justifying that with religious freedom! Is female genital mutilation performed on young girls on the kitchen table in the middle of Europe religious freedom?

As I said I’m quite confused (this book is so enormously thought provoking); I’m not paranoid person, on the contrary. Moreover my contact with Islam is not nearly like this. I studied Farsi for several years and have many Iranian friends and I adore their cultural heritage; I know members of Muslim communities here and they aren’t nearly fanatics, they are my friends and I can unquestionably rely on them. I guess we [Serbia] are not rich enough to be interesting for refugees from much more rigid and traditional environments.

Hirsi Ali speaks with arguments and with statistic data of (mainly) women victims of Islamic fanatics inside their own families here in Europe. Many are victims of self combustion with gasoline (because they had sex before marriage) in a front of their fathers and brothers. If she refuse to kill herself they [father or brother] would kill her. That’s not, that can’t be religious freedom!

It’s high time for us to realize that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.

Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow SunShe did it again. And she did it (again) masterfully! (click to read my review for her debut: Purple Hibiscus) While reading this novel I was often thinking of García Márquez’s words: The worst enemy of politicians is a writer” and I would amplify that with not only of politicians. Now, I’m not sure if Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had intention to accuse (probably not) but you cannot avoid truth and, as always truth is hurting so badly.

Heartbreaking Half of a Yellow Sun (related with Biafran flag) is a story about birth and short life of Biafra, life that ended in one of the worst possible way while “the world was silent when they died”. Before reading this book I didn’t know much about Biafra, I didn’t even know it was an independent country (*blush* I should know that!). For me Biafra was a synonym for starvation, for hunger, misery, I was always picturing children with huge bellies and limbs like toothpicks. Now I know the word for that: ”kwashiorkor”, difficult word isn’t it?

Everything started 1960 when Nigeria independence from British colonialism; few years later there was a coup d’état led by Igbo tribe. Since Nigeria was the country with many clans ethnic tension started to sparkle between Muslim Hausa and Christian Igbo clans and eventually resulted with ethnic cleansing of Igbos that were living in the north of the country with Muslim majority. Because of that atrocity Igbo clan has proclaimed independence of theirs own country named after Biafran Bay in the southeast of Nigeria (the problem was, as one of the characters said was the fact that Biafra haskwashiorkor huge oil reserves). Few countries have recognized new country, however the most powerful ones (i.e. United Kingdom and Soviet Union) supported Nigeria with military supplies and after three years (1967-1970) the war of Biafra secession ended in a humanitarian catastrophe as Nigerian blockades stopped all supplies, military and civilian alike, from entering the region. Hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) people died in the resulting famine.

The story has been told through the lives of three very different characters:
Ugwu,13 year old boy from some remote village who is starting to work as a houseboy in the house of university professor with revolutionary aspirations. Ugwu is a magnificent source of Nigerian (African?) folklore and mythology. His superstitious-ness is beautiful, pure and incredibly authentic. Being uneducated his provincialism and thinking of everything authentically African as inferior comparing with everything British is very strong! (I sound as if I’m justifying his attitude with that “being uneducated”, well it’s really hard dislike Ugwu)
Olanna, young women with university diploma from London, member of Nigerian aristocracy who rejected privileged life and follow her heart. Strong, modern, enthusiastic woman with strong vision of her future life liberated from the chains of her family’s expectations.
Third one is Richard, man I identified myself with. He’s an Englishman who came in Nigeria because he fell in love with the ancient piece of local art (I think I could do the same). Man who being white has had to put much more effort to prove himself as true Biafran and was doing this in the best possible way.
What I especially like is that all three main characters are real humans; they are not flawless. On the contrary, they are making horrible mistakes which might be even unforgivable under different circumstances.

But this is not only story about the war. War with its horror is scenery for the story of love, loyalty, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness about fight and survival. It is very universal story placed in one precise historical context.

Truth, some of the scenes are so graphically described that I had to close the book and take a deep breath before continue. But of course why should she use euphemism for truth? In spite that this is really page turner. I was little afraid after warning from the back cover “I wasted last fifty pages, reading them far too greedily and fast, because I couldn’t bear to let go…” but I’ve done the same (and of course then reread them). This is one testimony of the things that mustn’t be forgotten! And oh, don’t be surprised if you find your eyes filled with tears. In spite the fact that last sentence wasn’t surprise for me, that I expected that, I couldn’t help myself…

Flag of Biafra


Beasts of No Nation
Uzodinma Iweala

beasts of no NationHere is another Hidden Treasure (click the link), an outstanding debut by young Uzodinma Iweala about whose book Salman Rushdie said “This is one of those rare occasion when you see a first novel and you think, This guy is going to be very, very good.”

And indeed this novel is so special in so many ways. It is the coming-of-age story but unlike any other stories from that subgenre. As its title suggests “Beasts of no Nation” is one dark story where you’ll hardly find any consolation or even hope. I was especially attached before I even started to read this novel because I’m a huge fan of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (on the photograph), one of the most prominent figure in Nigerian cultural and political scene; After his death Fela’s son Femi Anikulapo Kuti has continued his father’s mission, battle against violence, corruption, injustice, dictatorship of (not only) Nigerian government, etc. with music. (I was on Femi’s concert few years ago and it was amazing!). Anyway this book is named by Fela’s song “Beasts of no Nation” and this is one part from it:

[…] MANY LEADERS AS YOU SEE DEM
NA DIFFERENT DISGUISE DEM DEY-OH
ANIMALS IN HUMAN SKIN
ANIMAL-I PUT-U TIE-OH
ANIMAL-I WEAR AGBADA
ANIMAL-I PUT-U SUIT-U […]

Fela Kuti

If you’d like to read whole lyrics here is the link: Beasts of no Nation Lyrics (and if you don’t know Botha was the apartheid-era president who led South Africa through its worst racial violence and deepest international isolation. You’ll see his name in the song)

The language in the book is the same as in the song: almost all verbs are in infinitive and constructions in the phrases are sometimes impossible, I’d never use any of them. And that is where my own sensation about the novel is inferior in comparison with the sensation of the reader whose mother tongue is English. Reading your own language in this variant must enrich entire emotion about the book and make you closer to the characters and entire environment. *sigh*

Just as Fela’s song is telling about horror the racial conflict so does Iweala’s book about civil war but from different perspective. This is story about Agu, young boy in unnamed West African country. We know it is in (west) Africa because he is mentioning colour of the skin, yam (who is growing in West Africa), the way he talk (the same as the way Fela sings!), and the way of killings – machete. But that same story can be settled in any other country (I was often thinking that must how the felt my compatriots in the war regions few years ago when the country I was living in was tiring apart.

Agu is a son of local schoolteacher and very religious mother, always thirsty for knowledge who doesn’t know what suffering is until the stories of a war in the country stopped to be stories and became part of his own life. This book is kind of his memoirs.

And being so young (7-10 years of age in my opinion) his vision of war and explanations are so touching. In one moment he says something like this part of the country is so green and full of trees so maybe government was angry at us because God has given us water and them on the north of the country (where government is settled) not.

His disorientation is complete. After losing his father he’s been found by some guerilla movement who recruited him and that’s ho he became soldier. In that hornet’s nest where hierarchy is based on the gun he’s under enormous influence of the Commandant, a dominant figure (in which he probably finds replacement for his father is some very weird way) who’s giving him (and the rest of the gang) totally twisted idea of the war and enemies. Commandant is implanting Agu’s personal goal in his mind: “If you are staying with me, I will be taking care of you and we will be fighting the enemy that is taking your father”; goal that is so obvious in contradiction to Agu’s nature: revenge.

We are watching the worst kind of manipulations and brain washing (that will in one precise moment become disgusting!) which is actually not that hard when your target such a young kid.

Agu’s inner struggle is so painful to watch. He as a very religious kid in the way children can be religious, he knows that what they are doing is very wrong so he often convincing himself that he is not bad boy, that his acts will be forgiven, that he’s doing all these things because he is soldier and killing is what soldier do; it’s his job to kill the enemies … even when the enemy is a woman with her small daughter [because Commandant said that those are their enemies who have killed their families]. But that is not all what soldier is:

“Sometimes I am wanting to cry very loud but nobody is crying on this place. If I am crying, they will look at me because soldier is not supposed to be crying”

Agu is constantly between these extremes: his own nature and the projection of something he must become. He’s aware that if he doesn’t let go his nature he’ll not survive so sadness is overwhelming him but then he knows he mustn’t be sad because “being sad is what happens to you before you are becoming mad. And if you are becoming mad, then it is meaning that you are not going to be fighting. So I cannot be sad because if I cannot be fighting, then either I will die, or Commandant will be killing me. If I am dead, then I will not be able to find my mother and my sister when this war is finishing” and there he is, constantly lost in one emotional labyrinth in which he is roaming trying to stay alive, to preserve his mind and to find an exit. And the labyrinth is a place where “… one evil spirit sitting in the bush just having too much happiness because all the time he is eating what he wants – us; and seeing what he is wanting to see – killing. So he is just laughing […]” And while that evil spirit is feasting little Agu is starving: “I am so hungry that I am wanting to die but if I am dying, then I will be dead” At first moment this sentence might sound funny but in reality it is tremendously terrifying. Just look how lost this kid is.

If you think that I’m taking this piece of fiction too personally you are probably right because this story is reality in so many places and we are so ignorant. We do know but, hey it’s not in our backyard. Truth, the same thing was in my country not so long ago so I‘m probably more sensitive and could more easily transmit myself in Agu’s story.

This is one universal story that can be settled as I wrote in the beginning in every part of the world. It is opening so many topics and among major ones is use of the children in armed conflicts. They are so easy for manipulation and the scars they are getting are life long.

“[…] and I am wanting to ask it why it is even thinking to shine on this world. If I am sun, I will be finding another place to be shining where people are not using my light to be doing terrible terrible thing.”

Oh dear Agu, it seems that Sun should pack its things and move far away from this galaxy …

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits
Laila Lalami

Hope and other dangerous puruitsI’ve just finished this lovely, poetic novel, debut by Laila Lalami about how hope is making us in move and about how much we are willing to sacrifice to make it happened.

First I’m very pleasantly surprised with the structure of the novel (“novel” in some lovely weird way). Namely it starts from the middle of the story, somewhere in the middle of the road between survival and life (or should I say ‘hope’?), in the middle of the night, between two continents: Africa and Europe; in the middle of the path which separates “not just two countries but two universes.”; in the boat made for eight people but which bears thirty passengers right now.
All those passengers have in common hope, their dream about life they couldn’t have in their motherland – Morocco.

They are approaching Spanish coast with fear in their stomach and hope in their eyes and … (I’ll avoid spoilers)… after page or two we are reaching the spot where story starts to branch (it’s like a reverse delta). Or maybe it’s even better to say that we are reaching narrowest spot on the sandglass.

Sandglass is turned over and now we are following lives of the main characters prior their journey and here the novel becomes sort of collection of short stories. And these stories are very detailed and very personal portraits of persons with different characters, professions, education, etc. which are living in the same (mainly) political/economical pot which will transform them in immigrants.

It is a very colorful picture of nowadays Morocco and clash of its traditional and modern faces. Land filled with tourists seeking for roots of Paul Bowles’s inspiration, or hashish, or some other sort of exotic adventure while muezzins are calling for prayer from minarets, with streets with girls covered with scarves and gay couples fearless sitting in the bars. We are introduced with some Islamic customs, especially in the marriage; with two completely different ways of interpretation of Qur’an: traditional as if there are no changes from the time of the Prophet and the modern one which is adapted with the current civilization level. And of course cuisine: you could feel the smell while passing through the pages mouth-watering.

However accent is on the horrifying economic situation with huge unemployment population (sometime regardless their education), extremely (and quite openly) corrupted system, from university via any sort of bureaucracy ‘till the judicial system. Indeed you have a sensation of hermetic-incurable-never-ending-no-way-out, sensation so strong that you can feel it in your throat. Sensation that is boosted with descriptions of their homes, streets, furniture, etc so that you are wondering “How on Earth they’re surviving at all?” and naturally when you’re looking with their eyes immigrate in Spain is best (if not only) solution.

Then again sandglass is turned over and now we can see how immigrants live in their new country. Of course those kinds of dreams are often nightmares but it is incredible how people can find consolation and be satisfied. I guess when you manage to leave enormous misery behind, new misery doesn’t look so unbearable. You just have to remember the ones who weren’t that lucky and who would instantly exchange their place with yours.
Naturally new life will change them but while some changes are expectable (no one would gladly accept to leave horse and ride donkey again) some changes are so drastic that I had to double check if that is the same person.

I should say that “sandglass” will be turned over more than once: to let us know why would anyone leave its own people, family, friends, customs and go in unknown land among strangers, become stranger himself (even among compatriots); to let us know how the ones who survived the trip but have not succeed in their intention are reestablish their lives in the country they wanted to leave; and to let us know about the ones whose lives have torn from the roots and are thrown on the other soil.
This is a story about their hope which helps them to stay alive.

Now as a student of the Institute Cervantes I was always wondering why Morocco is the country with the largest number of Cervantes Institutes. Well it was logical that countries like France or UK or Germany or some other ‘rich’ country will have many Institutes but Morocco is a priority. Now when I think about that it IS logical. Namely illegal immigration is huge problem for Spain and so they decided at least to give those potential immigrants opportunity to learn Spanish, educate themselves about customs and culture etc.

This novel is Hidden Treasure! (check the link)

Purple Hibiscus
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Reading this book has been actually very hard because it was just as she described my country’s recent past. I was there in every single sentence when she described situation on University; government’s repression; political murders; corruption on every level of society; killing free press; endless waiting in a front of embassies; disregard of international community; “For them, I’m nothing more than black gorilla who knows to read” (said University professor in the book) I understand perfectly although we here have different color of the skin but acceptance and attitude of the western world was absolutely the same; struggle against the regime; protests of students and their professors (we have protested 3 months on winter ’97) … etc. Everything was the same.
It seems that misery of small and ignorance of big ones are universal no matter about which part of the world we are talking.

Yes, maybe I’m selfish when I’m putting in first place surrounding of main characters in spite of strong portraits of Kambili’s family members. It was magnificent achievement indeed.

Now I saw in one journal entry something I have to comment. Namely someone said But when the possibility of emigration to America is raised, neither Amaka nor Kambili can countenance it – Nigeria is their home and the place they love.
Well this is quite … (how should I put) romantic and touchy point of view BUT both of them, Amaka and Kambili are children and as a children they cannot see the entire picture about the mess their motherland is into (especially Kambili); they cannot see the consequences of staying in Nigeria; they are too young to think about their future and have others to do that. So of course they wanted to stay in place they love and think (but only think) they know.
I have childhood friends in whole Europe, North America and Australia and they are suffering horribly of homesickness. Their letters are … well very sad in spite good financial life they have in those countries and safe future for their children. But every single one of them knows that staying here was not possible for them.

You cannot stay in your home when the roof is falling (maybe that is romantic and touchy but that is not real life). You have to go further and find consolation in memories and photos while your sitting somewhere under different, solid roof in that new, ‘better’ world.