Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 9th, 2012

Danes writing in French? Forget it: You cannot be invited as a Francophone author

Alain Mabanckou, French-speaking African author from Congo Brazzaville, recounts this story of Pia Petersen. The Danish Pia landed in France and she was over 20 year-old. She could not even speak French but decided to resume her studies in philosophy in French.

Pia decided to follow the French thinking by reading the original work and learning the French language: She didn’t trust translated works, and a language merit to learn it with patience. Pia purchased a bookshop so she may learn to write in French.

Twenty years later, she published a book written in French.

Fifty editors turned her down before editor Hubert Nyssen of Actes Sud decided to take the plunge and published Pia’s first “Occasionally, they discussed of God” (2004). The next was “A window at random” 2005.

The year 2006 was dedicated to all Francophone authors in Paris. I pleaded the organizers to invite Pia to the Salon of the Book. The invitation was declined on the ground that Denmark was never a French colony.

Pia is small, blonde with eyes of different colors. She was attending the Salon of the Book in Toulouse, and waiting for anyone to purchase her new book “The game of the facile” and to autograph it.

Since the book was “not translated” from the Danish language, Pia had no luck for the day.  She said to Alain Mabanckou: “Things would have been much simpler if I were from the Congo. French editors are suspicious of me, though they readily welcome to translate Danish books”

I lived in Los Angeles, and Pia used to call me every couple of days for my input: She was intent for the first sentence in the book to be perfect.

A few years later, I assured Pia that the next Salon will invite her. Again Pia was refused an invitation on the ground that Pia writes in French but is not a Francophone author!

To France, Pia is a writer with no fixed residence. I adopted Pia as a Congo citizen of Danish origin.

Are you suffering and in pain? Great, you are now superior to God

I just finished reading “Before the End” by late Argentina author Ernesto Sabato. Sabato in his nineties in 1989, was asked to write an “inspirational” book for the youth who feel their walls nailed to the wall. Sabado had already experienced the loss of his elder son Jorge and his wife Mathilda, and he was feeling pretty down and helpless. What follows are a few quotes on pains and suffering from other authors that Ernesto referred to:

Simone Weil wrote: “Pain and suffering have elevated man to a rank superior to God. We needed to invent the notion of Reincarnation to tamper this scandalous realization of our superiority…”   (Advances in the medical field enhanced this feeling, until current technologies and liberal capitalism reversed the trend, making humanity feeling helpless, confronted with so many insurmountable global problems…)

Oscar Wilde wrote before dying: “Where there is pain, the location is sacred…”

Pavese wrote: “Suffering teaches an alchemy that transforms mud into gold, and miseries into privileges…”

Miguel Hernandez wrote from prison: “One of these days, we will celebrate and salute with raised glasses whatever we have lost and recovered: Liberty, chains, happiness, and that obscure tenderness which makes us search across the entire world…”  Hernandez died in prison.

Albert Camus wrote: “The only serious problem in philosophy is suicide: How we judge life? Is it worth living…?” or La vida vale nada?

Manrique wrote: “How life passes, how death approaches, so silently…”

Urs Von Balthasar wrote: “We landed on the sandy banks of rationalism: We keep taking a step back so that our feet may take a firm hold on the abrupt rock of mystery…”

Jasper said: “The origin of philosophy is getting conscious of my weakness and helplessness…”

Kierkegaard wrote: “Having faith is acquiring the courage to confronting the doubt…” (I guess, as long as we keep carrying on with our projects, after encountering so many road blocks and failures, we are mainly shouldered by our faith…This kind of faith has nothing to do with any religious belief)

Maria Zambrano wrote: “We don’t cross from the feasible to the real, but from what is impossible to the truth…”

Leon Felipe wrote: “The current world has become terribly and monstrously reasonable: There are no fools anymore. The extravagant man defying the desert spaces is dead…”

As Gandhi said:  “My windows are wide opened to all world culture and civilization: As long as they don’t threaten to uproot me from my land…” (I guess people resist occupying troops, simply because they tend to uproot customs, traditions, and original culture…)

Note: Ernesto Sabato (1911-2011?) turned down, at the age of 30, a very promising scientific career and teaching sciences and mathematics in universities. He published “The Tunnel”, “Heroes and Graves”, “The Angel of Darkness”…Sabato headed Argentina commission on the crimes of the previous military dictatorship period and issued the 5,000-page report “No mass”.  He painted late in life and was passionate for classical music…




January 2012

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