Friday, February 23, 2007

While some bloggers are so successful in entertaining thousands of people that they are offered book deals (and more power to them), Abdel-Karim Nabil Suleiman, a young Egyptian blogger has been sentenced to four years jail. Absolutely ridiculous. How terrible for him.
Suleiman was one of several bloggers arrested last year, most of whom have connections to Egypt's pro-democracy reform movement. Others were freed but he was put on trial -- a sign of the sensitivity of his writings on religion. He was first detained in 2005 after criticising Muslim rioters in a post about sectarian clashes in his neighbourhood headlined The Naked Truth of Islam as I Saw it.

...Blogging is increasingly used across the Arab world to challenge governments and discuss taboos. In Egypt it has helped get around restrictions on traditional media. The pro-democracy Kifaya movement and the banned Muslim Brotherhood group have created many websites and encourage blogging.

Egypt is a traditional centre of cultural and intellectual life.

The case highlights the way secular regimes are showing increasing sensitivity about criticism of Islam for fear of helping the cause of opposition Islamist movements.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006
This story was just too marvellous to pass up sharing, so thank you musical Dave for the following account; I especially like the bookish touch at the end:
We babysat last night. He had three baths (he loves the bath). Then he decided it would be hilarious to empty an entire bag of carpet freshener around the room - cos it is all powdery and exciting, right?
And then, at 7:00 (bedtime), "Ready for bed?"
"No no no no no no no."
So we start to lead him upstairs. Cue cadenza.
"I want my daddy. I want my daddy."
Real, huge tears rolling down his cheeks, traumatised by his parents not being home. We empathise. We explain that his doting parents are out for the evening, but are coming back because they love him a great deal. Cadenza continues.
"I want Toy Story 2 wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh".
Validity of cadenza analysed, found lacking. Eventually we capitulate and watch The Little Mermaid (this is a Disney household). When it was over, we had a repeat performance of the cadenza, but our hearts were hardened by now. "DADAAAAAAAAAAA! want my DADAAAAAAAAAA!" (you know, the dude that falls for this shit usually) (We continue to prevent him leaving the bed, stroking his hair, singing soft songs etc)
"TOY STORRRRYYYYYYYY aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh"(see above)
"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH book want story aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"
Which we can do. So we read books.
And a mere hour later he passes out. Result!

And you want one of these? Why?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

While those of us based in the UK may attend the Hay Festival in May (I'm planning to attend, if anyone else is going and would like to meet up for a cuppa), the other major literary shindig at the same time is the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica. The Commonwealth Writers' Prize winners will be announced at the latter. Shortlisted candidates were announced last week (full list here). The Africa region nominees are almost all South African, so I stocked up last week at the airport. They are:

Africa Region Best Book

Native Commissioner by Shaun Johnson (South Africa), Penguin Books
What Kind of Child by Ken Barris (South Africa), Kwela Books
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Harper Collins
The Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya), Random House UK
Playing in the Light by Zoe Wicomb (South Africa), Umuzi
Song of the Atman by Ronnie Govender (South Africa), Jacana

Africa Region Best First Book

All We Have Left Unsaid by Maxine Case (South Africa), Kwela Books
Ice in the Lungs by Gerald Kraak (South Africa), Jacana
A Life Elsewhere by Segun Afolabi (Nigeria), Jonathan Cape
Room 207 by Kgebeti Moele (South Africa), Kwela Books
The Beggar's Sign Writers by Louis Greenberg (South Africa), Umuzi
The Shadow Follows by David Medalie (South Africa), Picador Africa

If you're finding it difficult to track them down, as always I recommend the Africa Book Centre and they do ship internationally. My to be read pile (teetering at the best of times) is about to keel over.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Some dramas on the trip back. We had begun our descent into Paris when the plane banked (incredibly) steeply upwards - a near miss with another passenger jet in the fog.

Upon landing, my supposedly seamless transfer to a London-bound flight was scuppered as Heathrow was temporarily closed because of fog. The first available flight out was a mere seven hours later. As a South African I need a visa to exit the airport, so instead of turning the disaster into a lovely jaunt around Paris for the day I was forced to enjoy the pleasures of the departure lounge. As I had not expected this delightful interlude, I had no euros with me - the nearest cash withdrawal machines were all outside of the departures lounge, but to use them I would need a visa. Aaargh! To their credit the airline provided me with one drink and one snack which I appreciated, but seemed slightly measly twelve hours later when I finally reached home - an abundant supply of coffee would have been highly appreciated!

Luckily I always travel with books. I worked on my Tamil, with papers spread around me on the floor (comfortable carpet they have there!), finished Xiaolu Guo's A CONCISE CHINESE-ENGLISH DICTIONARY FOR LOVERS and began Ronnie Govender's SONG OF THE ATMAN.

Exhausting, but will have to drag myself off to London in a couple of hours - Tamil class; I have missed the last three weeks with my trip to South Africa, so this evening's tutorial looms terrifyingly.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

One of my favourite restaurants in Pretoria is the Blue Crane, which is wonderfully located on the edge of a bird sanctuary (click through on the link to see how spectacularly situated it is!). You dine as the blue cranes - after which the restaurant are named - strut past in stately fashion. A striking variety of bird types flit past during the course of a meal, and as feeding them from the deck of the restaurant is banned, they don't harrass diners. I was rather amused by this sign:
Blue Crane Restaurant cannot be held responsible for the "forces of nature" bearing in mind that you are in the middle of a bird sanctuary/park. Please take this into consideration when one of our four legged friends happens to drown themselves in your beverage or food. We appreciate your consideration.
Although, as my mother pointed out, which four legged friends were they thinking of?!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Apologies for the silence (why does that sound familiar?!). I have flown some 5000+ miles down to South Africa where my father has just had surgery on his leg. So (being a portably employed person) here I am in the warmth and sunshine being his arms and legs for a few weeks, until he becomes a little more mobile. The sunshine is glorious - I can even feel my toes burning when hanging out the washing! - but a serious downside is the speed (or should I say incredible slowness) of the internet connection, 10-15 seconds minimum in uploading pages...

The upside, however, is temperatures in the 30s Celsius, and great quality time spent with the parents, oh yes and I should mention the fruit - divine - ripened on the plant rather than picked green and shipped thousands of miles in cold storage, juicy sweet mangoes, pawpaws (papayas), litchies...