Rawi Hage Readings

Please post below your reflections on the readings

37 Responses to Rawi Hage Readings

  1. I agree with David’s reflections and only want to add that today is fashionable/politically correct to accuse religions for many problems. It is a trap for many ambitious authors that want be quickly recognized (when still alive and not postmortem – haha!) by promoters/editors and the same role play exposed/magnified sex scenes/motives for better sell. That is why we should try seeing books/films/poems after use of such ‘filters’ eliminating the mentioned above elements to expose the real skeleton/message that is behind.

  2. David S. says:

    It seemed to me that Mr. Hage was identifying asceticism with religion and fanatacism with religion, and using these interchangeably. I think it’s obvious that Christianity for example has historically and currently strong ascetic and fanatical tendencies, with Christians who view the two as one and the same, and believe they should be the same. However, there are Christians who reject asceticism and fanaticism, without falling into hedonism or an empty relativism either. For instance, in our (secular) culture sex is both obsession and taboo. They are two sides of the same unhealthy coin. I have heard many Christians talk about their religion “putting sex in its proper place,” acknowledging its importance and denying its ultimacy.

    Just because Mr. Hage has never met or heard of such a Christian doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Nor does it mean that ascetism equals organized religion or even Christianity. It is easy to reject “religion” by identifying it with one of its countless historical and current abuses. And it is quite fair to call for secularism and say “it’s not worth it.” That’s a discussion worth having. But to say religion *is* these things is either linguistically careless or intellectually lazy.

    Not to say this is Mr. Hage’s thinking, but it was my impression of it.

    And I should clarify that I am not a Christian.

  3. MetanoiaBoy says:

    Ce fut intéressant, divertissant et inspirant.
    Durant un moment, alors que Mr Hage dissertait sur le ” Taxi”, je n’ai pu m’empêcher de me remémorrer ce film de Jim Jarmush, ” Night on earth”, qui présente 5 vignettes relatives à des histoires de “Taxi”, et notamment à celle metttant en vedette Roberto Benigni… Qui pour moi demeure un classique du genre… L’esprit y est très “Carnaval-esque” … Si l’esprit clownesque de Benigni couplé à un esprit plus ludique de Jim Jarmush vous dit, la croustillante scènette de 20 minutes est assez facile à trouver sur youtube. Bon mercredi!

  4. Private says:

    Dr. Cornett,
    Thank you Dr. Cornett, for producing and leading these dialogic sessions.
    I find them very stimulating and satisfying – a wonderful learning experience.

  5. Pen Name says:

    A row of minds, arranged like a circle of candles. A chopping sound, slice, slice, slice. Twice, thrice, the deed is done, iron upon iron, the beef is ground, the smell is nice.

    A spider watches on the wall – who is spider, who is fly, now? A spider caught in the candle’s web of light, its shadow dancing. Diced, burned but alive, escaping stronger with a better understanding of flies.

  6. Lucie says:

    Enfin, un endroit où nous pouvons “dialoguer”. La rencontre avec Rawi Hage permet de connaître un peu plus l’humanité. Rawi Hage est de ces êtres sensibles qui ont l’intelligence de transformer des expériences en mots en passant par des symboles accrocheurs. Comme disait M. Cornett, il est un prophète, il nous renvoie une image du monde touchante, sensible, bouleversante. Merci de donner cette occasion d’échanger, de partager des idées, peu de places le font.

  7. Mezzaluna says:

    I would like to thank Prof. Cornett for organizing the series of dialogic sessions as these have proven very interesting and demanding at intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels. Above all, they have engaged participants from different walks of life in a community of learning and allowed us to meet published writers who are devoted to their art and their craft. Hearing the various responses to the poems and prose we read gave one an opportunity to perceive that the authors’ contributions take on another life, that they are enriched by each of our “particular general experience” and outlook. Often, our fellow seminar participants provided insights into meanings that one did not grasp immediately or completely. Hopefully, the authors also appreciated this personal contact with their readers.

    This afternoon, Prof. Cornett mentioned that writers are the true “prophets” of our age, as they critique our society. Good writers will draw us into their literary universe and hold up a mirror to our lives. The last session in the presence of Rawi Hage this afternoon made me realize that his writing has a mordant quality to it that matches my philosophical outlook on life, although I think that I’m more optimistic and willing to give organized religion some respect. If we cannot count on the true models of what is best in all religions, generous and loving souls in our midst, whom can we count on? A United Church Minister, for example, would say of those models that they are the embodiment of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour but to paraphrase one of Hage’s characters, I am not a monarchist…and I’m not a victim. Nonetheless, if we do not pattern our behaviour on what organized religion calls “saints”, those among us who are not necessarily perfect, but who model ethical behaviour, our society will deteriorate and die.

    I am reading Carnival a second time, and identifying those lines which could constitute The Gospel according to Fly or, at the very least, Fly’s Philosophical Treatise. I particularly relish the following line on p. 141:”Never underestimate a clown with a book.”, although it is attributed to Otto.

  8. Whitehorse says:

    Writings & Streams of Consciousness from Reading # 9




    Who let the dogs out?


    Seems like a page taken right out of the current headlines. At first I thought this had nothing to do with the story we’ve been reading about, then on second reading the word “professor” jumped out at me… still, these couple of paragraphs could be about anyone (alive or dead) about whom something “nasty” has been dug up and published, and all the “dogs” come out from under wherever they live, at the mere smell of a scoop, a top line, a juicy piece of “information” that makes some people cringe, be frightened, feel superior, and others think they are heroes for having contributed. Are the lines between fact and fiction becoming more blurred, or is it that those lines are only in our imagination because we choose to “believe” this or that ?

    I believe I mentioned this in an earlier posting, but again I tend to see smoke & mirrors, labyrinths, tortured bodies, minds and souls, chameleon-like individuals with double lives who show one self in public and a different self in private, and yet another version when dealing with certain issues.
    Different stories, or narratives of parallel lives – another dimension almost – of humanity as a species. These texts remind me of yes, a circus, a zoo, where we got to watch other species do what they do, but I wonder who is watching us? Who is watching over us? Perhaps our species is also locked into an enclosure, but we don’t realize it because we can’t see or feel it when we’re being entertained and distracted by all that “stuff” filling up our days of living unexamined lives”.

    What is the role of academics and policy-makers in forming our values?
    I like this sentence because for two reasons:
    1. It’s a question with huge implications and there was a significant opportunity to open up a real debate about this over the past few months leading up to the so-called Summit on Education and it seems like it was “business as usual”. Everyone was blinded by their own agendas & ambitions rather than seizing the chance to make a profound difference for the future of this country.
    2. I work with a wonderful organization whose mission is to do just that and it’s so refreshing to be part of those conversations about public policy, democracy, human rights and immigration. I don’t know how much difference they actually make on policy-making, but at least they’re talking about what most people just hope will go away…

  9. Survey says:

    Reading #9

    1 word:

    1 sentence:
    We live a mediated existence.

    1 paragraph:
    If I wanted to rule the world I wouldn’t try to do it by telling people what to think, what to do, or by making them do what I thought was right, what I thought would consolidate my power. I wouldn’t try to silence my critics or opponents. If I wanted to rule the world I would control what people talk about and think about. I would control the media.

    stream of consciousness:
    If I were a cannibal I think I’d prefer American human because they’re fat and juicy. They say that most of the flavor comes from the fat so I think I’d be particularly drawn to the rich flavor and texture of New York human. Their diet is a unique blend of fat, sugar and carbohydrates and they are raised mainly in high rise pens, which means – unlike the fit Nordic humans, and the malnourished Sub-Saharan humans – their meat is not too stringy.

    Favourite phrase:
    “Who are the brains that run this country?”
    because it had me pause and notice that I accept that someone(s) is running this country and it isn’t me.
    It made me consider that no one is running anything; that we are Darwinian creatures mutating and adapting; and that our media and historians make up stories to rationalize events into stories like ” Here’s who is running the world.”

  10. Reading #9

    1 word – sensations

    1 sentence – sensational news can trigger deeper reflections

    1 paragraph – here we can see an idealized example of public debate with far reaching conclusions. It looks as taking place in the public media, but it is not realistic because such issues are rather not openly discussed.

    A stream of consciousness vein – with my ‘politicized perspective’ (haha!) I see the end of this fragment “… stirred another debate over the role of academia in the government … began to question politicians’ competence … Who are the brains that run this country? … in the forming of our values?” as the author’s wishful projection of our democracy or conscious/smart ‘provocation’ toward this direction.
    We need such discussions, but it is impossible to see it in MSM (main stream media) run by scared to death lower ranking managers strictly auto censuring such developments as assumingly not liked by the circles above them. In this way many of them become more Catholic than Pope what I experienced when dealing with some of such media representatives in Montreal. They do not want to risk and use this modern and the most common ‘explanation’: “We all have bills to pay”. The same ways were forced to act Germans in 30s. Sorry for such comparison, but this analogy is closest that I can see. It is great that authors can project such paths awakening my radicalism. 🙂

    I liked this fragment “began to question politicians’ competence” as resonating with my sensitivity to such topics. I was born to be free and instead of developing allergies to nuts or cats, Mother Nature gave me hypersensitivity toward even traces of manipulative treatment of people in our society. It will be interesting to hear from the author if he is also includes such topics in his writer’s credo (consciously or subconsciously).

  11. Whitehorse says:

    Writings & Streams of Consciousness from Reading # 8- Zainab




    It is a tale told by centuries of irreconcilable differences playing their role perfectly.


    Once again, there is an undertone of confusion or murkiness. Is it Fly who had a relationship with Zainab, or is she talking about herself and someone else? When it is said “a relationship like ours”, who is us? It is not as obvious as it seems on the first reading because of the previous lines “You saw us?”, “Yes. I didn’t know” and the following one “She was travelling in Jordan and we met….” Who met? Zainab & Fly ? or is Fly talking about her and someone else? It seems like I’m reading two stories whose words and sentences fell on the floor & when they were picked up, the got all jumbled up and placed in a sequence that keeps the reader wondering about all the nuances and “sous-entendres” created by this new hodge-podge of literary lines…

    As I’m reading, this is what came up in my mind. The lyrics of a song I used to listen to a very long time ago by a singer named (Peter Sarstedt).
    But where do you go to my lovely
    When you’re alone in your bed?
    Tell me the thoughts that surround you
    I want to look inside your head, yes i do.
    …But they don’t realize where you came from?
    And I wonder if they really care, or give a damn?

    I know where you go to my lovely
    When you’re alone in your bed
    I know the thoughts that surround you
    `Cause I can look inside your head.

    Your home is where you choose to plant your stake in the ground, not only where you were born.
    You can freely choose to have your country, your home, be wherever.

    You will never understand belief because you believe in stars and horses and birds and rivers.
    It’s impossible… I have to go.

  12. Mezzaluna says:

    Reading number 10

    1. Thickenings

    2. It is said that it isn’t the destination that counts, but the trip and this trip is captivating.

    3. The story unfolds with tales of friendships, partnerships, alliances, brute strength and brutality, indignation, revenge, outrage, sex, courage, resourcefulness, moral turpitude, booze, parental neglect, alcoholism, sado-masochism, adultery, compassion, tenderness, generosity, love, affection and an Oedipal complex. We are in the taxi and coming along for the ride. The urban geography is familiar and yet, it isn’t. There is universality to the street layouts, the highways, the river, the bridge and its denizens. We travel back and forth to Café Bolero and eat Greek food with the drivers and become voyeurs in the back or front seat with Fly and beyond. We are in the realm of dreams and mythology, criminology, psychiatry, immigration, tourism, political science, religion and history. And become part of a readers’ club which reveres and honours books in a way that Dewey never did. There is also a touch of Disney with flying carpets but Jasmine is a lesbian. As in theatre, there is the willing suspension of disbelief. And woe betide the faint of heart and the judgmental because apoplexy will be theirs.

    4. Laughed out loud at line about never underestimating a clown with a book and Finnegans’ Wake as the title of choice for the unbeliever. Plowed through War and Peace but had trouble with James Joyce despite shared persecution by religion and alcoholic grandfather who inhaled snuff and read the Imitation of Jesus Christ between benders. Guns and books; swords and ploughshares. Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons. The entire edifice of academia built upon the printing press. Guttenburg and Bill Gates are not kissing cousins. Intellectual snobs sniffing at the Kindle, pissing on it to mark their territory. Much easier for men than women to travel, with a packsack on your back and standing up. Expendable and dependable, able to replace punctured tires and leaky gaskets, measuring pressure and lifting suitcases. Taxis and intellectual conversations and frustrated Sikh engineers in Toronto and political conversations with Haitians in Montreal. GPS a great invention for those who never travel beyond the bridges to the hinterland of suburban boxes. Each car a sound stage and a womb bringing you places. Having to pay is a loaded expression. Like guns and roses. Bread and roses. Hungry teenagers with spindly legs in training for atrocities committed on themselves and others. Les paradis artificiels. And hero like Hannibal having intercourse with elephants, tree trunk creatures of mobile snout and harsh tusks flapping ears languidly under the big top. Smell of straw and dung. Inescapable incandescence of spirit and excrement. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Who’s your hero now? Madonna or whore? The sequined lady in the Flying Wallendas? Balancing without a net. Grieving at lost friendships. Flying off into the sunset. Leaving the urban jungle behind.

  13. Reading #8

    1 word – Values

    1 sentence – Sometimes we are strong and stand up behind our values.

    1 paragraph – There are three voices, but for me it sounds like one author analyzing certain crucial situation from his life. We see here a personal brainstorm generated by the partners’ separation. It seems that the author feels mobilized to think more deeply in this situation about values, believes and general views about meaning of life.

    Stream of consciousness vein- Our world/nature generates many social problems in human lives. It is not a paradise with nicely acting people what mobilize us to be always careful and think deeply about our actions as objectives. The case of painful separation among previously loving each other couple is here nicely “digested” by the author who instead of expressing his anger/disappointments takes into account (analysis) many important elements from human life that influence our relationships and emotions. It reveals that no matter how much we will claim of being modern (free of ‘old’ values/tradition), we are still very influenced by religions/traditions.

    Instead of writing two different messages I have one opinion: It seems that presented here short Love Story was well finished as providing for the both partners good ‘life experience’ about things that are important in human lives and should be harmonized with their emotions. It sounds as an “alternative Happy End” because we see the ‘birth’ of two more mature personalities.

  14. Mezzaluna says:

    Reading number 5

    1. Performance

    2. Shakespeare said it best: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women on it, merely players.”

    3. Coming from a working-class, Catholic background, I had been taught at an early age that humans are barbarians and that women are especially wanton. I.e. the original sin, the temptation of Adam by Eve who wanted to know more and paid for it in spades. The author seeks to shrug off his protagonist’s hang-ups, thereby maybe divesting himself of his own demons, and presents a picture of a “voyageur” (can’t make out if the city is New York or Montreal – there are echoes of both) who lives in a fantasy world on the one hand but who deals on an everyday basis with “Everyman” and “Everywoman”, in his taxi, as it happens and is a staunch businessman – everybody pays. Quite God-like, but a flawed God? Zainab is an interesting counterpoint: an intellectual Maria Goretti who resists her would-be seducer with serenity and a kind of teflon-coated personality; we also have the hard-working whore who isn’t Mary Magdalen but a negligent mother, the mother of us all (Aisha) and the unhappy bookworm wife; the rich pervert, the likable criminal and his moll and the generous and tormented activist who is persecuted by cops and a mental institution, much like the “Freedom Bus Riders” of civil rights renown in the US. And Fly, with feather duster and screwdriver (this tool a very ironic inclusion as he pretty much screws himself a lot) and his Spiders win this reader over with detailed descriptions of their quirks and quarks. (And the taxi inspector reminds me of policewoman Stéphanie who gained a certain notoriety last year.)

    4. My dad was a mechanic and drove a half-track in the war, hauling artillery for mop-up operations. Driving past the columns of infantry sent off in the first wave, guts hanging out and brains spattered in the ditches. Deaf in one ear. V-8 engine with no muffler on one side. Shells bursting in air. Not the star-spangled banner but mortars and the long pointy ones that people use as ashtrays for souvenirs. Taxi drivers and artillery drivers and ambulance drivers. Meeting people by chance; conversations on the fly; encapsulating lives and hopes and dreams. Campbell condensed soup of conversations, perversions, drunkenness, wounds and hurts. No mushroom soup around for miles. Mushy casseroles of anguish and excitement. Americans looking for excitement at the Peel Pub puking perversely on sidewalks; screaming and wearing inappropriate clothing in below zero weather. La nuit blanche of the soul finding solace in books and Rousseau abandoned his children in orphanages. Crescent Street display of racing cars and butts wiping foam from pints. Urge to be cool. Reading is not cool: flight or freedom? Fight or fleedom? God! Is it true that your name is a dyslexic dog? Samuel Beckett and piles of sand. We are buried to the waist, and then to the neck. Keep on singing!

  15. Survey says:

    Reading #8

    1 word:

    1 sentence:
    A dime-store philosopher I once heard said “people just do what they do, then they make up a reason afterwards”.

    1 paragraph:
    Zainab is resigned to the perpetual existence of religion, with all its rules and norms.
    The fact that her love violates one of those rules does not have her question religion, it has her leave it, the way she leaves her “occupied” home. This has the effect of making the rules that sort us all into rule-keepers and rule-breakers, even more entrenched.
    “Religion is here and it will always be here”.

    Stream of consciousness:
    If we didn’t have religion, we would invent it.
    If only as an explanation for all the things we don’t understand, haven’t figured out, or have too many plausible explanations for.
    Our current view of the world demands some ordering principle:
    The universe is not random, we say; there must be something that caused human beings to emerge out of the chaos.

    Fly says to Zainab:
    Do you think you’ll ever change your mind?

    Zainab says to Fly:
    I wish you love Fly; it relieves you of the burden of seeking the truth.

  16. Mezzaluna says:

    Reading number 9

    1. Media-hype

    2. Government policies can sometimes present themselves as a form of cannibalism.

    3. What a mish-mash! the topic introduced in the first paragraph doesn’t necessarily segue logically into the second paragraph. Who is the professor? How come the policy decisions mentioned in the 2nd paragraph so closely resemble what has been going on in Canada in the past few years? Is this fiction or satire? And puh-lease, so much sensationalism about cannibalism – except that it has been used as an excuse to destroy people who have been accused without proof. Journalists and marketing people are kissing cousins.

    4. Papua New Guinea and shrunken heads
    Students lost in the snows in the Andes
    Crunch of molars on bones; steaks and sushi sliced from thighs
    Food and sustenance connected to religion
    Greek gods eating their children
    Body and blood of Christ swishing in precious metal
    Indiana Jones and the holy grail in peasant’s rough cup of plenty
    Darth Harper lurking above us all with twisted grasp
    Of power, mocking citizens and social democrats
    Feeding off our flesh and the GNP of collective efforts
    And wish of hopeful futures
    Klingon sneer and hooded eyes; snake in Paradise
    Reptilian tongue, self-satisfied pot belly and smugness of false God
    Fishermen and artists howling
    Brueghel tableau; Dante’s Inferno.
    Inner circles of hell in Arctic.

    5. “Is the prime minister a mere front for ideologues and think tanks?”
    This is a very good, and essential question that we all have to ask ourselves. Everyone says that the Conservative party is really the Reform party and the secret de polichinelle is that we are ruled by a party that would like to replace the Constitution with a literal interpretation of the Bible. So, in effect, we are not the new Jerusalem, but the new Cairo…Beardless fanatics who are itching to control women, to reinstate a feudal system, to quash artistic license, to shore up the military and start a war to justify their gospel of fear. Hoping that Russia will cooperate, over the mineral rights in the Arctic circle. (And this isn’t stream of consciousness.)

  17. Mezzaluna says:

    Reading number 8

    1. Leavetaking

    2. One of the characters is a believer and the other is an atheist and maybe, an anarchist.

    3. The destruction or disruption of the woman’s homeland (Zainab) was due to religious conflict and she is leaving Fly for Gina, it would seem (conjecture on my part as no quotation marks again or clear indications by the author) and this, despite the risks.

    4. Stream of consciousness inspired by line “What do the stars believe in, Zainab, etc.”
    When I was a little girl, I had a dream which has haunted me since. I was a bird and flew up over a tree and a wire fence, upwards, ever upwards, until I looked down and the sight of the grass yard growing smaller down below as I lifted up scared me. And then, I was back on the sidewalk which was writhing with disgusting snakes and I forgot about this dream until I went snorkeling for the first time in St. Lucia and the bottom dropped away from me as I swam towards the sea from the beach and I panicked but my inner voice said: “Just keep breathing calmly, focus on the mouthpiece and you will be safe”, suspended in clear, salty liquid while small barracudas flashed beside me and black and white striped fish worshipped at the altar of burgundy corals and dark yellow clumps of organic matter which looked like brains. Enveloping me. Alive, not drowning, and floating.

    5. Zainab: Fly, you seem to think that you’re a free electron, a thinking, mobile mass of protoplasm, but I am connected to the God-given source of life and love and I’m willing to take my chances.

    Fly: I wish you loved me as much as you love God and religion.

  18. Survey says:

    Reading #4

    1 word – preening

    1 sentence – A superficial reading of religious texts makes them all seem silly – irrelevant

    1 paragraph – “you are a joker, she said” because you don’t take seriously the possibility of something bigger than ourselves, of something that has been here before we arrived, and will be here after we’re gone. You are a joker because you want to make me laugh by making fun of what I hold dear while simultaneously demonstrating that you are aware of this possibility, have considered it seriously, and in the face of its enormity have responded like an arrogant schoolboy who believes that anything he doesn’t understand is not worth considering, and must be subject to ridicule.

    Stream of consciousness – And so we sit with a brain full of mush, with only our teachers and their texts to mold it into a thinking machine; a machine that can philosophize; or a machine that can create laws; or a machine that can invent tools for building, for organizing, for healing bodies; a machine that can laugh, cry, empathize, can experience love – in all its forms.
    And when our teachers have taught us all they can, and are satisfied that we have learned well, they tell us the secret that we are duty-bound hide from the uninitiated: that it’s all a lie whose purpose is to “keep us off the streets”.

    Title – “God vs. Science” because the passage evokes the irrelevance of the ancient texts in this age of science.

    Line I like the most – “But maybe they are absent only to you”
    because it reminds me that each individual experiences life differently, and his/her experience both shapes an is shaped by his/her beliefs.

  19. Mezzaluna says:

    Reading number 4

    1. Frustration

    2. We are party to the thoughts of a man who is conversing/courting a woman and expressing his frustration at religious and social conventions.

    3. I can’t help agreeing with the narrator’s assessment of the archaic nature of some of “God’s” laws. But, he very clearly refers to the existence of a published text so he is actually referring to a written code which forbids the drinking of win, etc. In essence, then, what he is satirizing are the dictates of men on drinking wine and free love, as written down into a book, as well as the vengefulness and violence of patriarchal gods.

    4. White-bearded God in billowing robes, championed by St. Michael the Archangel in shining armour and mighty sword( isn’t that something Freud would enjoy?) amid statues and paintings of meek and mild, eyes heavenward, hands clasped in pious invocation over chaste maidenly bosom, head-covered, body under tent women, cross of Jesus warding off prurient interest like fear of vampires. Wine in chalice raised and swallowed, Adam’s apple bumping and grinding over marble table covered by lacy cloth.Acquiescence and humility. Obediance in yellow stain of missals. Communal chanting. Billowing clouds on ceiling joined by billowing clouds of incense. Acts of humility in dark confessional boxes where Satan lurks. Penance and penitence. And blood, blood, blood of win and blood of Christ crucified, big as billboard, rearing up in plaster near exits, blood on knees, blood on chest, blood and nails. Thou shalt do this and thou shalt do that and spring robin chirps merrily outside window while organ’s thunderous chords vibrate in the air and swallows the congregation.

    5. The Defiant Wannabee Lover – because the narrator is defying age-old codes and practices and trying to be gallant (like a Frenchman with champagne and flowers) alhtough he has sadistic tendancies (reference to the cuffs and slapping).

    6. “..nature’s laws are arbitrary”. I disagree. Nature’s laws are not arbitrary, they just are. This is very frustrating to humans who have to control others and their natural environment. They do not have dominion over nature. Daily acts of humility are recited at the rising and the setting of the sun, at the end of lunar months and seasonal shifts. We are but ants on this planet, although we are destructive ants.

  20. Whitehorse says:

    Reading # 4 – God’s Laws?




    A discussion on God, the Law…and wine… he stuff of conversations that can stop on a dime or go on for hours and days…


    Absolute law? It feels like eavesdropping on a conversation right in the middle, with absolutely no context, leaving me with a sense of being forced to agree or disagree about it, which immediately calls forth two sides – a chasm – between good and evil…right and wrong, irrelevance & new discoveries, belief in something greater & self-reliance…

    Upon the fourth reading, the subject of the conversation is becoming cloudier instead of clearer. At first I was convinced the main character’s discourse was referring to God, a Higher Power, and Religion, then it seemed like it’s intertwined with so called wine tasting experts. Are we talking Scriptures and or the latest Wine appreciation Bestseller? Hmmm…. is the author making a parallel between these domains? Which laws is he talking about exactly? Religious elders or editors or something else?

    Lost in translation… In my profession, it often happens that when the guest speakers or presenters are unclear or uncomfortable about their subject matter; they wander, they hesitate, they stop in mid-sentence or go backward and it becomes a challenge to thread their words together so that what they said actually makes any sense to the listener. Or when an author reads excerpts of his works and we are left to figure out without context what it all means. Kind of like many things in life I think… we often think, speak, judge and act completely out of context because we think we KNOW, have absolute certainty about how things should be or go…

    And how about an apologetic statement in defence of the text’s irrelevance in this age of great scientific discoveries?
    I’m no sure why it strikes me the most… Perhaps because it seems to imply that scientific discoveries have the power to erase deep-rooted beliefs or traditions. It makes me think of all the revisionist stuff that’s out there today, which I have no problem with, as long as they don’t pretend or claim to hold the absolute truth about whatever subject matter it’s referring to.

  21. Mezzaluna says:

    Reading number 3

    1. Appreciation

    2. The narrator is tyring to gauge what Zainab wants in a mate.

    3. Part of seduction is anticipation and part of anticipation is trying to gauge one’s chances when faced with a potential friend, partner or lover. The narrator has observed Zanaib and is trying to psych her out, maybe with a view to getting to know her better but something about the tone of the passage indicates that the narrator is interested but wants to determine what the risks would be if this attraction was revealed.

    4. “Mona Lisa smile” sang Nat King Cole while while the Joconda waits behind non-glare, bulletproof glass in the Louvre smiling that smile of hers, impervious to the grins and flashes of visiting Spanish students, raucously disobeying the rules, the rules of encounter which border our islands of aloness and solitude like thin spaghetti straps holding up a summer dress. Desperate encounters influenced by toothpaste ads, movies and People magazine as we look in the mirror and compare our nose/butt/boobs/belly with three-dimensional planes of otherness. To see which parts might fit together without too much embarassment or assault our fragile dignities. To measure what degrees of separation could be divided by tungsten flames of attraction and/or lust or love or infatuation. Sparks, unrequited sparks. Torches of drip-dry, blood red roses of intimacy warding off dread of aloness, satisfying need for connection. Look into my eyes! said the hypnotist. And you will see me. And you will see yourself.

    5. Title: What chance do I have?
    There is a poignant hopefulness about this passage written by a young narrator, just as there are rests in musical notation, there is meaning between the lines. Zainab is a person who knows her worth, the measure of her dignity and the depths of her passion. She is the eye of the hurricane and the narrator would like to be drawn into her centre. He is an observer and tries to determine what kind of man she would like. The enumeration in the 2nd paragraph describes different types and he is trying to narrow down her tastes in men, to see what chance he would have if he approached her – “There is a riddle that has to be cracked…”

    6. The line…”if you don’t look attentively, if you don’t go beyond my simplicity to detect the simmering volcano in me, you are not it.” Zainab is a strong woman and women need to be strong. everywhere and all the time, but especially in Egypt. She has a strong character and it infers that she has a strong sexuality, that she is unapologetic and defiant. Another survivor in the midst of chaos.

  22. Whitehorse says:

    Writings & Streams of Consciousness from Reading # 3 – Zainab




    As it seemed to me in reading the first and second excerpt, it’s like going through the dark labyrinth, then coming out and searching for oneself in front of those distortion mirrors, while hearing the echoes of the screams and laughter coming out of the Haunted House…


    The tribal dance motif, played inside the age-old theatre of life, where neither player dares reveal his or her innermost heart and soul – true colours of one’s essence so to speak – for fear of the other(s) finding out exactly one’s truest, most authentic nature, and so one becomes a willing participant the game of hiding exactly that which one hopes will be “found”…all the while being unaware of his or her own part in this play…

    Very enjoyable excerpt to read… felt like an old Hollywood movie that we watch today, compared to more modern productions. The actors seem to look different, speak differently, wear different clothes and have different accents… but do they really? The underlying motif is the same old, same old… Makes one wonder to what degree the models we base ourselves on define what we say, what we do, how we act, who we surround ourselves with…

    I’m thinking of calling this piece the “Zainab Style Shuffle”. It reminds me of all the dancing & prancing, the “vas et viens”, mechanical aspects of a dance.

    “Everything about her seems to be saying, Listen, if you don’t look attentively, if you don’t go beyond my simplicity to detect the simmering volcano in me, YOU ARE NOT IT!” I particularly like this line because it’s such a reflection of humanness. I have distinguished that we spend our entire lives searching for IT, desiring IT, yearning for IT, lying – stealing – killing for IT, without really having a clear view of what IT actually is, since most models we base ourselves on – maybe even all models – have been created from another realm. When we really think about it, it’s an attempt to reach something, someone, or somewhere that only exists in our minds. Someone recently said to me that choosing to create the world one lives in – even if it turns out to be nothing like we imagined – could bring about a far more exciting life to live… I actually do know this on many levels; yet, doubt always creeps in and asks “What if…?” And when this question comes up, soon after, it gives rise to another itch to scratch in search of the newest IT…

  23. David says:

    1 word – Law
    1 sentence – This Book needs some serious updating.
    1 paragraph – It had been a great date, until she brought up the question of ‘the Law’. Now I regard myself as something of an authority on the law, particularly God’s Laws, being a lawyer and a lapsed Rabbi, and thus I proceded to expound on the subject. Clearly she was not impressed, smiling, calling me a joker and then abruptly leaving.
    Stream of consciousness – Wine – it is not just the swirling, sniffing and the spitting – but also the wiggling of the nose. Try it some time , the Connaisseurs have it down to a fine art. From there leave us discuss science and of course free love. That just about sums it up, But then you left.
    Title – The blind date. It’s going well – then a topic comes up and guess what – it,s not going well.
    best line – You are a joker, she said. I have to go.

  24. Survey says:

    READING #3

    1 word – ersatz

    1 sentence – Zainab, as imagined bby the narrator, is not what she seems on the outside; you have to look closely to really see her.

    1 paragraph – It strikes me that in this passage,, the author is painting a picture of Zainab as an enigma.But in describing who she would be looking for as a suitor, more is revealed about the narrator – and who he imagines she would like – than about Zainab, I’m left with not much knowledge about Zainab, and more knowledge about the narrator through his imaginings.

    Stream of consciousness – It seems that some are “waiting for God’s revelation through the smoke of a pack of cigarettes”, as I used to. And now, I’m content in the knowledge that God has already revealed – and continues to reveal – himself to us. like Zainab’s “it” suitors, we have to look attentively for God’s presence in our lives, and not be satisfied with the surface trappings that limit our appreciation of the wonders being revealed around/through us.

    Title – “The prospective Suitor” because the narrator is interested in pursuing Zainab.

    Line I like the most – “Go beyond my simplicity to detect the simmering volcano in me”
    because it was unexpected, and very vivid.

  25. Whitehorse says:

    Reading #2




    Smoke and mirrors that play with the real and the unreal…


    The nonsensical nature of it all! Living and speaking outside the lines puts one in a category of people who need to be fixed because something isn’t quite right, while on the surface, who’s to say exactly what constitutes a functional and dysfunctional brain?

    On this fourth reading, I get a sense of someone on the outside looking in and several “worlds” colliding to create a sort of kaleidoscope of random occurrences, almost like the times when one isn’t certain whether one is dreaming or in a half awake state. The words appear to me like the beads on a multicoloured necklace, assembled in no particular order or pattern, yet when all brought together, actually create a surprisingly attractive and intriguing piece…

  26. Whitehorse says:




    The unbearable lightness and burden of BEING


    The author seems to be roaming inside the imaginary, with childlike abandon and reverie – what child doesn’t at one point wish to run away with the circus – but then, there’s the stark rawness of the world wakes him up to “reality”.

    I find myself searching for a certain meaning hidden around, inside, behind or under his words. Each one evokes an entire world tinged with delight and discovery, a certain sadness… or perhaps cynicism,, or sense of living in the margins or outside some unexplainable boundaries. I get a sense of freedom AND isolation; thriving AND survival, youth AND aging, innocence AND wisdom, wisdom AND naïveté, what’s more… inner AND outer universes!

  27. Mezzaluna says:

    Excerpt number 2

    1. Consultation
    2. I am puzzled by the shift from the second paragraph to the third paragraph.
    3. Okay…What we might have here is a shift from ordinariness to creativity. Some people walk around quite inconspicuously while the theatre in their minds makes up wild scenarios, situations and encounters. If one adds the hormonal flow that imminent sensuality brings to the mix, these can get quite passionate.
    4. High noon. Sex at noon. Pistol-ready on the long dusty street with wooden storefronts. But the farmers and cowboys are not around, only the horses and nosy neighbours. Do nuns have sex? Or go to the toilet? Doctors are sacrosanct, white-jacketed dispensers of potions and amulets with no souls. Brains that memorize and tantalize. Like Fellini. In his neighbourhood of childhood. Red curtains and sklinky heels. Powerful biceps. Illicit sex while teenaged boys salivate. Ripples of desire at lunchtime. Not fair. Leonard Cohen’s room of love. Bring smoked oysters.
    5. Assignation’s ripple effects.
    I came up with this title because that’s the main idea in the excerpt, as witnessed by the narrator. The question is loaded – what didn’t I like about this piece of writing? The excerpt is also loaded and leads to confusion, initially. But it isn’t unpleasant, just complex: appealing to intellect , to lust and social conventions. Not as satisfying as a poem though, which stands alone (and yet connected).
    6. This excerpt might come from the same book as excerpt number 1 because of the reference to the monkeys. Who knows what happened to the kid in the circus environment? Also, the narrator is sensitive to the presence of animals., including the one within us all, as represented by the doctor’s haste in getting to consummation, as opposed to consultation and all, as perceived by the “witness” to the appointment.

  28. Mezzaluna says:

    1. Adaptability
    2. The narrator experiences friendship and empathy amidst unconventional surroundings and extraordinary friends although he is capable of acts of survival.
    3. Usually, children or youths grow up in nondescript or conventional milieux whereas this person has been orphaned on a temporary and/or permandnet basis and seems to have been integrated into a circus family. This fate has allowed him to learn differents aspects of the traduc connected to manual labour and theatrical conventions. He is obviously an authentic person who can see beyond the fat lady’s girth into her soul but is also capable of killing to ensure the survival of the carniverous animals.
    4. I once walked into a three ring circus
    Pink tights and giant tortoise chained on flat-topped post.
    Smell of elephant dung, snarl of great cats, sweet aroma of candy floss and pungent, trampled earth
    Boa constrictor and freak show
    Men sweating to get in with anxious leers
    Black-eyed man wanting me to follow him amidst the arcade and games
    CCM bike abandoned in a field
    Strange world of temptations and queer sights and sounds to go back to time and time again
    Fascination, fear and disgust beside highway 17.
    5. The Survivor

  29. sophie quest says:

    Rawi Hage, #4
    What exactly are laws to us, man’s, God’s, nature’s (women’s aren’t mentioned)?
    The narrator and I possibly agree about laws. Is the narrator wanting a philosophical discussion with this woman or would he like to make love to her? If the former, he’s not including Dionysus in his thoughts about “Gods”. It sounds like Allah that he is talking about.
    If the author is a Muslim man, than it may explain why this passage is so far from a philosophical discussion that I would be having, a woman with a Christian background. Actually I thought that “man’s laws” were not meant to be self-serving, but are often meant to be helpful in regard to community living as well as to be helpful to the people in power. (i.e., traffic lights vs. subsidies for oil production.) I don’t find nature’s laws at all arbitrary but about the untold trillions of pieces in this universe that are working together. As to “updating” God’s laws, well, these change in every society, with some similarities. They appear to be written for humans only, with “nature” setting the boundaries for other species – as long as humans haven’t interferred (which they always do.) Loving is so closely bound by “nature’s” laws that man and God don’t ever prevail. Wine – are these laws about pleasure and overindulgence? I have to agree with the woman when she says my favorite line: “You are a joker. I have to go.”
    Title: Whose laws?? “Guidance by something bigger” says the woman. Personally, I prefer being guiding by the soil, the wind, the sun, a beloved person.
    Favorite line: “You are a joker,” she said. “I have to go.”
    I like this line because if I were the woman I’d be wondering. Is he really trying to make out with me? Might this be our friend from before, Zainab, whom he has imagined wanting philosophical discussions.

  30. Valerie says:

    Reading #4
    One word: Playful
    One sentence: Religion and its laws need to be rethought in this day and age.
    One paragraph: Do we need some larger force to shape our lives? The traditions we have need to be re-examined especially the notion of love. There is seting anger beneath our everyday rituals.
    Stream of consciousness: do all these laws (man’s, nature’s, God’s) conflict?Sarcasm. Cynical. Superficial, What guides us? Dislike of/diddain for authority. Contradictions again…hates pretentious sophistic wine lovers but flips inot French and acts lthe part. Stark and vulgar imageryat the end of the passage which startled and scared me…trauma images..blood on hands and desire to restrain and “slap the shit out of them”. Joking but serious.
    Title: The Laws of Life. I think this is about those invisible elemenst that influence us and how we choose to respond.
    Line liked: No one set of lines really affected me but I did like “Man’s laws are self-serving,nature;s laws are arbitrary and God’s laws….are in need of …serious updates” I think this is controversial, cynical but focuses the discussion.

  31. David says:

    Oh yes – you are so wrong!
    Zainab! You don’t know Zainab – she hardly knows herself. However now I know what you are . I figure that you’re the brooding type up in the caves hoping against hope that.
    Egypt – why is it always Egypt – personally I hate Egypt, the pyramids, Cairo, the Nile. Now Zanzibar – there’s a place and besides it rhymes with Zainab.
    Understand me, you are not it.
    God’s revelation through the smoke of a pack of cigarettes.

  32. redclover says:

    Third piece of writing
    One word-deep

    One sentence – the mystery in trying to understand another person

    One paragraph – The writer is very caught up with this woman, Zainab. She seems to be someone very ordinary in appearance, and yet perhaps a great thinker. But just what it is she thinks about, the writer has not yet discovered. And it is these inner thoughts that would reveal the type of man that would interest her. Is the writer trying to interest her?

    Stream of consciousness – Sometimes as I read this text, I think of people I know who might be Zainab, or one of these types the writer assumes she might be interested in. The description is very vivid, and I am constantly seeing pictures in my mind as I read. The descriptive adjectives are colorful and add to the sense of mystery…the riddle to be cracked.

    Title and why – Oh Zainab! Because everything that follows is about her, describing her, and attempts to understand how one might attract her attention.

    Favorite line and why – ‘go beyond my simplicity to detect the simmering volcano in me’ I like this line because I think it sounds like an interesting adventure, to discover what is deep inside another person.

  33. Deon says:

    One word – It
    One sentence – What kind of person does Zainab want?
    One paragraph – Zainab is looking, not for someone who is trying to impress, but someone who is mysterious with connections to the higher powers. She is afraid of the afterlife so want’s someone who can be in touch with it, who will understand the volcano in her.
    Stream of consciousness – What does Zainab do? Where does she “play” her austere, intellectual parts. Is there a volcano inside me? What would blow up if I knew myself deeply? It’s true that I am not impressed with silly shows, and I am wanting to find a deeper relationship to the higher powers. But it’s not because I fear the afterlife.
    Title – Zainab’s search – According to the author, she seems to be looking for a person to lead her deeper.
    Favorite line – “Everything about her seems to be saying, Listen, if you don’t look attentively, if you don’t go beyond my simplicity to detect the summering volcano in me, you are not it.” This line tells me that everyone has hidden yearnings that can be deduced by what is seen on the outside if we just look properly.

  34. sophie quest says:

    Does the narrative have a clue as to what Zainab is thinking and wanting?
    If the narrator were a woman, he’d simply ask Zainab about her riddles. He’s imagining his world and saying it’s hers. I suspect she’d rather be asked, but he’s too interested in displaying his imagination.
    Oh, Zainab, nice to meet you. Did you say you laughed heartily at reading those paragraphs about you? That you turned to your rather ordinary carpenter lover and you both laughed together, ate, made love, took a walk. “Ah, what an imagination that young man has.”
    Title: “Is she?”
    Favorite line: the last sentence

  35. Valerie says:

    Reading #3
    One Word: Mystical
    One Sentence: A person is seacrhing for the truth.
    One paragraph: Who will help to “crack the riddle” of the afterlife? Who can you trust to engage you in this important journey? Listen.
    Stream of consciousness: sharp contrasts: serious/buffoon;loquacious/terse;austere/showy. Plato’s Cave; the simmering volcano erpts; riffing on who will reveal God’s truth. Where do you find it? Does it emerge from within or it it proclaimed from without? symmetry from beggining to the end of the passge…Zainab…other of the universe. Distraction(carpet merchants,buffons, caretakers etc) yet focus Zainab. Listen for the echoes of life.
    Title: “Afterlife”. I think the author is trying to not only make sense of the world as it si but the world beyond. he is looking/listening for clues as to whether there is an afterlife, if it should be feared and if it is related to the here and now.
    Most liked line: “go beyond my simplicity to detect the simmering volcano in me..” I think this is a universal theme, very religious in some ways. It is about getting in touch with matters of important to you and to you in this world.

  36. sophie quest says:

    Rawi Hage #2
    Animals we all are.
    Jerking, shifting, fancies, conspiring, watch, howl, hiss, tap, beat – lots of doing here!
    Going all over the place, is it mating season every day? Listening, this author is paying attention. Listening, being, too observant for comfort for the doctor. What if we all watched so carefully? Would humans change?
    Title: Shifting jaws, gossiping snakes (2 powerful images)
    I don’t like the doctor and I suspect the author doesn’t either
    This could easily be the grown up self of the person of the first excerpt talking, so I guess it’s the same book. This narrator sounds like he grew up in a circus.

  37. sophie quest says:

    Reading one: Circus life
    Could all of our lives be described so well?
    Yes, our lives contain clouds on our hair, gliding birds in the sky and the pain of starvation. Is this why we love circuses, are fascinated by them?
    Since I had a bad fall 3 weeks ago and a fever this week, I am more aware of the outer limits of our lives, which we sometimes expect to stay in the comfortable middle. The entire earth and inhabitants, of course, include such a tremendous variety of blessings and horrors, perhaps we need the rest provided by simply digging up our carrots and beets.
    Title: “Yes” Yes to life, all of it.
    Favorite sentence: “And she kissed my bright face and stepped out of the tent, feeling the clouds on her hair and caressing the gliding birds in the sky.”

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