Author’s Note: I prepared these remarks for the “Going on the Record: Resistance and Writing” panel discussion at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, but the format of the panel was changed, so I didn’t end up delivering them. The Mantle has kindly offered to publish my remarks as an essay.
by Rajkamal Kahlon
by Ananya Vajpeyi
From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia
by Pankaj Mishra (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)
Eleven years after the September 11th attacks, I woke up to an eerily similar day. Clear skies, nice weather, and, more or less, a noticeable amount of silence. I remember that day, first I heard the planes and then I watched the towers fall. I remember thinking how small the world had gotten, how actions elicit violent response and how this day should remind us that the world, not just Americans, must work more closely for less war and stronger relationships with, at the very least, mutual respect and understanding. Destiny sent us in an opposite direction. It sent the world toward conflict and war.
If you need proof of how truly confusing the situation is in Libya, look no further than last Saturday's coverage of the conflict on CNN where one of their reporters, Reza Sayah presented the story of a Benghazi man identified as Al Mehdi Zeu who died fighting against the troops of Moammar Gadhafi. Al Mehdi's story was framed in a heroic manner, with the 49-year old oil company worker described as a man who sacrificed himself so that Libya's rebels might score a key victory.
The U.S. government denied a travel visa to Afghan women’s and democracy activist, Malalai Joya. In 2005, Joya became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government.
In this interview with writer, director, performer, and theater maker Kayhan Irani, we discuss the importance of art and artists in social movements, her experience working with artists in war-torn Afghanistan, the roles of artists in conflict zones like Libya and Egypt, as well as the role of artists on the American homefront.