Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My language, my nation لغتي- موطني

""Even literature translated into Arabic is unreadable. And now you have these PalFest writers, like Suad Amiry and Raja Shehadah, who were both raised in Palestine, but write in English. If this is not ironic, I don't know what irony is."

Culture of imperialism

But this problem is not unique to PalFest or Israel's Palestinian minority.

From Beirut to Amman, much of today's cultural activities are conducted not in Arabic but in English, thus restricting the audience to either middle class English-speaking Arabs or Western ex-pats.

"The dominance of the English language is a sign of the NGO era here in occupied Palestine," Darwish said.

"In some Arab societies the high and abnormal usage of English is a sign of class orientation. Simply, it's the old lesson of culture and imperialism.""

While this may be somehow overstated as Angry Arab puts it here, the overuse and abuse of English is definitely a sign of class orientation and is pervasive in many Arab capitals (not in Sana'a though). And it is also true that a lot of NGO-styled activism and art in bourgeois Beirut takes place in English (both in language and in method).One reason is that there are many expats who are part of these groups. Some members are also second generation Lebanese who have come home for a while to reconnect. Others are simply Lebanese products of the private schooling system and who are more at ease with English. But this is not how it is in Dahieh and in Tariq al jadideh or in the other periferies. In other words, there are those who struggle in English and those who struggle with English.  Also, art in the region previously known as Shar'iyyeh, French is the language of the arts and of bourgeois rebellions. 

That is one of the principal reasons why I started positing in Arabic on this blog and why I write in Al Akhbar and why my last 2 books were written in both Arabic and English (in the same book). How do you want to change your world if you can't even speak its language? 

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