In Calais

A Calais
Emmanuel Carrère, “In Calais”
Adelphi Edizioni

Fiiiiiinally I’ve managed to add a second book to my “read” list this year 2017!! Forty-nine pages of awesomeness I read aloud to my sister while on the beach on Easter Sunday. Forty-nine tiny tiny pages but nonetheless a published book, and one I gave five stars on Goodreads 😉

I had never had anything to do with Carrère before but now I think I might want to stumble into him again, in the future. Smart guy for sure, and I love the way he writes. Would also love to read him in his original French.

So what about the book? Since it doesn’t seem to be available in English (I feel privileged!), here’s a fairly literal translation of what’s written on its cover:

<<What I’m interested in is to be able to write a reportage in the same way I’d write a book>>, states Emmanuel Carrère. Thus, in the “Jungle” of Calais, he doesn’t tell us about the mud, the violence and the misery of the camp, but rather about all that is around it: the anger and frustration of a part of the Calaisians; the compassion and solidarity of another part; the factories and abandoned neighbourhoods; the enormous police apparatus; the mediatic circus; the “tourism of pain”. And he does it in his affable and direct way, with the look, simultaneously clear-headed and sympathetic, of who constantly questions everything – even himself.

I admit it: strictly speaking, this book isn’t about the Middle East. It’s set in France, mostly talks about French people, and is written by a French man. But… but… it does link to migrants and refugees that come from the Middle East, too; and I would highly recommend it a priori 🙂 …plus, it’ll only take less than an hour of your time and you’ll still be able to brag about having read one more book hehehe!!


See book details on Goodreads

The books I want to read

According to my Goodreads account (I am Kirini on there, join me!) there are no less than 153 books I know of and definitely want to read in the, a-hem, near future*. Thirty of these I have marked with an extra label: “Arabic – Islam – ME – migration”, where obbbviously ME stands for Middle East and not for… me 😛

I just thought that refreshing the contents of that list in my mind couldn’t do any harm, so here we go – just to reinforce the fact that #ilovelists as well as #uselesshashtags 😉 You’ll see that these books come in different languages and that the names of their writers alone reflect a certain diversity. That is entirely on purpose, of course!

  • Passoni Laura, Au coeur du Daesh avec mon fils
  • Franceschi Karim, Il combattente: storia dell’italiano che ha difeso Kobane dall’Isis
  • Pagano Ernesto, Napolislam
  • Mazzucco Melania, Limbo
  • Mazzucco Melania, Io sono con te: storia di Brigitte
  • Barghouti Mourid, I saw Ramallah
  • Sardar Ziauddin, The no-nonsense guide to Islam
  • Stalker Peter, The no-nonsense guide to international migration
  • Anonymous, The way of a pilgrim
  • Del Grande Gabriele, Il mare di mezzo
  • Nasr Seyyed Hussein, The study Quran: a new translation and commentary
  • Issou Abdelilah, Mémoires d’un soldat marocain
  • Hamadi Shady, Voci di anime
  • Hamadi Shady, La felicità araba: storia della mia famiglia e della rivoluzione siriana
  • Mossino Alberto, L’amore vero l’ha fatto solo con me
  • Mossino Alberto, Quell’africana che non parla neanche bene l’italiano
  • Mossino Alberto, La grande opera
  • Pen Project, Stories from Amman
  • Mahmoud Ibtihal, Snow in Amman: an anthology of short stories from Jordan
  • Zaghmout Fadi, The bride of Amman
  • Sarif Shamim, I can’t think straight
  • Munif Abdul Rahman, Story of a city: a childhood in Amman
  • Orbach Benjamin, Live from Jordan: letters home from my journey through the Middle East
  • Abu-Jaber Diana, The language of baklava: a memoir
  • Faqir Fadia, Pillars of salt
  • Noor, A leap of faith: memoirs of an unexpected life
  • Fiocchetti Patrizia, Variazioni di luna: donne combattenti in Iran, Kurdistan, Afghanistan
  • Tamimi Widad, Le rose del vento: storia di destini incrociati
  • Gordon Neve, Israel’s occupation
  • Campanini Massimo, Quale Islam? Jihadismo, radicalismo, riformismo
  • Fletcher Martin, Walking Israel: a personal search for the soul of a nation.

This last one makes it 31 and I just now remembered it because I happen to know Martin Fletcher and saw the book while staying at his house in Tel Aviv in December hehe 😉 My travel buddy started reading it there and said she was enjoying it lots, so why not pick it up myself!! And oh, I might start from “Le rose del vento” because it’s the only one I have a copy of as of yet.

* If only I actually started reading one of these days… !

Yep. I want to. I should.
Please let me know if you know of anything you’d recommend adding to this list!!!

“Les deux réfugiés”

We all know what happened today. Personally I felt very affected, though to the best of my knowledge not one cell in my body is American, because I care about my American friends and also because this will likely impact pretty much everybody in the world.

I felt empty. Sad of a sadness seldom experienced before. Mildly angry, too, but at no-one in particular; and my anger usually tends to sadness anyway. I had no desire to feel this way: I believe in the yin and the yang, am fundamentally optimistic and make it a firm, constant choice to go for whatever good there is in things, so all I rationally wanted was to stick to hope and to the idea that each of us can produce positive change NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.

Unfortunately that proposition of mine wasn’t going very well (except during my much-needed afternoon nap, since I barely slept last night and still went to class this morning)… until I watched this exquisite French theatre play at the Institut Français here in Amman – “The two refugees”.

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The Malas brothers propose a theatre play at the same time funny and touching on two refugees in France. Their one and only link is the French language, which they strive to learn since their arrival. Despite all that seems to oppose them, homesickness, their refugee status and the numerous difficulties they have to face will bring them closer. A theatre play the universal character of which refers us to a particularly strong reality in this region of the world. 

As I described it to a friend:

So. Two young men. They are both refugees but from different countries, you’ll never find out which ones exactly, and French isn’t their mother tongue but it’s the only language they can communicate in. They live in Paris. You see them in their house – they share it. They are very different from each other: one (you don’t know their names nor ever will, either) is quiet, cultured, and finds pride in respecting French grammar and using elaborate sentences to fit in his new society; the other is lively, emotional, loves dancing and telling stories, and he’s in love. Both have mixed feelings for France and the French people and mock them, envy them, criticize them, want to be them. They play around, have suicidal thoughts and express their wishes for the future, they dress up and imagine parallel lives, they sing to Jacques Brel songs, fight, drink tea… Life in a nutshell, really well done

I really, really loved it. These (Syrian, btw) guys are GREAT actors and… I don’t know. It’s like this story brought me back to life on a day when everything felt numb and surreal. Hooray for the right medicine at the right time and place – the future needs us to be strong.

A Syrian refugee just rang my doorbell

Ok so this just happened, literally a minute ago: someone rang my doorbell and it turned out to be a young refugee woman from Syria, pointing at her blue-coloured passport to prove her identity to me before I could even think of doubting it (not that I would have, anyway; I tend to trust people‘s word). She wanted clothes, or anyway that’s what she asked for first: mlabbas.

To be completely honest, it wasn’t the first time this kind of thing took place. Since arriving in Amman, we’ve maybe had two or three Syrian kids do the same, and another woman or two- but we rarely decided to open the door, and we never gave anything to anybody that I’m aware of. The reasons for this are the same why I/we don’t give money to every single beggar we see on the street in our countries of origin or wherever else: if I gave something to everybody who asks me for it, I’d soon end up begging for other people’s help myself. Or at least that’s the idea.

I wonder if it is because I’m home alone right now, or because today I’m not feeling particularly well (though fine in spirit, don’t you worry!). Maybe it’s the unusually cloudy sky, the echo of the call to prayer in the air, the thoughts I’ve been turning over in my mind in the past few days… Fact is, today I decided to give what I could to this lady whose name I have already forgotten. And what I could, in this particular instance, translated into

– a pair of light long trousers
– a pair of light pijama trousers
– two light long-sleeved tops
I told her I was sorry but I only have the bare necessities with me here and I can’t do without my winter clothes right now. I also felt quite selfish but I didn’t want to give her the t-shirt and the dress I just recently got as presents from a friend and from my sister. To feel less guilty I told myself they weren’t going to be of much use to her anyway because they are armless. 
– approx. 950gr of sugar
– half a bag of rice
– 5 dinars
– a bar of Italian torrone my mum had sent me.

She told me she has three little kids, the oldest being 5 years old and the youngest, currently sick, just a few months old. She was also trying to tell me something else, her story I presume, but my Arabic just isn’t good enough yet and I guess it would’ve been weird to present her with a recording device so that I could study and possibly translate her words later on. We’ll never know now… What’s for sure is that giving her those things, I felt weird. Really weird. Even now I don’t know what to think or feel. Part of me is convinced this will change nothing; while another part believes that, at the very least, this changed something in myself. My mind is currently sending me pictures of St Francis, reminding me of his vow of poverty and that I always always always have something I don’t really need. The question is, once you start to give, can you stop? Should you stop? Who should you give to? Why should you give? What effect does giving or not giving have on me as a person?

Recently it seems that I can only find questions, and never answers.
I suppose it’s not a bad start for self-improvement…

Oh, nice detail: I saw my neighbour for the second time in over two months. The first time was when she asked us if she could borrow our scale to weigh a suitcase. And today we met for twenty seconds as we both brought clothes to this refugee lady. I really liked that rapid exchange of smiles across the hallway– three women of different nationalities and walks of life sharing a moment in front of an elevator.

“Good luck and have a happy day”, I said to the lady as I closed the door. “I wish you every success in life”, she replied. Masha’allah, habibti; all the best to you and your family ❤