Saturday, 13 August 2011

Binyavanga Wainaina/1




Binyavanga Wainaina
Non posso  negare che stimo e apprezzo molto il lavoro di Binyavanga Wainaina, dal 2002 quando gli fu conferito il Cane Prize for African Writing  con il racconto "Discovering Home", al 2005 quando sulla rivista Granta uscì il brillante e provocatorio articolo How to write about Africa denunciando con ironia gli stereotipi che ruotano e proliefano ancora oggi attorno all'Africa, fino ad arrivare all'uscita del suo ultimo libro " One day I will write about this place" che non ho ancora avuto il piacere di leggere ma che farò non appena arriverò in Sudafrica, tra poche settimane.

Ieri è uscita sul New York  nella rubrica del Sunday Book Review a cura di Alexandra Fuller una bella recensione al suo ultimo libro,  che non può che essere un invito a scoprire, per chi non ,lo conosca già, questo talentuoso scrittore keniota che tuttavia  i lettori italiani possono aver letto sulle pagine di  Internazionale dove Wainaina è stato opinionista.

 

A Writer’s Beginnings in Kenya

ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE A Memoir

Harried reader, I’ll save you precious time: skip this review and head directly to the bookstore for Binyavanga Wainaina’s stand-up-and-cheer coming-of-age memoir, “One Day I Will Write About This Place.” Although written by an East African and set in East and Southern Africa, Wainaina’s book is not just for Afrophiles or lovers of post­colonial literature. This is a book for anyone who still finds the nourishment of a well-­written tale preferable to the empty-­calorie jolt of a celebrity confessional or Swedish mystery.
Not that Wainaina is likely to judge anyone’s taste in books. In fact, at its heart, this is a story about how Wainaina was almost eaten alive by his addiction to reading anything available. “I am starting to read storybooks,” he says of his 11-year-old self, growing up in Nakuru, Kenya. “If words, in English, arranged on the page have the power to control my body in this world, this sound and language can close its folds, like a fan, and I will slide into its world, where things are arranged differently.”
As he leaves childhood behind — “My nose sweats a lot these days, and my armpits smell, and I wake up a lot at night all wriggly and hot, like Congo rumba music” — Wainaina retreats further from the confusing realities of politics and adolescence and his big multinational family (his father a Kenyan businessman and farm owner, his mother a Ugandan salon owner) and deeper into a world of words. At school he is told, and believes, that he is supposed to become a doctor or a lawyer, an engineer or a scientist. But Wainaina seems constitutionally incapable of absorbing anything that would further a career in these fields. “I spend all useful time in my advanced-level years making plays and novels,” he writes. “I do not study much. Our most successful play is a courtroom drama called ‘The Verdict.’ I play a prostitute with a heart of gold called Desirée who falls in love with a repressed boy who murders his mother. The stage is beautiful. We have raided the chapel for fine Anglican velvets and old wood tables with gravitas.”
At home during breaks from boarding school, Wainaina lives a dream-life of stories even while making a cheerful effort to act the expected part of a good man-child. “I know nothing about old Peugeots,” he writes of an outing with his father to fix some of the family’s farm equipment. “There are things men are supposed to know, and I do not want to know those things, but I want to belong and the members need to know about crankshafts and points and frogs and holy manly grails and puppy dog tails. Secular things to hang onto.”
By the time Wainaina leaves Kenya to attend university in South Africa, a country smoldering with the last poisonous fumes of apartheid, his addiction to books is complete. He drops out of school to pursue more completely a life of reading. “Over the past year,” he writes, “as I fell away from everything and everybody, I moved out of the campus dorms and into a one-room outhouse. . . . My mattress has sunk in the middle. Books, cigarettes, dirty cups, empty chocolate wrappers and magazines are piled around my horizontal torso, on the floor, all within arm’s reach. If I put my mattress back on the bunk I am too close to the light that streams in from the window, so I use the chipboard bunk as a sort of scribble pad of options: butter, a knife, peanut butter and chutney, empty tins of pilchards, bread, a small television set, many books, matches and a sprawl of candles, all in various stages of undress and disintegration.”
Wainaina’s almost terrifying inability to do anything but read, even as the world around him falls apart (“I returned to my home, Kenya, to find people so far beyond cynicism that they looked back on their cynical days with fondness”), is a thread to follow through the book. The plot spoiler is in our hands — Wainaina obviously figured out that he must write to survive — yet the story of how he achieves this dream is gripping less for its preordained conclusion than for the way it unfolds in Wainaina’s jazzy style: riffing, inside-­jokey, un-self-­conscious. “I am starting to scribble my thoughts, to write these moments,” he says of his fledgling attempts to make stories from the raw material of his rich world. “It is when this is all done that I do what I do best. I look up, confused and fearful, all accordion with kimay; then soak in the safe patterns of other people, and live my life borrowing from them; then retreat — for reasons I don’t know — to look down, inside the safety of novels; and then I lift my eyes again to people, and make them my own sort of confused pattern. I am no sharp arrow cutting through the career ladder. It’s time to try to make some sort of sense of things on the written page. At least there, they can be shaped. I doubt myself the moment I think this.”
By 2001, Wainaina is 30 years old and tired of his itinerant life in South Africa. “I want to be home,” he writes. “Just to be home.” He returns to Kenya and finds housing near one of Nairobi’s largest slums. “Hostels like these are popular with college students and the newly employed. They are cheap and secure. Water is rationed. That first night I left the dry taps open, and I woke up to see my laptop floating in four inches of water. The screen died. I bought a cheap secondhand P.C. screen in the city, and now it is working.” By day Wainaina writes. By night he makes his way “through the zigzag paths” of the city’s streets “to catch the flickering streams of people.”
Wainaina was catapulted into the literary spotlight when his autobiographical novella “Discovering Home” was awarded the 2002 Caine Prize, sometimes called “the African Booker.” The work arose from a long, late-night e-mail to a friend, and it retains an unedited familiarity. “There is a problem,” it begins. “Somebody has locked themselves in the toilet. The upstairs bathroom is locked and Frank has disappeared with the keys. There is a small riot at the door, as drunk women with smudged lipstick and crooked wigs bang on the door."
Wainaina followed up that success with “How to Write About Africa,” a provocative essay that appeared in Granta in 2005. “In your text,” he wrote, “treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: 54 countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.”
“One Day I Will Write About This Place” grew in part from the seeds of those shorter works. But while their superbly vivid moments never quite cohered, this latest work is brimming with insouciant virtuosity, and it is utterly resolved. Wainaina’s Africa is not all glamorous poverty and backlit giraffes. It’s an Africa in which the lost are perpetually leading the blind, and yet somehow still find their way home.

By Binyavanga Wainaina
256 pp. Graywolf Press. $24.

Vi propongo l'ascolto di questi tre video in cui Wainaina condivide la sua opinione e il suo punto di vista, più dettagliato possibile su come l'Africa vada pensata  e vista da una angolazione diversa e inquadrata in un'ottica completamente nuova perché possa agire autonomamente, terminando così di continuare ad essere tristemente "l'invenzione del mondo", parafrasando Nadine Gordimer.






Binyavanga Wainaina/1




Binyavanga Wainaina
Non posso  negare che stimo e apprezzo molto il lavoro di Binyavanga Wainaina, dal 2002 quando gli fu conferito il Cane Prize for African Writing  con il racconto "Discovering Home", al 2005 quando sulla rivista Granta uscì il brillante e provocatorio articolo How to write about Africa denunciando con ironia gli stereotipi che ruotano e proliefano ancora oggi attorno all'Africa, fino ad arrivare all'uscita del suo ultimo libro " One day I will write about this place" che non ho ancora avuto il piacere di leggere ma che farò non appena arriverò in Sudafrica, tra poche settimane.

Ieri è uscita sul New York  nella rubrica del Sunday Book Review a cura di Alexandra Fuller una bella recensione al suo ultimo libro,  che non può che essere un invito a scoprire, per chi non ,lo conosca già, questo talentuoso scrittore keniota che tuttavia  i lettori italiani possono aver letto sulle pagine di  Internazionale dove Wainaina è stato opinionista.

 

A Writer’s Beginnings in Kenya

ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE A Memoir

Harried reader, I’ll save you precious time: skip this review and head directly to the bookstore for Binyavanga Wainaina’s stand-up-and-cheer coming-of-age memoir, “One Day I Will Write About This Place.” Although written by an East African and set in East and Southern Africa, Wainaina’s book is not just for Afrophiles or lovers of post­colonial literature. This is a book for anyone who still finds the nourishment of a well-­written tale preferable to the empty-­calorie jolt of a celebrity confessional or Swedish mystery.
Not that Wainaina is likely to judge anyone’s taste in books. In fact, at its heart, this is a story about how Wainaina was almost eaten alive by his addiction to reading anything available. “I am starting to read storybooks,” he says of his 11-year-old self, growing up in Nakuru, Kenya. “If words, in English, arranged on the page have the power to control my body in this world, this sound and language can close its folds, like a fan, and I will slide into its world, where things are arranged differently.”
As he leaves childhood behind — “My nose sweats a lot these days, and my armpits smell, and I wake up a lot at night all wriggly and hot, like Congo rumba music” — Wainaina retreats further from the confusing realities of politics and adolescence and his big multinational family (his father a Kenyan businessman and farm owner, his mother a Ugandan salon owner) and deeper into a world of words. At school he is told, and believes, that he is supposed to become a doctor or a lawyer, an engineer or a scientist. But Wainaina seems constitutionally incapable of absorbing anything that would further a career in these fields. “I spend all useful time in my advanced-level years making plays and novels,” he writes. “I do not study much. Our most successful play is a courtroom drama called ‘The Verdict.’ I play a prostitute with a heart of gold called Desirée who falls in love with a repressed boy who murders his mother. The stage is beautiful. We have raided the chapel for fine Anglican velvets and old wood tables with gravitas.”
At home during breaks from boarding school, Wainaina lives a dream-life of stories even while making a cheerful effort to act the expected part of a good man-child. “I know nothing about old Peugeots,” he writes of an outing with his father to fix some of the family’s farm equipment. “There are things men are supposed to know, and I do not want to know those things, but I want to belong and the members need to know about crankshafts and points and frogs and holy manly grails and puppy dog tails. Secular things to hang onto.”
By the time Wainaina leaves Kenya to attend university in South Africa, a country smoldering with the last poisonous fumes of apartheid, his addiction to books is complete. He drops out of school to pursue more completely a life of reading. “Over the past year,” he writes, “as I fell away from everything and everybody, I moved out of the campus dorms and into a one-room outhouse. . . . My mattress has sunk in the middle. Books, cigarettes, dirty cups, empty chocolate wrappers and magazines are piled around my horizontal torso, on the floor, all within arm’s reach. If I put my mattress back on the bunk I am too close to the light that streams in from the window, so I use the chipboard bunk as a sort of scribble pad of options: butter, a knife, peanut butter and chutney, empty tins of pilchards, bread, a small television set, many books, matches and a sprawl of candles, all in various stages of undress and disintegration.”
Wainaina’s almost terrifying inability to do anything but read, even as the world around him falls apart (“I returned to my home, Kenya, to find people so far beyond cynicism that they looked back on their cynical days with fondness”), is a thread to follow through the book. The plot spoiler is in our hands — Wainaina obviously figured out that he must write to survive — yet the story of how he achieves this dream is gripping less for its preordained conclusion than for the way it unfolds in Wainaina’s jazzy style: riffing, inside-­jokey, un-self-­conscious. “I am starting to scribble my thoughts, to write these moments,” he says of his fledgling attempts to make stories from the raw material of his rich world. “It is when this is all done that I do what I do best. I look up, confused and fearful, all accordion with kimay; then soak in the safe patterns of other people, and live my life borrowing from them; then retreat — for reasons I don’t know — to look down, inside the safety of novels; and then I lift my eyes again to people, and make them my own sort of confused pattern. I am no sharp arrow cutting through the career ladder. It’s time to try to make some sort of sense of things on the written page. At least there, they can be shaped. I doubt myself the moment I think this.”
By 2001, Wainaina is 30 years old and tired of his itinerant life in South Africa. “I want to be home,” he writes. “Just to be home.” He returns to Kenya and finds housing near one of Nairobi’s largest slums. “Hostels like these are popular with college students and the newly employed. They are cheap and secure. Water is rationed. That first night I left the dry taps open, and I woke up to see my laptop floating in four inches of water. The screen died. I bought a cheap secondhand P.C. screen in the city, and now it is working.” By day Wainaina writes. By night he makes his way “through the zigzag paths” of the city’s streets “to catch the flickering streams of people.”
Wainaina was catapulted into the literary spotlight when his autobiographical novella “Discovering Home” was awarded the 2002 Caine Prize, sometimes called “the African Booker.” The work arose from a long, late-night e-mail to a friend, and it retains an unedited familiarity. “There is a problem,” it begins. “Somebody has locked themselves in the toilet. The upstairs bathroom is locked and Frank has disappeared with the keys. There is a small riot at the door, as drunk women with smudged lipstick and crooked wigs bang on the door."
Wainaina followed up that success with “How to Write About Africa,” a provocative essay that appeared in Granta in 2005. “In your text,” he wrote, “treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: 54 countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.”
“One Day I Will Write About This Place” grew in part from the seeds of those shorter works. But while their superbly vivid moments never quite cohered, this latest work is brimming with insouciant virtuosity, and it is utterly resolved. Wainaina’s Africa is not all glamorous poverty and backlit giraffes. It’s an Africa in which the lost are perpetually leading the blind, and yet somehow still find their way home.

By Binyavanga Wainaina
256 pp. Graywolf Press. $24.

Vi propongo l'ascolto di questi tre video in cui Wainaina condivide la sua opinione e il suo punto di vista, più dettagliato possibile su come l'Africa vada pensata  e vista da una angolazione diversa e inquadrata in un'ottica completamente nuova perché possa agire autonomamente, terminando così di continuare ad essere tristemente "l'invenzione del mondo", parafrasando Nadine Gordimer.






Monday, 1 August 2011

Giovani poeti kenioti...

Ogni venerdì pomeriggio al Kenya National Theatre di Nairobi, nello spazio antistante l'ingresso, si forma un laboratorio en plain air. Qui diversi artisti, musicisti, ballerini, poeti e scrittori si riuniscono davanti a una folla di spettatori composta perlopiù da studenti, impiegati, disoccupati, giovani in cerca di risposte e di idee. E' uno spazio libero dove possono fare critica, satira, senza restrizioni né censure.
Qui, in un venerdì straordinariamente assolato, conosco un giovane poeta. Si chiama Githaiga, ha scritto versi sulla libertà, sul senso profondo di chi considera la parola un ponte. Con me nella borsa tengo sempre un taccuino dove annoto pensieri e frasi che sono entrate a far parte della mia sfera percettiva, e così colgo l'occasione per condividerne uno con Githaiga. Mi sembra che Czeslaw Milosz faccia al caso suo: A che serve la poesia se non salva le nazioni e i popoli?. Condivide, anche lui vorrebbe avere la possibilità di divulgare le sue poesie, studiare i grandi poeti e, perché no, pubblicare un libro. Mancano le opportunità, l'università è spesso inaccessibile per via delle rette costose, anche comprare libri  costa troppo.Githaiga ha la frotuna di frequentare la biblioteca pubblica e lì, quando finisce di lavorare al Ken Chicken, la catena di fast food più popolare del Kenya che serve pollo e patatine fritte, si chiude in un mondo che gli è congeniale. Vorrebbe confrontarsi con altri autori come lui per questo ogni sabato pomeriggio, con altri ragazzi della sua età, si trova agli Uhuru Gardens per leggere i suoi lavori e scambiare opinioni. Sono tanti i ragazzi come Githaiga che in Kenya hanno una voce e cercano un modo per diffonderla.
Per alcuni di loro la poesia è lo strumento per ribadire la propria identità, per altri la poesia è un canale per veicolare i propri sentimenti e le proprie idee, per altri ancora la poesia è musica, quella che dà il ritmo all'esistenza. Non c'è strada di Nairobi che non abbia le sue VOCI, i suoi CANTI, le sue PAROLE , né slum che non trasferisca la propria identità urbana in un incontro trasversale di lingue e ritmi.
Questo video  è una raccolta di VOCI e PAROLE di giovani poeti kenioti che hanno scelto la strada come Teatro per le loro performance.


POETRY IS MUSIC AND FEELING
POETRY IS ME
AND I AM WORDS
SO FEEL ME
AND HEAR ME
SEE ME CLEARLY...
I AM POETRY




Giovani poeti kenioti...

Ogni venerdì pomeriggio al Kenya National Theatre di Nairobi, nello spazio antistante l'ingresso, si forma un laboratorio en plain air. Qui diversi artisti, musicisti, ballerini, poeti e scrittori si riuniscono davanti a una folla di spettatori composta perlopiù da studenti, impiegati, disoccupati, giovani in cerca di risposte e di idee. E' uno spazio libero dove possono fare critica, satira, senza restrizioni né censure.
Qui, in un venerdì straordinariamente assolato, conosco un giovane poeta. Si chiama Githaiga, ha scritto versi sulla libertà, sul senso profondo di chi considera la parola un ponte. Con me nella borsa tengo sempre un taccuino dove annoto pensieri e frasi che sono entrate a far parte della mia sfera percettiva, e così colgo l'occasione per condividerne uno con Githaiga. Mi sembra che Czeslaw Milosz faccia al caso suo: A che serve la poesia se non salva le nazioni e i popoli?. Condivide, anche lui vorrebbe avere la possibilità di divulgare le sue poesie, studiare i grandi poeti e, perché no, pubblicare un libro. Mancano le opportunità, l'università è spesso inaccessibile per via delle rette costose, anche comprare libri  costa troppo.Githaiga ha la frotuna di frequentare la biblioteca pubblica e lì, quando finisce di lavorare al Ken Chicken, la catena di fast food più popolare del Kenya che serve pollo e patatine fritte, si chiude in un mondo che gli è congeniale. Vorrebbe confrontarsi con altri autori come lui per questo ogni sabato pomeriggio, con altri ragazzi della sua età, si trova agli Uhuru Gardens per leggere i suoi lavori e scambiare opinioni. Sono tanti i ragazzi come Githaiga che in Kenya hanno una voce e cercano un modo per diffonderla.
Per alcuni di loro la poesia è lo strumento per ribadire la propria identità, per altri la poesia è un canale per veicolare i propri sentimenti e le proprie idee, per altri ancora la poesia è musica, quella che dà il ritmo all'esistenza. Non c'è strada di Nairobi che non abbia le sue VOCI, i suoi CANTI, le sue PAROLE , né slum che non trasferisca la propria identità urbana in un incontro trasversale di lingue e ritmi.
Questo video  è una raccolta di VOCI e PAROLE di giovani poeti kenioti che hanno scelto la strada come Teatro per le loro performance.


POETRY IS MUSIC AND FEELING
POETRY IS ME
AND I AM WORDS
SO FEEL ME
AND HEAR ME
SEE ME CLEARLY...
I AM POETRY