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Monday, 3 December 2007

Eli Amir Says...

Eli Amir who was personal adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres and also worked under Golda Meir, handling peace negotiations and who is today, hailed as one of Israel's most lauded writers with several important novels, that include The Pigeon Breeder of Bagdad and Yasmin, said during his talk at the ongoing Singapore Writers' Festival that many new authors (not all) tended to focus heavily on their egos, these days. "Small egos," he added on, with an afterthought.
The scholar in Jewish and Arabic literature reflected that they had a tendency to circle and dig issues within themselves...and after while you watched them drawing up plots that consisted of circling the same small issues inside themselves. "Circling and digging," he mused. "Circling and digging."
Amir added he wished this wasn't so. I viewed his reasoning as a powerful insight.
"Any writer has a chance to leap into spirituality in a universal context from the word go," he enthused. "They should be writing of great things...things far far bigger than themselves. Have writers forgotten that they have the power to affect and influence tens of thousands all at once?" Never as a writer, he offered, confine your thoughts to a box.
Eli Amir also said that in today's world where the globe has opened up to cultures in a tremendous way, it was impossible to hide one's heritage under a bushel. The world has completely merged together. We have been simply exposed too much, to stay loyal to a sollitary culture and hail only its passions. That's impossible, he believes.
Observing that we have tasted influences of all kinds, he relates an example.
"I myself have one leg in the East and another in the West. I am never just one thing by myself."
As a young boy, he had unexpectedly fallen in love with classical music played by great composers like Chopin and Mozart and so, made it his goal to master the understanding of symphonies for his own pleasure.
This included sitting in a corner by himself for hours, to meditate and memorise the different notes and sounds. He feels he has greatly succeeded in this pursuit after so many years.
And yet, says, Amir, he enjoys Arab music with the same generous intensity.
Sometimes, people come up to me and say, you're Arab. How is it you're hailed as a Jewish writer? How dare you call yourself one? Why does Israel like you when you're an Arab writer? Amir prefers to engage in patient dialogue with such sceptics, simply stating that in the last decades, our identities have simply become too layered and complicated to belong to just one place.
I forgot to add in this article for those who may have already read it that Eli Amir urged writers today, to broaden their perceptions and explore new horizons.


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