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Saturday 28 February 2009

A few remarks on Geraldine Bedell's actions by Margaret Atwood

by Suzan Abrams
There were many talks and also a major poetry celebration of Mahmud Darwish's work at the Emirates Festival of Literature today. I won't be able to write anymore about it, until after I've returned to Dublin late next week.
Anyway, one of the many exciting events had Margaret Atwood in conversation on her writing life through a video link that filmed her at home about 2.25am Saturday. She was interviewed by British journalist Liz Thompson. She was in a cheerful mood often smiling and always gracious in her answers. She gave a lengthy interview especially on the current stage of the publishing climate and what it means for authors today. I will write it out for you in Dublin.
The first thing Thompson asked Atwood about was the recent controversy and if she wanted to talk about it. Atwood was quite passionate about the subject and she certainly did.
She explained what we already knew but in greater detail. However, it was different hearing it all from the novelist herself.
Just a few important lines today from Atwood that you may not have known:
a) She received an email from someone informing her that Geraldine Bedell's novel had been banned from the Emirates Festival of Literature.
b)Soon after she received the email, Geraldine Bedell wrote her damning blog on the Emirates Festival, in the Guardian and Margaret Atwood herself, read it. She was horrified that Bedell would be so mistreated for her creativity.
c) She cancelled her trip and not long after, learnt the truth. Bedell hadn't yet published her book. There was nothing to ban. Atwood badly regretted cancelling her flight and added that she hoped to attend the Emirates Festival next year. She felt that as Vice-President of PEN, she had done the right thing in reacting the way she did, although she regretted her actions afterwards. To make up for what happened, she felt too, that she was doing the right thing in speaking to us through the video link. In short, the chaos had placed her in a spot.
d) Margaret Atwood spent a good few days in involving her time with the laborious task of sorting out the truth through e-mail letters. She found it a painful chore as she can't type.
e) The truth was that Geraldine Bedell was simply one of a large number of writers, whose proposed participation in the Festival, was rejected.
f) To Margaret Atwood who described herself as an old war horse, the word banning in the dictionary means something prohibited and that's the interpretation that she abides by. She discovers that Bedell had not told the truth. It was a cheap publicity stunt and she, Atwood, had been fooled.
g) Geraldine Bedell's book is to be stocked in Magrudy's chain of bookstores in Dubai. There was never any problem in stocking the title. This was then announced to Atwood, who was not surprised.
h) Margaret Atwood said that she was now "so dying to read it to find out what it's all about". In this sparkly mood, she tells us all to go out and buy one as soon as the book is published. She laughs and is regaled as she says this.
i) Much later on, there was a slight outcry from some in the audience - many angry with Bedell that false information and a trivial publicity stunt had blocked a famous author's attendance, someone they had badly wanted to meet in person. Also, many were disappointed and said they would not read Bedell. A few voiced concern that if everyone followed Atwood's advice to go out and buy the book, then other publishers would think up similiar stunts since Bedell would have achieved her goal of chalking up sales and all the right attention the wrong way.
Much more on Margaret Atwood later.

Friday 27 February 2009

Emirates Festival of Literature: Margaret Atwood on Video Link

by Suzan Abrams
Because of a recent controversy, legendary novelist Margaret Atwood who had initially changed her mind about attending the Emirates Festival for Literature, the first of its kind in the Arab world, will now appear on video-link at a special and rather, sudden event created on the subject of Censorship.
This at the Al Khayma Ballroom in the magnificent Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, where the lit fest is currently being held. The event starts at 11.15am and is free, unlike all the other talks which were and still are, ticketed.
There goes my excitement at having wanted to see and hear popular South Indian writer, Anita Nair, the only Indian writer, invited to speak at the festival. It now clashes badly with Atwood's video link.
Tomorrow evening, British poets Grace Nichols, Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy among others, will also celebrate the famous poetry of the late Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish.

In Brief: Emirates Festival of Literature II

by Suzan Abrams
What a terrific inspiring day for me. Certainly, I've come a long way from my days in Malaysia. In brief because it's very late at night, I've been out all day and am feeling terribly tired...
Today I enjoyed a private chat withAmerican-Iranian novelist, Anita Amirezzvani and met and spoke also with Denys-Johnson Davis, the foremost distinguished English translator of Arabic literature. It's because of Davis that I've been able to acquaint myself with Arabic literature at all. I never thought I would meet this beautiful man. I remember writing about Egyptian literature on the Guardian Books Blog and was glad that I was able to check facts and even eccentric personalities with Davis, who shared with me, his friendships with Egyptian writers. I am so glad that he made some minutes to tell me a few things I wanted to know in private. He was very good friends with many old Egyptian writers of the past and regaled us with humorous episodes encountered with Mahfaouz and the like.
I also attended two long discussions on Arabic translations into English as I really wanted to learn as much as I could. The translators contributed so much to the discussions. Again, though I shall have to regretfully say that I will write all this out in detail later on, as I am terribly tired.
I attended a talk on women writing from the Arab world and met the coy pint-sized Rajaa AlSanea complete with heavy American accent; for her famed Girls of Riyadh for the first time. Imagine my delight at hearing her describe the writing process of her own novel and the subsequent reactions to it, instead of relying or quoting media reports.
Wilbur Smith, the expert on old Rhodesia and East African (Victorian era) fiction, unveiled a new title for us all, 6 weeks before its official publication. He spoke to a packed room of a mainly British audience.
I also attended an evening of Arabic poetry.
It was all pretty wonderful.
The literary festival was packed with Europeans and Middle-Easterners today. It has turned out to be a resounding and overwhelming success. The customer service has also been efficient and excellent. Anything the Emiratis attempt, they're sure to do it with style.
All the time, there were other writers about. Those like Frank McCourt, the handsome Paul Blezard, celebrity mind expert Robin Sharma, the industrious Kate Mosse and Penny Vincenzi among many others, all commanded big audiences.
Oh and I bought interesting titles that I wouldn't otherwise have found in the main European bookstores.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Start of the Emirates Festival of Literature - A Classy Affair

by Suzan Abrams
Just briefly...I'll write out details when in Europe next week.
Today was the first day of the Emirates Festival for Literature here at Dubai Festival City's Intercontinental hotel. It turned out to be nothing short of a vibrant, classy affair. No cheap exercise books or plastic files for participants. No marketing ploys or gimmicks employed by speakers in talks, so as to promote their own books and what I've often experienced elsewhere at other festivals.
This was the real thing. Passionate writers talking about their work to passionate readers. There was a fair bit of lively engagement and many questions from members of the audience made up mostly of Dubai's large European expatriate community, well-known media and journalists as well as Arabic writers and readers. Different age groups and different personalities made it hard to narrow the scope of the audience. I also made friends.
I attended a talk on book prizes and what it meant for the writer to win a literary prize, in terms of sales and awareness. Margaret Atwood was conspiciously absent for a session she was to have played a major role in. I think she missed out on a pretty good time. She could not have anticipated the overwhelming enthusiasm or response from a crowded ballroom. In any case, no public announcements were made of the recent controversy. The organisers did well to restore a difficult present situation and to take the event forward into a positive light. Sometimes, a positive attitude is the best medicine of all.
The event was a high success but I shall have to talk about this later.
The panel chaired by Kate Mosse, was made up of Frank McCourt who when I first met him in Eason's, Dublin (December 2007) had told me that he just wanted to come home to Ireland and not to have to travel again. And yet, here he was looking as fit as a fiddle and imbued with his dry caustic wit that often kept the audience in stitches. Kate Mosse was fabulous in balancing time, opinion and equal participation from both the panel and audience. She was confident in that she knew all the right start and stop moments and so allowed for lots of thought-provoking and wayfaring ideas that stemmed out of the topic. This also encouraged the subject of the more controversial bookselling methods, the value of independent bookshops and the trials of Amazon. With the voluble American writer Julia Glass in attendance, interesting comparisons were made between the current publishing climate in both the UK and the States.
There was also the distinguished and highly-intense Arabic author Mohammed Bennis and Chimamanda Adichie who at the end of the day, I didn't take very much to. I think it was her slightly distant manner with audience interaction although her answers to all kinds of questions were swift, interesting, honest and steadfast. Just that I found her to be dour with a slightly colourless personality in spite of her cleverness. Still, I understand that every writer commands a different personality and that not all can turn easy extroverts.
In the evening when she spoke, I chose with relief to go listen to Anita Amirezzvani, Iranian-American novelist for The Blood of Flowers. What an educational discussion indeed on Iran's folklore and tradition. Amirezzvani talked in great detail about the process of writing her novel which I had read and finished in one sitting, in December 2007 on a plane flying from Frankfurt to Singapore.
Most in the audience were European, American and Arabic women. She also treated us to 2 separate readings of extracts from her popular tale.
I found the stately somewhat fast-speaking Amirezzvani with her delicate features, to be graceful and eloquent. The Blood of Flowers is a favourite with Dubai book groups. Amirezzvani who gives masterclasses in creative writing when at home in the States, turned out to be down-to-earth with no airs about her. (I won't say too much now as I am so wanting to write a special article about the evening.) It was an incredible moment really for me as I never thought I would meet her.
No one could have anticipated that the Emirates Festival of Literature would start off on an exuberant buoyant note. The displays were creatively arranged. There were brisk sales for souvenirs, audio materials and the scores of books. The staff on hand were efficient and extremely helpful - a trademark it seems of the UAE. Ticket sales were also handled successfully. There were beverages to choose from.
The organisers thought of everything.
Several events clashed.
And I almost forgot that I went too, to see famous cricketer Jamil Qureishi in action...talking about high motivational factors with which to turn ambition into achievement. A good-looker, the was the sure show-stealer, fun, charismatic and absolutely electrifying. Listening to him speak, I felt that I was engulfed in an exciting futuristic moment. Qureishi spoke to a packed crowd. One thing he said hit home.
The laws of attraction he stressed, apply so importantly to most of us, although we don't realise it.
He said that successful people always hung around with successful people.
And that depressing cynical people - his very words - always gathered other depressing cynical people together for friends and to act as a safety net. This, as they were unable to handle optimism in any form. Established patterns of negativity in their subconscious minds meant that they were simply incapable of it.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

by Suzan Abrams
I don't know what to write really. I can't create anything literary or clever.
So for the mundane.
I arrived in Dubai last night. I went to buy my tickets for the Emirates Festival for Literature this morning. Customer service is a precious quality here. Everyone is very helpful.
English is spoken everywhere. Otherwise, Hindi among Indians and of course, Arabic.
Cool weather about 25 degrees celsius.
Lots of taxis like Africa. Very polite taxi drivers who would never dream of rejecting a customer.
No one jumps queue here. Residents are law-abiding.
High-tech architecture and each mall about five times the size of a shopping centre in England.
Population mostly Europeans, Americans, Filipinos, Indians and Middle-Easterners
The staff at Magrudy's bookshop were extremely efficient and patient in helping me decide on events. All took pride in the literary schedule, placed for the next 3 days.
I wasn't able to attend a few events I cared for as many clashed.
I will write something in brief each day but will probably only have time for detailed events, when I return to Europe next week.

I have heard some inside stories firsthand already on the Atwood controversy and Bedell's allegations certainly ended up causing pain to innocent parties.
I think this Festival is a grand thing, helping to open up an otherwise elusive Arab literature to the world.

Monday 23 February 2009

Off to Dubai today

Post deleted.

Sunday 22 February 2009

I'm Flying to Dubai

by Suzan Abrams
This week I leave Africa for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
I'll be attending the now highly-publicised Emirates International Festival for Literature. I planned this trip a month ago.
Since honing a deep interest in Middle-Eastern literature late last year, I have readily devoured the stories of several classical and contemporary Arab writers.
So far, I have tested the waters and have had a few book reviews published in the popular Cafe Arabica and The Iranian online magazines. One of my blog posts featuring jottings on Arab literature is running on Haus Publishing's website in London. These trial gems serve as heady encouragement.
The festival would act as an excellent orientation process for me as a reader and writer. There is so much to learn and to immerse myself in.
I am delighted that Rajaa al Sanea for her famed Saudi-banned Girls of Riyadh, will be there. Of course, there'll be others too like Chimamanda Adichi and Anita Amirezzvani. There will be several discussions on Arab literature and its place in the world today. I want to be there participating in and also absorbing those engaging and enlightening conversations.
I am pleased that Arab literature with all its complicated rules is on its way to a stellar rise internationally in spite...yes, in spite... Especially note Egypt and Beirut, Lebanon and I must add too, Iran.

by Suzan Abrams

Yesterday, I bumped into flamingoes. Thousands of them and all at once. They stole my breath away. I stood in complete awe. The guides laughed but were generous and let me stretch my stupified moment for as long as I dared. Not even the zebras, rudely staring giraffes, snobbish elephants, wildebeest, leopards, lazy sauna hippos or lush icy waterfalls could command a similar effect. Not even the sudden passing storks, cranes or other exotic water birds. Flamingoes aren't easy to find. They aren't just private and elusive but circling just 3 African destinations at the moment. Sometimes, you think they're on a certain lake or crater. You drive all the way. Suddenly, one bird turns nomad. The rest follow. Worried about keeping perfect time to a migratory season, they immediately take flight. In a minute, the entire fleet may have disappeared from the lake as if they never were.
But yesterday, the Gods were on my side.
The flamingoes lingered to a romantic waltz at a sparkling lavish party, hosted by themselves of course, on the Great alkaline-soaked Momella Lake, deep in the heart of the Arusha National Park. They turned the shimmering algae-filled green waters which they sipped greedily like champagne, into a second sunset. All that cloud of snowy-white and bright pink plumage... And then, those blood-red bills. What thrilling grace and style. What synchronized beauty. The tall slender birds stood and swung about like ballet dancers with wings for pirouettes.
They reminded me of the classical: stringed violins high on music manouvered by ghosts in mid-air, marbled floors or bougainvilleas that hung tantalisingly down the walls of a Spanish courtyard. They reminded me of Enya's Orinoco Flow. Two colourful ducklings and a sulky stork were made to feel welcome as tolerant temporary neighbours. Passing gulls lamenting at the sudden loss of supper, watched wistfully from the sidelines. A nervous water snake decided wisely against gatecrashing the dangerous scene. It quickly slunk away.
I was enthralled. I thought at that moment that if I died right there and then, it would be perfect. That this would be quite the loveliest vision to hold on to. The last sight. The last scene.
It was ethereal. Totally that.

Friday 20 February 2009


I have managed to grab a little time for the internet here in the Kilamanjaro (Moshi region). It is not easy to locate internet cafes here in town except perhaps in lodges and hotels but I have found one run by a polished Indian gentleman - Indians are the backbone of East Africa's economy - and to my relief, the internet is working at super speed unlike parts of Arusha or Dar. The night winds in this part of the world are very cold. People up north also boast a far sharper Swahili accent. It sounds charismatic as compared to the cruder versions one often hears in Dar People in Arusha are also friendlier and may appear more helpful than residents in Dar es Salaam.

I have been on bumpy roads for the longest time. Tomorrow (Saturday) I have another game drive that starts very early in the morning in Arusha and besides the drives, I will also be doing a lot of walking, say up to 4 hours where the wildlife will roam freely and the ranger will carry a rifle. .. just in case, you know. :-)

I have been caught up in a few comical escapades by the Tanzanians - flamboyant local lads who are always trying to get you to buy something and mothers who balance huge baskets on their heads and adorable babies on their backs - and been so exhilarated by the experience.

I will write later to describe my experiences of the Kilamanjaro and the safari in detail. What I will say is that this is a world and that includes Dar es Salaam, still wonderfully untouched by the West. The East Africans have kept their culture and prefer to live their lives - especially the Massai - as if the West still did not exist and it would be relatively easy to locate the exotica - for real - as often described in the famous british classics and the romance a viewer would absorb from films like Gregory Peck's The Snows of Kilamanjaro, is still readily apparent.

The Massai with their colourful robes and long shiny earrngs and necklaces ,and complete with sticks, tranporting provisions on the backs of donkeys and watering holes from where the buffalo and donkeys drink.. it's all here and I'll tell you this, under the vast eternal skyline,... absolutely surreal.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

I will be disconnected from the web for the next 4 days

Tomorrow (Thursday) I shall have to check out of my hotel very early in the morning to go up north to the Mount. Kilimanjaro. Yes, I am on way to the Kilimanjaro where I will be now be out of the dusty heat and straight into the chill of things. It's about an 8 hour ride up to Moshi, where a close-up view of the splendid mountain beckons. The next few days, will be spent on safari at the vast Ngorongoro Conservation Wildlife Site, one of a series of volcanic highlands, ruled possessively by the Massai. The wildlife is glorious here and besides the cheetah, I am most looking forward to the watering holes and hordes of flamingoes.
The thing about safaris is that you leave in the very early hours of the morning and return to your hotel/lodge very late into the night.
Most of the time, I'll be in a jeep or 4-wheel drive on a very long and bumpy road. I can tell you that riding such roads are themselves an experience. The bumps are so violent that your heart appears to slip out of your mouth.
I can't see myself on the web but will return late Sunday night so I'll write something then or on Monday.
Next week, I leave Africa.

Tuesday 17 February 2009


East Africa is crazy hot that I, embroiled in a well of sweat, am turning into a fireball with it. - suzan abrams -

Monday 16 February 2009

Gawd Blass Dar Watar

*Gawd blass dar watar that yar goodself Mama be drinkin n dat your skin becomin bootifool by the die and the hawa. - suzan abrams in Tanzanian English.
*(God bless the water that your goodself Mama be drinking and that your skin becoming beautiful by the day and the hour.)

Sunday 15 February 2009

I is singin a handsom song

I is singin a handsom song for you my lady frien
I is singin a handsom song for you.
Moon shinin low n I is waitin you my lady frien
Moon shinin low n I is waitin you.
Kissin my lippy n I will marry you my lady frien
Kissin my lippy n I will marry you.
written by suzan abrams in Afrikana

When You Kam to Lagos

Written by Suzan Abrams in the Nigerian
When you kam to Afrika, you leave your old man's toes or old woman's toes...whatever... in the house n you just come here to Lagos, you wear your baby toes. Don't ask so much, just do what I say n God will bless you. You will not bring shame to your name. Your enemy will not curse your mother n your father n you will not curse your father's father a 1000 times over. Blessings from heaven will drop down on you like shiny water.
So listen I am speaking... you must take off your old shoes n fetch your baby toes. Then you can run about here n there. You can play on our land which is laughing n calling you for a happy ride. The sky will make its colour so blue for you. The mud on the road will turn to gold only for you. You can pick up n enjoy. The sea will make a mirror for your face. How else to see the world with the eyes that we can see?
So remember...when you kam to Lagos, wear your baby heart n bring your baby toes n the thunder will not spit on you. I swear by my great-great-great grandfather's grave five times over. How will you know when you kam to Lagos, that you have a blessing?
Look at your enemy's feet.
Two big bandages on his swollen feet. You on the other hand, will have one mosquito bite on your small toe, aiyah, that's all. One mosquito bite on your small toe is a very good thing to a bandage on your enemy's balloon feet. Is it not? What is there to complain about? Serve her right n Praise the Lord! Hallelujah and Glory be to his High n Mighty Name!
For dinner tonight, I wish you roasted chicken n not taufu. I wish you a kitchen overflowing with toes...or no, no, I mean baby food. Enough! Enough! Don't talk so much. My ears are going deaf, understand me or not? You think I was born yesterday? I only have baby toes, not even one baby ear! - suzan abrams

Saturday 14 February 2009

The Easier Wait

by Suzan Abrams
She was afflicted not by the chatisement of a severe reprimand or the imprisonment that served for quiet longing as she was in licking the wounds from the torn spirit underneath her, like one of a lone woman who waited and watched at the water's edge for a lover that would not come.
The woman as she remembered, having once spied on her while on a late route home, had paused on the threshhold of the twilight. She stood mannequined against the scenery of early stars that posed as her lamplight: All the while, her eyes searched for the vague shadow of a boat.
Perhaps it was trapped in a bough and stabbed by twigs with sinister intentions. Perhaps it had lost its way from having tailed the haphazard rush of wide-eyed ripples, determined that lovers should meet. She waited and watched for a husband who may have been jawed by a sharp-teethed fish or stung by a snake. She waited and watched for a husband who may have been caught somewhere in a morning daylight by another pair of ring-spangled hands, in a forgotten land where only the sun could see.
And so, it was for the woman who waited and watched the lone woman whose husband did not come, that her own fears of affliction stemming from the heavy truths of a cancelled dinner date, seemed trivial by comparison in the tragic weight of another's looming desolation.

Chummy Affair for a Pair!

Chummy affair for a pair!

by Suzan Abrams

A Mexican criminal, whose moustache tickled up a swindle and who stayed below his station, met a lazy donkey with a passion for the wicked drool. The donkey said he would load the fool into Tijuana for a price so slick and cool.
They plodded up the border, downing their Tequila, their days now numbered but no thug lumbered forward for a fight or easy ride. The crook looked a latchkey lad... who'd think he'd steal a gun for highbrow fun in the sun and could be so very bad.
On the upside, he wore a sombrero that burrowed his skin like a rabbit in a bin but on the downside, he slid and fell about like a broken wheelbarrow, damn it!
Eikes, oink and eikes, oink, he went. Eikes oink and eikes oink, he bent. Suddenly, the donkey brayed up a fray and waited till the crook bumped his collar on a cactus, hollered up a ruckus and stumbled a quarter of the way down south into a filthy muddied brook.
Despite and in spite... the donkey lapped up a drink, had a think and trotted off with the carrots, no, I mean ola-la...carats! The crook had meant to bind his find of gems in a willing nook except that the donkey had stumbled upon the crashed treasure while in deep leisure, puffing on some clammy cheroot!

Friday 13 February 2009


by Suzan Abrams
She stayed prominent in her ministrations and affections lest she be led to the docility of hearts. Grazed from a misfortune of spirit, she may have removed herself from the blight of indignity but that the puzzlement of life in its varied catastrophes continued to grip her. She moved willingly but happily into the webbed audacity that love demanded of entanglements. An uneasy truce prevailed in the disposition of the self. She held court with an everyday splendour, eager to mount her vision upright. She bottled up a straying distracted sight for an early wisdom. Her legs were trained for a steady course and she could only run forward...her head being sadly labelled as much too stiff for backward glances and recriminations of the past. Hindsight would be her memory's only gift and this too, from time to time, to summon with acute displeasure and warn of an old foe. Hindsight and an eagle-eyed endeavour for an icy patience, keen to hold her still.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

I Remember a Malaysian Plagiarist of Two Published English Language Short Stories. I Discovered It Recently. She Never Spoke the Truth

by Suzan Abrams
Hurry me to the wayside of your displeasure that I be reconciled to the existence of my innocence. For I have unearthed by accident, a dark truth and revelations will follow, lest you pretend concussion and deny the possibilities of an ill-timed confession; masquerading your lies for a supposed tearful tragedy. Bury yourself in the deluge of a delusion of pretended writing whose credibility now rises like a hasty persuasion into question, and life will find you out, those secret dirt-scraped hands sticking out of a graveside rubble where the worms have been. For your fingers smell of trickery and deception and the theft of a literary talent, stolen from a dead woman's genius to pass on in the land of the living as your own. You wear her stories like a shiny pendant, thinking that a corpse cannot speak, her stories are too ancient to be ressurrected and that ignorant friends, fearful of a plagiarist in their midst, will kiss your feet and deny the crime. You grab the ovation for another's originality. But I shadow the genius of the dead woman's ghost and my eyes witnessed your thievery. Everyday you will wake not knowing if today is the day, my truth will crumble your bed of lies. You wait with devious thrill, locked in a state of nervous mousey apprehension while I bide my time wisely. Until that dreaded hour, no dove of peace becomes you.

Rest is Paradise

by Suzan Abrams
Stir not the stillness, rush not the agitation! Give my overwrought joy a bed and pillow, I tell you and my muscled exhilaration in need of an unruffled massage, will grab solace somewhere between the folds of a satiny sheen. Let my restlessness twirl sublimation about before being enraptured into a statued pose and nosed up a plumped-up cushion. I shall drown in the silence of the night and raise my snores like an offering to quietude. May watching angels who catch my sacrifice shush my room up and grant me breathing space. I will not stir until after the alarm has run its course a 100 times and run my bath too at that! My dreamy peace will stretch the dawn's final yawn, demand breakfast from a torn timetable and orchestrate my safari action once again like a rhino on the run!

Monday 9 February 2009

A Thought for Australia

by Suzan Abrams
I will have another blog post for later in the day.
I mourn for the city of Melbourne in Australia, currently wounded by the current bushfire disaster. Its bandages are hard and heavy and still soaking with blood.
Melbourne was my first real home away from home. I stayed in the grand old city - so like England in its ways - for five years. Here I was introduced to eternal favourites made up of British soaps and dramas like Heartbeat and The Bill. When I worked as a magazine journalist in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, my first international fashion assignment was to Sydney and I lived for a week on Darling Harbour. This was followed by several other trips elsewhere.
When I gave up full-time journalism to travel and to write as I pleased, my renewed destination was intially to friends on a farm in Rutherglen, Victoria State, Australia. You had to board an early morning or late evening train from Spencer Street Station in downtown Melbourne, and after a four hour ride disembark at Chiltern, a charming quaint town. I woke up in a little cottage in the thick of winter one June, surrounded by sheep and cows, all early risers, breakfasting on the bright green grass. The cows were territorial and stared menacingly at me. The farm-owner had strong business dealings with the nearby wineries.
These towns were not affected by the bushfires.
The Victorian countryside is similar to England and no less beautiful. On the way up to Belfast from Dublin, the passing farmlands in Northern Ireland still remind me of Australia. I didn't much care for the farm and moved to the city of Melbourne. Soon after, I rented an apartment in North Coburg. A 10 minute tram ride took me directly into the central business district on Elizabeth Street. I much preferred the fast lane, with all of its flamboyance and colour. I began once more to travel to Africa and thereabouts with Melbourne as a steady base.
This morning on reading the updated versions of the bushfires, I think about my old life and it finally dawns on me; the harsh mourning of its slightly scarred, burnt face.

Sunday 8 February 2009


by Suzan Abrams
I have to do a bit of running around here in Dar, East Africa, this Monday morning.
Meanwhile, I am surprised, touched and pleased that HausPublishing London which specialises in elegant non-fiction literature and with a great interest in the Middle East, has published one of my blog posts, on their website. Please see here.

HausPublishing has also opened a new venture in Arabia Books which distributes and publishes an eclectic collection of Middle-Eastern fiction from the Arab world.
Also, the publishers recently opened a book showroom in London, a few minutes walk from the Sloane Square Tube Station.

Since writing that review and possibly unknown to Haus, I had already purchased a pile of literature from Arabia Books. It's in my Dublin flat at the moment. I'll read them all when I return in March. And I shall definitely be stopping at the London showroom. I ordered the titles from a favourite Irish bookseller. For an affordable price, the paperbacks are of a sophisticated quality and would definitely make for collectors' items.
Thank you, Haus. I should have great pleasure in writing more about your books and showroom, after I've been. There should be some new reviews by the end of March.

Saturday 7 February 2009


written by Suzan Abrams
I take a flight of fancy and creep into the destitution of my confinement that my valour be promoted to an indulgence stemmed from goodwill and my thoughts be aligned to the muteness of the self. In my aloneness, I am one. I seek a harbouring of affection that my heart be given a rest from treachery. I toss betrayals into the air and look for sincerity in the burrowed holes of
imaginings and deep pleasures known to the pursuits of the mind. To where can I run if not for blanketed dreams that I be cherished in a need for forgiveness and restitution. I value only truthfulness and the coyness of the moment wrapped into the need of the self. Life is movement and speed but reined only by willing hands. On the contrary, it may be designed to tailspin the secondary motion of a half-hearted whine dismissing passion like a paradise lost in the sun. Today knowing what I do, I seek not the slippery carefree pangs of childhood so carelessly attained as I would the sophistication of age that swirls the quiet mind with needful charity and from time to time, the swing of my step, moulded from an exhilarating noise.

Something Theatrical

by Suzan Abrams

I am a penguin, a clown, a joker, a skeleton and a blue whale dressed in moondust, all at once.

my distrust

I am indebted to the fallacy of disbelief, where suspicion crowns my giddy head with an
thorn and so, I must take my leave at noon, for a swoon so soon - and with dignified huff, while scraping away at the scales of my mermaid skin and riding the crest of an ocean wave that slid down from somewhere in the spying moon.

my last card

I am an illusion after the fact,
always you were seeing, now finally unseeing,
and by the time, my shadow spirits away into the sly dusk
I would have committed the perfect crime
of having outstayed the prime of my time.

my heartbreak

And then your eyes popped out unexpectedly from your beautiful face
and lay at my feet, gazing up at me, they looked like wires mangled
in a sphere of darkness, from where I stood, a lantern to your
sorrowed blindness, a charcoal maze of broken kisses.

my hope

I hide and sigh sadly, in the state of your plastered mind.
Will you see me?
I must ask again in a 100 years.
Remind me where we sit holding hands to the last supper in eternity.
And neither saying a word.

my escape

And now like a mad woman, I run. I scream and fall but I do the noble thing of never looking back. I run to the light in the blighted night. Yes, there is light even in the hagridden face of the cold, expansive night.

Thursday 5 February 2009

A question from a Yemeni driver in Dar: What music you like you?
My answer: This music I like me.

- susan abrams -


written by Suzan Abrams
I am a little old lady who once secured cantankerous motions for everyday living. Thus, with considered alacrity, I defined for myself, a set of logistics for the measurement of a high madness, that I myself be kept wholly sane. Pardon the conjecture for disbelief but where else can I hobble to with my story.
I took to drinking my biscuit with a straw and to closing my eyes that I might view the pictures on the wall. Then I ate the oven-hot lamplight for supper and what a tame meal too that might be. Next, I curled up to sleep in the air. My bony creaks, grunts and snores did a waltz but I did not fall over. My alarm rang with laughter from the ceiling fan, from where my mattress stood suspended. A fleeing mouse shut it up again and the magic fan turned itself off. I jumped from my bed with youthful candour on my one bad leg and landed in the cupboard.
The pictures on the wall were locked in the shower, fixing their makeup with watercolours. Bent and huddled, I still paint an opera now and then. I can also sing Shakespeare if I want! My pencil-slim toothpaste was in the kitchen toasting bread. My cornflakes were eaten by an ant and the sun stole my milk. The boiled egg turned to pudding in my mouth.
I would shiver in the heat as I woke to face the daylight and the daylight would summon up a thunderstorm on catching the horrendous sight of me, that I be kept warm.
I crawled to the shops with an umbrella on my back and ate up the groceries so I could ferry my goods, safely back in my belly.
My house welcomed me while hanging upside down on its newly painted hinges with the red carpet at the back door for a happy entrance. The storm and wind had toppled it about a bit. But never you mind! My rootop will now realise its ambition for acrobatics and as for me... well, I have always wanted to sleep on the stars. - suzan abrams -

Animated Clip Art courtesy of: Feebleminds.

I move into the psyche of human relationships on the wrong flight and clumsily manouvered like a bird gone drunk. - suzan abrams -

The Disillusioned Individual

written by Suzan Abrams

We live in an ephemeral existence, shouldered by any one number or more of varied transient tragedies that may be soluble and interchangeable in their masquerade to demonstrate the careful balance of ordinary life. We could bubble ourselves up into the fat round sphere of a still moment, engaging in its lively discourses and receiving in its meditative light; but only if we draw away the long evening shadows from curtains of the past. Then remembrances become impossible and time...once more unhurried and newly-born, succumbing to the infancy of the virginal.

The disillusioned individual likens his ordinariness to a self-imposed grandeur. He carps about the madness of monotony and rests in the limelight of attention, company and want. He craves his audience and cannot escape. He fears holding the solitary card. He hides his grovelling under the table and reduces it to a drone of mutterings. In this orchestral sphere, the watchful dust floats on its raft of nothingness where even time is tuneless and the ghost of death snores from too much sleep.
The disillusioned individual serves his dullness light and to perfection, balancing friends and foes with uneasy acumen that all would colour his distorted observations with a haphazard symmetry of tall black specks that playact light. Happy giddy lines like bright 'n sparkling avoid his sphere...they wouldn't dream of trespassing surely for what else is there except to plod the chosen tunnel of a celebrated darkness and to then label his imprisoned pessimism as truth.
He struggles for a view beyond the wreckage of broken gravel under his feet. He may not see that he wears a shoe at all but harps on the missing shoelace or the wear and tear of a heel. The disillusioned individual is blind in his insistent self-proclaimed imaginings. Let no man tell him otherwise. In his life,there is no light and even the soft low flicker, courtesy of an industrious torch may fail to showcase a performance. All life offers is the sound of his own sad voice and the proposal to a marriage bent on listlessness.
I take you now in bad times and in tears, in sickness and in a coma, for worse and for the worst till death drags us down and till death makes us one. But then we never believed in life's fat alluring promises or its long slow crawl ...so what of the encumbrance of indolence. We were never really there. And so the disgruntled individual swears... all the while the sharp taste of acid, rancid in his mouth. - suzan abrams -

Wednesday 4 February 2009

From my Window: The Ships in Dar

by Suzan Abrams
February 4, 2009
Last evening on drawing the curtains, my absent-minded thoughts as distant as the stars... I was startled to see a prim cargo ship march by in a close-up huff. I may have touched its taut mottled deck that made for a snakish straitlaced pose, had I reached my hand out far enough.
As a child, I would have wished this magic.
The grim tight-lipped ship appeared to sulk and be running away from it all with puritanical abandonment, I know not from what. It may have left lovers, family, friends while bearing sufferance with its oversized luggage.
It suddenly turned on its heels with a noisy whoosh and may even have gathered its starched skirts in the messy waves had it worn one. Its many colourful crates stood precariously atop the other and trembled rather dramatically, what with the heaving-and-sighing passion of it all. They reminded me of a memorable Lego toy. I watched the ship sail wistfully into the sunset and knew I would never see it again. I was momentarily aware of the fragility of my own mortality, that I too would someday be called into a beckoning dusk and be summoned to hurry, with no time left for a final goodbye. I could only wish the old prude well.
also February 4, 2009
The dhow song unfolds, a kite on tide...and swallows jazz up a beat with borrowed twigs.

and also February 4, 2009

The tall blue ship having complained in loud shrill hoots about the scorching summer, has been stripped of its handsome electric blue coat in the harbour's sauna of a dockyard. Finally... for the breathtaking silence of it all! Far from a serenade at my window ledge, the cheeky vessel in question, had chosen to playact a jacuzzi.
Don't tell but I heard it whispered in the sharply cool twilight wind just yesterday, on walking out to a late supper when Tanzanians were still sauntering home; their bellies fat and full... that the hardy vessel has gone quite mad and is planning to streak about the sea-green ocean, dressed in the buff! I've heard it say that acquamarine would go magnificently with its pearly skin. The snoopy palms are rife with rumours. The costly tickets at the Zanzibar ferry office, could only suggest an exclusive performance. Clearly, my window view would be rudely barred.
Open secrets are gossiped about with relish on market days from the lively Kigamboni to the watchful Bandari shores. Whatever can the Captain and his audacious crew be thinking! Or maybe I'm guessing, they had one potent Kilimanjaro lager too many at the ultra-modern Milimani mall that's all the rage.
and also and also February 4, 2009
Oh...the stylish white boats have quarrelled today. They dash helter-skelter to pout here and there; sulky and grumpy while moored on the fringes of the harbour. They look a picture of midget dowagers what with such petulance but then too, their patterned polka dots are like a shiny sequinned ballgown in the afternoon sun. I want to catch them all and hide each one up in my secret wardrobe. The boats had wanted the sea to masquerade a riotious playground. The waters had insisted on all and sundry toeing the line. The boats refused and scattered like an urgent crowd. Now, a tiny tugboat who gatecrashed the scene, feigns innocence and in a desire to show off, spins round and round in fat dizzy circles. How joyous like a baby, piloting its first celebrated crawl. The wide-ringed ripples mimic gurgles. The cajoling waters rise for a slippery slide and humour the tot. The older boaties can only watch in disarray and slight dismay.

February 3, 2009

On the famous Selander Bridge which is a coastal line that partly skirts the city and lies about a kilometre away from Dar, a distant cargo haul, caterpillars its way to the high seas with obedient docility. One by one, 10 steely ships pay homage to their regal procession, each shouldered by an eternal skyline. In the brush of mist and cloud, there is no turning back. Only two on faithful watchmen duty, offer a sudden telescopic glance at the curious observer. Their snouts hint at gloom and ferocity. This, should any adventurer trail their secret willful journey.


January 30, 2009

I woke up this morning and a long blue ship waited outside my window. It stood brave and tall, proudly anchored in the harbour. It dwarfed the vain sleek Catamaran without a second thought.
Unless you live close to a waterfront or dockyard, how often in a life could one wake up to spot a ship poised majestically outside the bedroom window...Not for me, a true child of suburban living. Not a chance, I'm afraid. This afternoon, a black cargo ship with a strip of shocking pink circling its belly, and a reckless jet boat, both jostled for space on the way out to sea. How gruff and grandfather-ish appeared the stern ship dressed in its eccentric party bow and how unrepentant, the beautiful brazen boat while tossed about on the waters in its high dance of flamboyance and agility. I wish I could have gone to the party.- suzan abrams -


January 27, 2009

Last evening, I rushed to the bay window of my hotel room, like a child at Christmas. The loud trombone groan of the Catamaran called out sternly to warn off a small but brave fishing boat. How it bellowed up a roar! It could have been a case of a stubborn David with Goliath but for the naive Dar fisherman and his ancient wooden companion. Armed with its striking flourescent red light as an only weapon, the fisherman cared none for the Catamaran's snobbish rumble and with a lone oar, beat a hasty retreat.
A passing dhow shrugged at this mad truancy.
Here the super-speed ferry was returning with the usual blustery pomp from the Zanzibar. Soon it would retire for the night anchored at the harbour, along with other rackety ferries devoid of their makeup and lost in snores and yawns. Clearly, the spanking white Catamaran was queen of the Waterfront. It would be lulled by the sounds of a soft rain as it rested amid the wind. It was dusk after all and the waters had trembled madly under the ferry's bulky cellulite weight, in an earlier teary bid to float regally to attention.
Bold ripples made the coast look like a parade of wrinkly ladies, their skin creamed with a buttered sheen. Not that the army of birds which rested on the nearby palm trees cared as much for this vanity. Intent on a last supper, the greedy swallows black in the darkening twilight would polka-dot the brim of the ocean like the latest design of smooth slippery fabric sashaying up the Parisian catwalk.
Together they waltzed; the amorous birds dipping kisses into the shy pale sea.
In the middle of the waters, sat an old dame of a forgotten homeless barge, still panting and puffing her way to an unknown destination from three days ago. She twirled and swayed on her last rusty hinges, this way and that, almost as if she would lift first a weathered knee, then a broken toe, then a stiff ankle and so be it.
Was there a hospice at sea? She would find it!
Occassionally, the other boats would extend a courtesy call by sailing carefully around her, then dashing past afraid that she would attempt a watery hitchhike and steal their catch.
Only last night in the heavy rain, the coast wore a mist of tears, hiding its strange blue face. The storm clouds watched anxiously but decided they would gatecrash anyway.
Today, the happier emerald waters of the Indian Ocean play their carefree game of sink-n-swim. I wonder if deep in their bottom hearts, there lay still the wreckage of a treasure chest from the days of when Tanzania first sheltered its famous slave towns

January 25, 2009

I am in East Africa today. I actually arrived here on Sunday. What can I say? Scenes spell the exactness of films. Clamour, chaos, crowds and a colourful clutter about sums it up.
My harbour-front view paints the picture of a sparkling Indian Ocean. It splashes up a rich shade of royal blue ink. I'm close to the coast and the wide windows reveal the remnant strips of a closing sunset.
Other friendly greeters stay the anchored fishing boats, steamers, ferries and the last Catamaran for the day, sailing eager passengers off to the Zanzibar.
The occasional dhow as light as a feather tails the wind. It zooms past the tall window. The Tanzanians saunter along the coast and mud-tracks, content that it's a Sunday. I want to weep with the bitter sweet-sadness of an old forgotten nostalgia, far more beseeching than childhood.
In the night, only the magnificent shimmering lights shape an ocean in twilight. They beckon at my shadowy face. But I spy the sea anyway.
Restless in its tranquility, it shivers and shakes, its shine too beautiful to resemble a grumbling bellyache. Instead, I imagine cold wobbling jelly...majestic and decorative, styled on a tray.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

by Suzan Abrams
On the famous Selander Bridge which is a coastal line that partly skirts the city and lies about a kilometre away from Dar, a distant cargo haul caterpillars its way to the high seas, with obedient docility. One by one, 10 steely ships pay homage to their regal procession, each shouldered by an eternal skyline. In the brush of mist and cloud, there is no turning back. Only two offer a sudden telescopic glance at the curious observer; their snouts hinting at gloom and ferocity. This, should any adventurer trail their secret willful journey.

Monday 2 February 2009

Chiew-Siah Tei, Scotland based Malaysian Novelist Participates in the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival March 8-18, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

The Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival to be held from March 8-18 2009, has just displayed its new list of participating authors and full programme.

This year the big name author in attendance will be Margaret Atwood. Also, one of the rare times when the Man Booker Winner in this case Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger, does not present an appearance.

You may catch the author list here and the full programme here.

The new Malaysian novelist participating is Scotland-based
Chiew-Siah Te of Little Hut of Leaping Fishes who together with Xujun Eberlein and Neel Chowdhury will talk to Marysia Juszczakiewicz about diaspora writers, the idea of geographical displacement and a possibly redundant homeland. (Saturday March 14, 10.00 to 11.00 at the Fringe Theatre - a ticket costs HK$110 for general booking and HK$85 for priority booking). Title: Dislocated Voices

On March 16 (
12.30pm@the Foreign Correspondents' Club HK$180), Chiew-Siah Tei who is also a billingual Malaysian author, will discuss the trends and consequences to English Language and Literature as an increasing number of non-native speakers worldwide experiement with writing in English. Title: The Latest Trend: Writing in English.

On March 17 (10.00am at the Helena May Blue Room - tickets HK$110) , Chiew-Siah Tei who is also a screenwriter and playwright, once more holds conversation with Marysia Juszczakiewicz as she talks to Janice Lee, author of the popular The Piano Teacher, on the development of strong female characters. Title: The Female Pen. Coffee and tea included.

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by Suzan Abrams
There is no electricity in downtown Dar today so out come dozens of hardy little generators with their whirring noises for the richer shops, restaurants and wholesalers. I feel I've slipped down a time machine...so ancient is the old world charm that beguiles me. Dar has preserved its British colonial history very well and I walk briskly amidst its treasured heritage of achitectural ruins and buildings and try not to knock over any crate carrying passengers or ladies bearing heavy baskets of vegetables and fruits with clever dexterity upon their heads. In between the lot of us, are honking cars, buses, vans, motorcycles and bicycles that speed by from dangerous angles. I go to take tea in Mr. N. Ali's popular tearoom...the haunt of businessmen who all crave a moment of leisure from dull dusty offices. The charming Mr. Ali with a few wives -all reputed to get on like a house on fire - serves me his best tea in his best cup and leads me to his best chair.
Having come from a Dublin winter, even earlier trips to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore could not subdue me, I sweat profusely, my perspiration betraying the clear fact that I am very much the foreigner and stranger to this land.

by Suzan Abrams
If you read my posts further down, I think a couple of times, I did talk about going to breakfast at the hotel's restaurant and being regaled with the tinkle of old piano tunes that often reminded me of my childhood. A day ago, it was the Elephant Walk.
This morning I was late and on rushing in, got the shock of my life to observe an elderly but stately African pianist playing the baby grand in the far corner of the room. I think it was an old Broadway hit and he appeared oblivious to the rest of us, being utterly devoted to his mission at high early-morning entertainment. Soon, he would turn to Doris Day.
With his coattails and handsome bow, I felt the pianist to be directly plucked out from a character in the Orient Express or a stylish cabaret...reminiscent of a Hollywood classic. Once more, that sense of surrealism and what a strange but splendid way to celebrate a Monday morning.