Mia Couto’s Response to the Anti-Immigrant Tragedies in South Africa

mia couto

Mia Couto, whose forthcoming collection of nonfiction Pensatives: Selected Essays (available from Biblioasis in Canada on June 15th and in the US on July 14th) is an environmental biologist from Mozambique, is the author of 25 books of fiction, essays and poems in his native Portuguese. In 2014 he received the $50,000 Neustadt Prize for Literature, and in 2015 he was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.

On April 18th, 2015, the editor of the Mozambique News Agency, Paul Fauvet, posted an English translation of author Mia Couto’s open letter to South African President Jacob Zuma concerning the killing of foreigners in his country.

We think that some of you might be interested in reading Couto’s response to the killings in South African, which we’ve included below. You can also read more about the situation in this article from The Guardian.

 

To: His Excellency President Jacob Zuma

We remember you in Maputo, in the 1980s, from that time you spent as a political refugee in Mozambique. Often our paths crossed on Julius Nyerere Avenue and we would greet each other with the casual friendliness of neighbours. Often I imagined the fears that you must have felt, as a person persecuted by the apartheid regime. I imagined the nightmares you must have experienced at night when you thought of the ambushes plotted against you and against your comrades in the struggle. But I don’t remember ever seeing you with a bodyguard. In fact it was we Mozambicans who acted as your bodyguards. For years we gave you more than a refuge. We offered you a house and we gave you security at the cost of our security. You cannot possibly have forgotten this generosity.

We haven’t forgotten it. Perhaps more than any other neighbouring country, Mozambique paid a high price for the support we gave to the liberation of South Africa. The fragile Mozambican economy was wrecked. Our territory was invaded and bombed. Mozambicans died in defence of their brothers on the other side of the border. For us, Mr President, there was no border, there was no nationality. We were all brothers in the same cause, and when apartheid fell, our festivities were the same, on either side of the border.

For centuries Mozambican migrants, miners and peasants, worked in neighbouring South Africa under conditions that were not far short of slavery. These workers helped build the South African economy. There is no wealth in your country that does not carry the contribution of those who today are coming under attack.

For all these reasons, it is not possible to imagine what is going on in your country. It is not possible to imagine that these same South African brothers have chosen us as a target for hatred and persecution. It is not possible that Mozambicans are persecuted in the streets of South Africa with the same cruelty that the apartheid police persecuted freedom fighters, inside and outside the country. The nightmare we are living is more serious than that visited upon you when you were politically persecuted. For you were the victim of a choice, of an ideal that you had embraced. But those who are persecuted in your country today are guilty merely of having a different nationality. Their only crime is that they are Mozambicans. Their only offence is that they are not South Africans.

Mr President

The xenophobia expressed today in South Africa is not merely a barbaric and cowardly attack against “the others”. It is also aggression against South Africa itself. It is an attack against the “Rainbow Nation” which South Africans proudly proclaimed a decade or more ago. Some South Africans are staining the name of their motherland. They are attacking the feelings of gratitude and solidarity between nations and peoples. It is sad that your country today is in the news across the world for such inhuman reasons.

Certainly measures are being taken. But they are proving inadequate, and above all they have come late. The rulers of South Africa can argue everything except that they were taken by surprise. History was allowed to repeat itself. Voices were heard spreading hatred with impunity. That is why we are joining our indignation to that of our fellow Mozambicans and urging you: put an immediate end to this situation, which is a fire that can spread across the entire region, with feelings of revenge being created beyond South Africa’s borders. Tough, immediate and total measures are needed which may include the mobilization of the armed forces. For, at the end of the day, it is South Africa itself which is under attack.

Mr President, you know, better than we do, that police actions can contain this crime but, in the current context, other preventive measures must be taken. So that these criminal events are never again repeated.

For this, it is necessary to take measures on another scale, measures that work over the long term. Measures of civic education, and of exalting the recent past in which we were so close, are urgently needed. It is necessary to recreate the feelings of solidarity between our peoples and to rescue the memory of a time of shared struggles. As artists, as makers of culture and of social values, we are available so that, together with South African artists, we can face this new challenge, in unity with the countless expressions of revulsion born within South African society. We can still transform this pain and this shame into something which expresses the nobility and dignity of our peoples and our nations. As artists and writers, we want to declare our willingness to support a spirit of neighbourliness which is born, not from geography, but from a kinship of our common soul and shared history.
Maputo, 17 April 2015
Mia Couto

Inheritance

Kerry-Lee Powell’s Inheritance shortlisted for 2015 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award

We’re thrilled to announce that Inheritance by Kerry-Lee Powell has been shortlisted for the 2015 Gerald Lampert Award for Best First Book of Poetry! Congratulations to all the other authors: Kayla Czaga, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Stevie Howell, Suzannah Showler, Anne-Marie Turza.

Mia Couto a Finalist for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize!

Big news at the Bibliomanse this morning. We were thrilled to learn that contemporary Mozambican author Mia Couto, whose novel Tuner of Silences we published in 2013, and whose Pensativities: Selected Essayswe have forthcoming this spring, has just been named a finalist for the2015 Man Booker International Prize.

TunerOfSilences.Cover_

The ten finalists for the prestigious biennial prize were announced this morning, a list that includes such luminaries as César Aira , Amitav Ghosh, Fanny Howe, and László Krasznahorkai. The authors come from ten countries with six new nationalities included on the list for the first time. They are from Libya, Mozambique, Guadeloupe, Hungary, South Africa and Congo.
The sixth Man Booker International Prize, which is worth £60,000, recognizes one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. The 2015 Man Booker International Prize winner will be announced at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 19 May. Congratulations to Mia Couto and his English translator David Brookshaw!
Glad and Sorry Seasons

The Search for Solace Within: Glad & Sorry Seasons gets a rave review from Prism

“Catherine Chandler’s Glad and Sorry Seasons is a successful illustration of the ways in which we as humans search for meaning in the face of passing time, the way in which we take pleasure and comfort in ordinary details and are simultaneously baffled and pained by them. The juxtaposition of artificiality, the poet’s expert use of constrained poetic forms—especially her characteristic sonnets—and a piercing sincerity makes this collection aching and beautiful.”

A Painful Homecoming: Quill & Quire on Robyn Sarah’s My Shoes Are Killing Me + Tour Dates

Montreal poet Robyn Sarah’s  latest, My Shoes Are Killing Me, is featured in the new 80th anniversary April issue of Quill & Quire, where reviewer Jason Wiens calls it a collection of “poems recollecting emotion in the (in)tranquility of boomer twilight.”  Here’s more:

The title of Robyn Sarah’s My Shoes Are Killing Me speaks to the nostalgia that her poems explore: if nostalgia literally means “painful homecoming,” then the “shoes” – read as metonymy for the past of her life’s journey – cause at times painful reflection on the rest of the voyage…the frame widens to include the broader public spaces of Sarah’s Montreal, then extends this frame further to the global scale….the nostalgia encompasses memories of the Jewish diaspora alongside the motto of the poet’s province: “a past continuous, a past as presence. Je me souviens. A motto you can make your own.”

Robyn Sarah will reading this spring along the 401 in Ontario as well as the East coast and Montreal. For a listing of upcoming dates, see below.

April 20th – Montreal, @ The Word, w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 21st – Kingston @ Novel Idea w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 22nd – Toronto @ Dora Keogh w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 23rd – Hamilton @ Bryan Prince Bookseller w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 24th – Windsor @ Biblioasis  w/ Robert Melançon and TBA
May 19th – Halifax @ Halifax Public Library w/  Robyn Sarah and M. Travis Lane
May 20th – Lunenburg @ Lexicon Books w/  Robyn Sarah and M. Travis Lane
May 21st – Moncton @ Attic Owl Reading Series w/ Robyn Sarah and M. Travis Lane

Among the Quick: Sum by Zachariah Wells reviewed in Quill & Quire + Tour Dates

Zachariah Wells’s third poetry collection Sum was on deck in the 80th anniversary April issue of Quill & Quire, and reviewer Jason Wiens calls Wells “a poet who delights in sound patterns—internal and end rhyme in particular.” Here’s more:

Highlights include “Squalid,” which recalls “the dollars / squandered down urinal drains in bars / of dubious repute,” and “The Parkinsonian Reflexologist,” which mixes cliches to sometimes hilarious effect: “if you get caught fucking the dog / deny the devil his Scooby-Doo.” “Magic Man,” in its celebration of the retired Blue Jays player John McDonald, is a paen to the underdog, one “Consigned to ride pine for lack of thunder / in his bat.” Appropriating Hopkins’s “The Windhover,” Wells traces the inscape of this infielder, “sensei of the second sack.”

Wells will be presenting from Sum as part of IFOA’s 7th Annual Battle of the Bards on Wednesday, March 25th @ 7:30PM. He will also be embarking on an Ontario and Montreal tour with Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon in late April, as well as an East Coast tour with Robyn Sarah and M. Travis Lane in May. For full listings, see the dates below.

April 20th – Montreal, @ The Word, w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 21st – Kingston @ Novel Idea w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 22nd – Toronto @ Dora Keogh w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 23rd – Hamilton @ Bryan Prince Bookseller w/ Robyn Sarah and Robert Melançon
April 24th – Windsor @ Biblioasis  w/ Robert Melançon and TBA
May 9th – PEI @ Confederation Center Public Library w/ M. Travis Lane
May 19th – Halifax @ Halifax Public Library w/  Robyn Sarah and M. Travis Lane
May 20th – Lunenburg @ Lexicon Books w/  Robyn Sarah and M. Travis Lane
May 21st – Moncton @ Attic Owl Reading Series w/ Robyn Sarah and M. Travis Lane

A Wordsmith and a Worldsmith: Traymore Rooms reviewed by Akashic

Our friends at Akashic Books in Brooklyn, just posted a wonderful, appreciative review of Norm Sibum’s sprawling 700-pager The Traymore Rooms on their weekly “In Good Company” online review. Intern Alex Whelan’s astute take and fine stylings —”At times, Traymore smacks of an exceptionally erudite episode of Cheers where everybody knows both everybody’s name and the full text of Virgil’s Eclogues.” C’mon!— show that he’s got quite a future ahead of him. He sees in Sibum’s “screwball genre-hopping and erratic plotting” echoes of “Restoration sex comedy” and “the paranoid conspiratorial satire of Thomas Pynchon,” not to mention a “Hemingway-like elegy for younger and better days.” But ultimately, Whelan sees at the core of this ambitious novel a heartfelt peon to friendship:
“None of Traymore’s zeal would land, however, if not for the truth at the center of the novel: Calhoun’s—and Sibum’s—genuine, unashamed love for his friends. In the great tradition of Nick Carraways marveling quietly upon their Gatsbys, Calhoun seems well aware that he’s no match for the company that he keeps…For Traymore’s protagonist, there is no prospect more horrifying than not occupying himself with fellow Traymoreans from sun-up to sundown.”
Thanks Akashic and Alex!

Cynical, Duplicitous, and Vulnerable: ‘Confidence’ by Russell Smith Reviewed in Quill & Quire’s 80th Anniversary Issue

We were all excited to get the 80th Anniversary issue of Quill & Quire in the mail — and thrilled to see that it had reviews of three Biblioasis authors: Russell Smith, Zach Wells, and Robyn Sarah.

All of the reviews were exceptional, but Carla Gillis‘ full page guest review of Russell Smith’s Confidence (May 1st CAN | June 1st US) was especially smart and thoughtful. At the start of the piece, Gillis focused on the trademark cynicism and biting humor that Smith, the Governor General Award-nominated author of How Insensitive, and provocative arts columnist for The Globe and Mail is known for. “In the world of these stories,” she writes, “love is a game, secrets pile up, needs go unmet, compromises and negotiations are constantly being made.” In the last stories in the collection, however, Russell delves into deeper waters:

Just as the cynicism starts to rankle rather than amuse, something shifts. Relationships remain negotiations, but also appear more broken in and nuanced. Love based on something beyond the physical and convenient creeps in. Two stories at the end, featuring the collection’s oldest and most magnanimous characters, soften the book’s unflinching tone and deliver, finally, emotional resonance by hinting at the vulnerable humanity and the truest, simplest desires beyond the exhaustive chase of pleasure.

To launch the book, Russell and Biblioasis are hosting a party at The Garrison (1197 Dundas Street West) in Toronto on April 21, starting at 7:00 p.m. Also featured: the world premiere of “Boys Underwear Girls,” a short film by Gunilla Josephson, and dancing to the rhythms of DJs Deadline and Shawn Benjamin. Anyone who knows Russell will understand why this is destined to be the launch party of the spring. You can check out its Facebook event page here.

Also! If you live in Toronto and can’t wait to hear Russell read from his new collection (who wouldn’t?), he’ll be appearing at Toronto Public Library’s venerable “eh List Author Series,” at the Readymede Branch next Tuesday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. Special, early copies of Confidence will be on sale. More info here.

Check back soon for posts about Zach Wells and Robyn Sarah! Both are coming shortly.

K.D Miller Next Chapter Interview Online

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to tune in, K.D. Miller was on The Next Chapter earlier this week talking to Shelagh Rogers about All Saints. Good news is the episode is now online for you to stream at your convenience. And for those of you who prefer the warm analog buzz of the radio, it was also be aired this Saturday, March 14th, at 4PM.

“He who speaks of collage speaks of the irrational” – Max Ernst

Rain Taxi, one of our favourite American journals, has just run a thoughtful review of Diane Schoemperlen’s By The Book in their new Spring 2015 issue. Featuring original reviews of the best in underground poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art and comics, it is definitely a journal to check out and consider subscribing to. Thanks to the talented Benjamin Woodard for the review. Here’s a small taste:

“In By The Book, Schoemperlen has created an admirable, daring collection, one willing to drive its experimental nature to extremes. It is a book suitable to bookstores and galleries alike. The lyricism contained on each page is marvelous, and the combination of text and imagery make the collection a truly distinctive title in the big, wise sea of literary convention.”