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Adventures between Dakar, Paris, and Milan
A landmark bestseller in Italy, I Was an Elephant Salesman gives a name and a face to the thousands of anonymous African street vendors in cities across Europe. Through the voice of a thinly veiled first-person narrator, Pap Khouma offers us a chilling, intimate, and often ironic glimpse into the life of an illegal immigrant. Khouma invents a life for himself as an itinerant trader of carved elephants, small ivories, and other "African" trinkets, struggling to maintain courage and dignity in the face of despair and humiliation. Constantly on the run from the authorities, he finds insight into the vicissitudes of law and politics, the constraints of citizenship, national borders, skin color, and the often paralyzing difficulties of obtaining basic human needs. His story reveals a contemporary Europe struggling to come to terms with its multiracial, multireligious, and multicultural identity.
A Collection of Poems
I Will Fly is a collection of 52 poems which bring to life a story of struggle and hope, the struggle of ordinary Cameroonians who daily entertain hardship, and of English-speaking Cameroonians born into a minority population. Disgruntlement leads to protests; but what happens when the protests fail to yield? Immigration and resignation, the latter, at times, becoming an invitation to death. Adventure and romance stand as the lifeline of others. Hope is a constant companion in these situations, inviting all and sundry to desist from giving adversary easy victories.
In "Return of the Heroes," Walt Whitman refers to the casualties of the American Civil War: "the dead to me mar not. . . . / they fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass. . . ." In her new poetry collection, Jude Nutter challenges Whitman's statement by exploring her own responses to war and conflict and, in a voice by turns rueful, dolorous, and imagistic, reveals why she cannot agree. Nutter, who was born in England and grew up in Germany, has a visceral sense of history as a constant, violent companion. Drawing on a range of locales and historical moments—among them Rwanda, Sarajevo, Nagasaki, and both world wars—she replays the confrontation of personal history colliding with history as a social, political, and cultural force. In many of the poems, this confrontation is understood through the shift from childhood innocence and magical thinking to adult awareness and guilt. Nutter responds to Whitman from another perspective as well. It was Whitman who wrote that he could live with animals because, among other things, they are placid, self-contained, and guiltless. As counterpoint, Nutter weaves a series of animal poems—a kind of personal bestiary—throughout the collection that reveals the tragedy and violence also inherent in the lives of animals. Here, as in much of Nutter's previous work, the boundaries between the animal and human worlds are permeable; the urgent voice of the poet insists we recognize that "Even from a distance, suffering / is suffering." Here is both acknowledgment and challenge: distance may be measured in terms of time, culture, or place, or it may be caused by the gap between animals and humans, but it is our responsibility to speak against atrocity and bloodshed, however voiceless we may feel.
The Life of John Jacob Niles
Louisville native John Jacob Niles (1892–1980) is considered to be one of our nation’s most influential musicians. As a composer and balladeer, Niles drew inspiration from the deep well of traditional Appalachian and African American folk songs. At the age of sixteen Niles wrote one of his most enduring tunes, “Go ’Way from My Window,” basing it on a song fragment from a black farm worker. This iconic song has been performed by folk artists ever since and may even have inspired the opening line of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe.” In I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles, the first full-length biography of Niles, Ron Pen offers a rich portrait of the musician’s character and career. Using Niles’s own accounts from his journals, notebooks, and unpublished autobiography, Pen tracks his rise from farm boy to songwriter and folk collector extraordinaire. Niles was especially interested in documenting the voices of his fellow World War I soldiers, the people of Appalachia, and the spirituals of African Americans. In the 1920s he collaborated with noted photographer Doris Ulmann during trips to Appalachia, where he transcribed, adapted, and arranged traditional songs and ballads such as “Pretty Polly” and “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” Niles’s preservation and presentation of American folk songs earned him the title of “Dean of American Balladeers,” and his theatrical use of the dulcimer is credited with contributing to the popularity of that instrument today. Niles’s dedication to the folk music tradition lives on in generations of folk revival artists such as Jean Ritchie, Joan Baez, and Oscar Brand. I Wonder as I Wander explores the origins and influences of the American folk music resurgence of the 1950s and 1960s, and finally tells the story of a man at the forefront of that movement.
Between al-Andalus and Christian Europe
This stimulating and graceful book explores Iberian Jewish attitudes toward cultural transition during the 12th and 13th centuries, when growing intolerance toward Jews in Islamic al-Andalus and the southward expansion of the Christian Reconquista led to the relocation of Jews from Islamic to Christian domains. By engaging literary topics such as imagery, structure, voice, landscape, and geography, Jonathan P. Decter traces attitudes toward transition that range from tenacious longing for the Islamic past to comfort in the Christian environment. Through comparison with Arabic and European vernacular literatures, Decter elucidates a medieval Hebrew poetics of estrangement and nostalgia, poetic responses to catastrophe, and the refraction of social issues in fictional narratives.
Published with the generous support of the Koret Foundation.
Europe's expansion into the New World during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries was a story of power alignment and cultural transmission as well as dramatic individual effort. Spain had her conquistadores, France her coureurs de bois, and England her sea dogs. Isolated from the authority of home governments, tempted by the abundance of gold, fur, and fish in the New World, these adventurers so vital to national policies of expansion developed their own personal creeds of conquest and colonization. Their individual exploits not only represent a humanistic theme essential in Europe's movement westward but heighten the analyses of cultural institutions of the era. It is within such a multidisciplinary light that one can experience the Gulf Coast adventures of Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville.
The Concept of the Limit and the Relationship between God and the World
This book explores how Ibn al->Arabiµ (1165–1240) used the concept of barzakh (the Limit) to deal with the philosophical problem of the relationship between God and the world, a major concept disputed in ancient and medieval Islamic thought. The term “barzakh” indicates the activity or actor that differentiates between things and that, paradoxically, then provides the context of their unity. Author Salman H. Bashier looks at early thinkers and shows how the synthetic solutions they developed provided the groundwork for Ibn al->Arabiµ’s unique concept of barzakh. Bashier discusses Ibn al->Arabiµ’s development of the concept of barzakh ontologically through the notion of the Third Thing and epistemologically through the notion of the Perfect Man, and compares Ibn al->Arabiµ’s vision with Plato’s.