Anakana Schofield – Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

January 9, 2008

Taking a stand link

Dr Saad Eskander, director of Iraq’s National Library, explains why he decided to return from exile in Britain in an attempt to preserve his country’s rich cultural heritage in the face of extremists and corruption. He describes what it is like to live with the threat of assassination in a city where sectarian gangs have killed thousands.

Listen to the interview here

February 4, 2007

Alphabetical inferiority complex

Glory be, glory be, L’alphabet, L’alphabet.

10.20am, during one of our peut-etre more seismically challenged days, myself and the Arabic language face a trial separation as I declare to bloke beside me I think I’ve reached the end of the road. We are being dunked into the pan of the alphabet and let’s just say there’s more carrots in there than I bargained for. Each letter has 4 different ways of being written depending if it’s at the beginning of a word, medial or final. Many of them look remarkable similar to begin with, so having felt a little faint at the sight of them all as singles, it’s unfathomable that there are now three different other versions that do not look a great deal like the isolated version. The purpose of the isolated version is still a mystery. Perhaps they are only used on tie pins or for decor purposes?

Every-time the teacher asks me a question she erupts in an affectionate set of giggles in anticipation of my answer because my attempts sounds a little more yodelling than the others. I do have the best arm waving though. But by the time I conquer ‘this traffic bollard is bothering me and can I have a shampoo and set’  arm waving may be out of vogue.

 Generally I feel I’ve been raised in an inferior language when I contemplate the complexity of this script and all it’s variations.

 I’m certainly overwhelmed but afterwards sunk in the library in literary ventures I find myself imagining writing that script and then begin to copy and practise the first six letters and find it surprisingly comforting like knitting or swimming must be if you’re good at it. I cannot understand why I am so compatible with it until it all makes sense. It’s written right to left, so it’s got to be in the left brain, which is where all my pigeons roost.

January 28, 2007

Mad Notion 362 and the mittens

I have taken affirmative steps toward another of my notions this morning the acquisition of a smattering of the Arabic language. The early signs are that it’s more promising a feat than the barmy attempt last week to read a cello concerto.

The class is none of this let’s start at the very beginning with the alphabet. It’s more of a turn on the pan and start boiling approach, so an hour into the class we were asking each other for our phone numbers and replying with very useful phrases like I’ll be calling you next year or la, la, la, get out of here, you must be joking I’m not giving you my number. Because of the turn on the pan approach we were also telling each other we were doctors. There’s none of this interrupt the class while 12 people ask for the specific name of their job — much simpler to just all claim to be doctors. Al doctoraah.

What an incredibly gender specific language it is! Different ways to say how are ya? if you’re talking to a man or woman. Infact different ways to say everything. The only mild relief came when I realised by virtue of being a female I had only to ask the questions appropriately to males and females and could relax about having to reply as a bloke. Until this dawned on me it was a very intimidating prospect.

 Handily the class takes place on a campus with a very acceptable large arts library. I spent a long time getting cosy with the French literary canon, then chanced upon Beckett’s theatrical notebooks in German, which also took a while because I had to see how long he could keep up that neat writing on that squared paper. It became slanted by Endgame. There was at least a whole play where it did not slip remotely to the right. Most impressed. I couldn’t stop recalling the hand cramp of youth.

Followed that with a nice uplifting injection of Flaubertian cynicism to emerge to the exit and discover quelle horreur my bold and stripy mittens, always admired by people under age 5, were gone. I had to revisit every stop along the French literary canon to see had I tucked them on the shelves. When you’ve lost your mittens among it, the French literary canon is even bigger than you thought and those shelves are like caverns. It looked likely the French canon had eaten my mittens and all joy of literary meanders threatened to evaporate until hark I spotted them next to a man playing a complicated looking video game, who looked a little startled as I was reunited with them beside his elbows and exclaimed loudly my undying love for them and waved them in victory at the library staff, which prompted outpouring of lost black leather glove last winter story from woman behind desk.