Other animals have preyed on it, gutted it, picked it clean, following the rules of the game.  So one might say.  That’s why I’m looking for the place where the disemboweling happened.  I would like it to be a place that, by human standards, is cruelty-free.  I would like to know a good word for the absence of cruelty.

Torture.  Murder.  Mutilation.  These are actions that belong solely to human kind.  Along with abstract reasoning and other cognitive phenomena, it is this that separates man from beast: there is nothing on earth that can treat another creature with such savage disregard as man does his own.  I can furnish this claim with countless examples, drawing from a pot older than the first cities and as vast as the globe.  From pogrom to pogrom, from Holy Inquisition to Holocaust, one could cross the Pacific Ocean on the backs of history’s victims and not wet so much as a single toe. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Bird Wire


I am now on Twitter.

A translator is someone from whom we expect complete fidelity in their work, or as close to it as is possible.  Indeed, their identity qua translator is bound with the degree to which they faithfully reproduce the prose or poetry they translate: the more freely they interpret the text, the more creative they get in their rendition of the poet’s verse, the less they could be said to be translating, and would instead find themselves more on the creative side of things.  But the difficulty with translation is in the semantic differences between the original work and its translation.  Those writings that have a strong national flavour often use language that is charged with strong social and cultural meaning, much of which might be lost – as Robert Frost defined poetry to be – in translation, particularly when heavy with idiom or patois.  Some texts are so laden with such local colour that they are all but destroyed in the attempt to translate them.  Fortunately, this is not the case with Ersan Üldes’ story Professional Behaviour.

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The ordeal of the family dinner is something not soon forgotten, nor the guilt soon assuaged, by those families who count among their members a sufferer from an eating disorder.  The guilt that comes from the anger, the anger that comes from the frustration, the frustration that comes from not understanding why a few small potato chips (oven-baked! not even deep-fried!) are such an insurmountable obstacle, why the peas are haggled over until a compromise is reached: nine, and not a single one more.  Furtive sessions of high-intensity exercise, secreting uneaten food in clothes to be disposed of later: anorectics are masters of deception and subterfuge and it is only with time that one learns all their tricks.  They are skeletal prestidigitators performing the ultimate vanishing act.  But it’s not about the body, they will say.  It’s not about being thin.  It is, rather, all about control.

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The Professionals by Welsh writer Wiliam Owen Roberts is the story, broadly sketched, of the personal and professional relationship between two men.  I say broadly sketched, because there really isn’t much more to the piece.  One of the men, the unnamed narrator, is a therapist of the Freudian psychoanalytical school, and the other, his patient, Mathew (name changed to preserve doctor-patient privacy), is a banker, “not the sort…our fathers used to beg a loan from in their best suits, more the flashy transnational deal.”

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