From Libya, with love

My commuting today by bus was made almost perfect with the BBC World Book Club. Again. It seems, no matter what they do, it always brings me happiness.

The themes of the books they choose are always thought-provoking. To hear the authors talk about a novel, respond to questions from the audience, laugh, learn, deny and perhaps hear for the first time and understand about a new angle to a certain something is just a great concept.

I’ve written lately about learning, and it is a top theme in life for me in general. I believe there is no development without learning, and learning (or development, too) happens on the individual non-comfort zone. It differs for every person. I’m sure there’s an organisational non-comfort zone, too, and that’s where the real development takes place.


The Libyan author Hisham Matar talks to Harriet Gilbert about his debut novel In the Country of Men in the latest episode (epic dose? Hihi!) of the BBC World Book Club. The author was born in New York, lived in Libya and Egypt and is nowadays (or was until recently) in exile from the Gaddafi regime. His father has disappeared, and there is still no information of whether the father is dead or alive. Matar’s writing has made many people uncomfortable. As he describes on the show, people are sometimes wary to meet him, reluctant to be seen with him, to talk to him.

Now that’s a lesson many of us take for granted. The freedom of speech at its core.

Freedom of speech is not about, say, twisting words full of racist thoughts into something that supposedly only generically criticizes immigration. It’s about losing your life and the lives of all those around you for choosing your words carelessly, say, calling the dictatorship a dictatorship.

I know that atrocities have taken place and still do in many countries all around the world, but somehow, hearing details and descriptions of them makes me shudder. As mentioned, my mind tends to visualize everything, so I can vividly see the below description before my eyes.

Description: the national psychosis, when individuals are executed on a stadium. The young man seems to have hope for his life being saved, and begs for mercy. He gets none. And then, hurrahs for the lady who steps up to pull the ankles of the young man being publicly hanged. And then, the lady is promoted to public life and generally glorified for doing that, with the usual dictatorship golden handshakes, such as ministerial posts. And it’s a true story, with the handshakes and all.

Dear me.

Some listeners were annoyed about the fact that the person being hanged in the novel, in the end begged for mercy, despite having given the oppressors zero names or pieces of information before.

It’s easy to admire a hero, but it’s more difficult and more worth while, and more necessary, especially when you live in a society where people are not acting heroically, to try understand how they came to that.

Wise words by Hisham Matar.

♣ In the meantime: I’m getting slightly fed up with the rain. Why could it not just be sunny and nice, colder is ok, but no more rain.

♥ Song of the day: Midlake, The Courage of Others

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