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Month: January 2010


Aprendió dos cosas, una en la calle, mientras tenía los ojos abiertos, y otra en su piso, cuando los cerraba para dormir: la primera es que hay hombres que sueñan con los labios; la segunda, que hay muchas formas de ver la luz, pero sólo una de estar ciego. Cuando murió, lloraron por él en cinco ciudades distintas.

El hombre que escuchaba, Benjamín Prado.


The stuff of documentary, the stuff of fiction.

With my eyes open, Toronto is fiction because there are many versions of it. They feel mostly unfamiliar. Madrid is documentary because, preserved in closed-eye memory, it has stayed intact — every street and haircut — for five years. New York is somewhere in between. Paris, I’m starting to forget. Canal-side afternoons, the périphérique as viewed from a speeding taxi on my way to work at 3:30 am, the moment at Chez Georges when the crowded cellar overwhelms with its heat and Piaf, the fussy bakers, the saggy dog with no knees, the thin man with no voice who’d pour me too-sweet Kir or espressos, the round bar, the greatest hidden gem on rue Ramey, knowing every inch of the metro, and the awkward clusters of foreigners who are just so excited to be there. I forget if I tried to remember.

Esta maldita ciudad. Estas malditas ficciones.

les affreux

Bob Dénard – now there’s a biography I’d like to write. Né Gilbert Bourgeaud, aka Said Mustapha Mahdjoub, Muslim, Jewish or Catholic depending on the territory being occupied. Father of eight, murderer of many.

Killer of independence.

The lessons he carried out, cautionary tales illustrating the cost of freedom versus the value of it, have weighed heavily on my mind this past week.

For three decades, beginning in the 1960s, he was the patrol dog of Françafrique and beyond. He put his mercenary paws all over Benin, Gabon, Congo, Yemen, Nigeria, Iran, Zimbabwe, and his favourite target, L’Union des Comores. He’s doctored more coups and coup attempts than I have fingers and toes, generally with the backing of Western powers looking to protect their interests in the decolonized South. It was in France’s interest that the Comores be plunged into chaos and poverty post independence. It was in France’s interest that these newborn republics fail. Otherwise, what sort of message would that send to the remaining colonies? Colonies that, to this day, moodily accept overseas territory status and massive inequality, perhaps for fear that the alternative – independence – would leave them in much worse shape. Recent referenda in Martinique, French Guiana and Mayotte show that no, in fact, we do not all yearn to be free. Some would prefer to stay yoked, heads held above water, than drown.

Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacre mercenaire.

I wonder if Bob the Dog ever looked on Haiti and cursed himself for having been born too late. “A century and a half earlier,” he might have muttered, “and I could have put a clamp on that, too.”

Awful, awful, awful.