Other essays, other writers, other cities

Earlier today I mentioned a piece Ingrid Bengis wrote about St. Petersburg and its literary history for the BBC, along with an essay by Mikhail Iossel, the founder of the St. Petersburg Summer Literary Seminars.

My attention has been directed to another fine Mikhail Iossel piece, entitled “Some Of The World Transactions My Father Has Missed Due To His Death On September 14, 1999.”

It’s an affecting collection of events, moving as it does from the world stage — “Boris Yeltsin’s peaceful retirement. The second war in Chechnya. George W. Bush’s dubious electoral victory over Al Gore. War with Iraq.” — to the homefront — “His youngest granddaughter’s unaccountable utter lack of interest in unicorns.”

As for Ingrid Bengis’ St. Petersburg essay, I didn’t realize it is part of a BBC series. Luckily I checked in at Moorish Girl, where Laila links to Aleksander Hemon’s essay about Sarajevo:

In … Sarajevo Marlboro, there is a lovely little story about a rock and roll singer and his story, the way he lived in the city – the way he existed before the war and the way he existed during the war.

And a lot of those stories, if you are from Sarajevo you know who these people are.

So there is a retained memory of that in literature.

Around the time of the war literature from Sarajevo in the wider sense dealt with the war.

And in strange ways it had more hope than the literature might have today.

Because the war was a struggle, in a sense, and to write books and to write about Sarajevo was to protect it, or defend it, in fact.

Other writers currently participating in the BBC project include: Zadie Smith (London), Helon Habila (Lagos), F Sionil Jose (Manila), Bapsi Sidhwa (Lahore), and Matthew Tree (Barcelona).


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