“As you read a foreign novel, you are actually invited into other people's living rooms, into their nurseries and studies, into their bedrooms. You are invited into their secret sorrows, into their family joys, into their dreams.
Which is why I believe in literature as a bridge between peoples. I believe curiosity can be a moral quality. I believe imagining the other can be an antidote to fanaticism. Imagining the other will make you not only a better businessperson or a better lover but even a better person.
Part of the tragedy between Jew and Arab is the inability of so many of us, Jews and Arabs, to imagine each other. Really imagine each other: the loves, the terrible fears, the anger, the passion. There is too much hostility between us, too little curiosity.
Jews and Arabs have something essential in common: They have both been handled, coarsely and brutally, by Europe's violent hand in the past. The Arabs through imperialism, colonialism, exploitation and humiliations. The Jews through discrimination, persecution, expulsion and ultimately mass murder on an unprecedented scale.
One would have thought that two victims, and especially two victims of the same oppressor, would develop between them a sense of solidarity. Alas, this is not the way it works, neither in novels nor in life...
Read novels, dear friends. They will tell you much.”
-- from Amos Oz's acceptance speech in Spain for the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature. Mr. Oz is an Israeli novelist and essayist.
Has any novel or work of fiction changed your view about a person, a culture, a country? Tell us about it here. The best comment/entry, long or short, will get a freebie. Promeese!
PLUS: Jessica Hagedorn (“Dogeaters,” “Gangsters of Love,” “Dream Jungle”) will be on Boy Abunda's “Private Conversations” tonight, 9 p.m. on ANC. On Friday, Nov. 16, at the RCBC Theater lobby, she will sign books before the opening of “Dogeaters" (the play), directed by Bobby Garcia. I get my chance to interview Ms. Hagedorn on Wednesday, Nov. 14. Pressure, pressure!
This isn't the first time I'm meeting the famous author. While she was here in November 2003 to launch her new novel, “Dream Jungle,” we at Inquirer Lifestyle did a Playtime interview with her. Money quote among many:
“'Dogeaters' was nominated for the National Book Awards. What do you think is the reason only a few Filipino writers have penetrated the American literary mainstream, unlike Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston or Gus Lee?
I don't know. I think it's a question [that should be asked] of someone like [Carlos] Bulosan or Ben Santos, [both of whom] are available in the US and who are such great writers. I really don't know... I'm not the right person to ask, because I think they are as good as...
It's always an uphill battle, even for me. It's a struggle, because I'm also considered a literary writer. Literary fiction--it's 'artsy-fartsy.' I'm not writing what they call 'supermarket fiction,' nor do I want to. Correct? There's a whole marketing thing with literary writers as opposed to commercial writers. They are not really promoting you as much as they would Tom Clancy. I mean, Amy Tan is a commercial writer.”
[Photo: Bruce Reyes-Chow]