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'Inward testimony' - a writer's witness account of world conflict - Daily News Egypt

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'Inward testimony' – a writer's witness account of world conflict

As the post 9-11 world becomes a single stage for international conflict, Nadine Gordimer asks: “What place, task, meaning will literature have in witnessing disasters without precedence? During her speech at the Naguib Mahfouz Memorial at the American University in Cairo earlier this month, Gordimer – the South African 1991 winner of the Nobel Prize …


As the post 9-11 world becomes a single stage for international conflict, Nadine Gordimer asks: “What place, task, meaning will literature have in witnessing disasters without precedence?

During her speech at the Naguib Mahfouz Memorial at the American University in Cairo earlier this month, Gordimer – the South African 1991 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature – assesses the role of fiction and poetry in providing an account of the world’s calamities throughout history.

“Witness, she quotes the Oxford English Dictionary, is “attestation of fact, event, or statement, testimony, evidence; one who is or was present and is able to testify from personal observation.

Writers have long given us a means to experience our world, our history, she said. Their “witness account of events often allows us to gain a deeper understanding. Naguib Mahfouz’s literature is a notable example of “witness literature . His characters provided us with a close look at Egyptian society, and the intricacies of its structure.

“Naguib Mahfouz has drunk the cup and gone, leaving us behind in the shabby, grim presence of worldly power, Gordimer said, “but he’s left his wisdom, his writings, his inward testimony, the wisdom of great literature.

With conflict raging throughout the world, witness literature has emerged as a way of processing and understanding disaster and violence, as well as making sure that it doesn’t continue unnoticed.

Gordimer herself has become an agent of creating awareness for racism and brutality that she witnessed under apartheid South Africa. “I was the child of the white minority, blinkered in privilege and a conditioning education, she said. “But because I was a writer – for it’s an early state of being, before a word had been written, not an attribute of being published – I became witness to the unspoken in my society.

“Very young I entered a dialogue with myself about what was around me; and this took the form of trying for the meaning in what I saw by transforming this into stories based on what were everyday incidents of ordinary life for everyone around me, she recalled.

Literature and poetry are powerful tools. Writers and poets allow us to make sense of our past, understand our present, and look on towards our future.

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Topics: Gamma Islamiya

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