“What is not in it - does not exist”

The Mahabharata, as told by RK Narayan
Translated from English by Danny Raveh
Published by Bavel

There is a story that many years ago a very senior Israeli went to India on a semi-official visit. He was disconcerted to find that the Indians knew very little about Israel and were unaware of its vast importance in the world.
“Why should they much know about us?” asked a member of his entourage.
“What do you mean?” said the VIP. “We gave them the Bible!”
The story is amusing not only because of the absurd claim that we, who are living today, gave the world the ancient work created by our putative ancestors, but also because of the ignorant assumption that the Bible is a universal work. It is not.

The Making of Kurtz

Sven Lindqvist: Exterminate All the Brutes
Granta Books, London, 1997

If I were asked what was the most important book I read in 1997, it would definitely be this one. Its title is taken from Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness : “Exterminate all the brutes!” scrawled the All-European Mr Kurtz at the end of the report he’d prepared for The Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, which had sent him to the Congo. The novella was written a hundred years ago, at the height of the colonization of Africa, when Europeans were seizing the choice lands and natural resources of the “Dark Continent”, by means of deportations and extermination.

A River named Massacre

Edwidge Danticat: Farming the BonesPublished by Soho Press Inc, 1998/ Abacus 1999(In Hebrew by Kinneret Books; translated by Adi Yotam, 2000)

The year is 1937, the place - a blooming village in the Dominican Republic, not very far from the border with Haiti. A young woman named Amabel, a Haitian, speaks in a soft, thoughtful voice about the family that employs her as a maid - senora Valencia, her father who is called Papi, and other servants and employees of the hacienda. The picture is almost idyllic - the narrator is fond of her employers, worries about the pregnant Valencia and and respects her Spanish-born father, who sits every day beside the big radio trying to hear the latest news from his distant homeland, which is in the throes of civil war.

Look who wanted to join the Hitler Youth!

Hans J. Massaquoi: Destined to Witness
William Morrow, New York 1999

Not long ago I heard a strange voice on radio: it was a BBC interview with an elderly man who spoke with a marked German accent, yet with the phrasing and intonation of a Black American. The combination was very odd, and I began to listen attentively. It turned out that this was a man who was born and raised in Germany, arrived in the United States as a young man, served in the US armed forces during the Korean war, and later became a journalist and editor. This would not have been an exceptional story, but for the fact that the speaker was black, the son of an African man and a German woman, who was born in Hamburg in the 1920s, and lived in Germany through the Nazi and post-war period. When he reached the US he found himself attached not to the German-American community, in which he had many relatives, but to the African-American community, the descendants of the slaves. The fascinating interview concluded with details about the speaker’s autobiography, which had just been published in the States.