Jan 16, 2017

50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus

I usually don't watch TV or movie, if I do, I would prefer to watch documentary films. Recently, I watched 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus, by Steven Pressman, which is the story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, a Jewish couple who, in 1939, decide to travel to Vienna to save the lives of 50 children. The couple are Jewish, but the mission that they take is not out of religious passion, it is rather a benign version of self-sacrifice and humane action, something that we now rarely hear or know.

Their journey to the Austria, which is under the control of Nazi is not easy. They encounter numerous government bureaucracy and discouragement from people who afraid to have Jewish in their communities, event Jews - who afraid of increasing anti-semitism - tried to persuade the couple to give up on their plan.

The couple eventually travel to Berlin and then to Vienna. There, the Kraus met with hundreds of families who are willing to send off their little ones to thousands of miles away in hopes that if they would die, their children will be alive. This is a heart-wrenching story, specially when some of those children who are now in their 70s or 80s narrate their own stories about abandoning their parents. This is the story that is relevant to our time and it also teaches us what we can do to make this world more beautiful and more tolerable for each other.

Jan 13, 2017

From the Stans: Yulduz Usmonova and Loiq Sher-Ali

Earlier in one of my blog post, I translated a poem of Loiq Sher-Ali, one of Tajikistan's famous poets. Today, I was reminded by a Tajiki friend that the exact poem that I translated here is adapted into a song by a famous female Uzbek pop singer Yulduz Usmonova. I have been listening to this song for the past five days. Usmonova's voice has masterly echoed the sentiment that is lurking among the lines. The striking part of this song is the mesmerizing choreography of dance around the vault by the lake.

I don't think the vault is natural, but the just the embodiment of imageries, allegories and overall the concept of the poem into sentimental corporeality is extraordinary beautiful. A famous female Iranian singer Googoosh has copied the exact song with little alteration though in the lyric (it seems to me that the lyric is appropriated for this song, which is artistically does not sound very ethical), the music is quite the same but the dance choreography is dully in tawdry fashion - yet still beautiful with Googoosh's voice. Googoosh's version is titled "Nemidouni" (You don't know). Usmonova's song is called "Namekuni" (You can't). Here is the song. The lyric that I translated from Tajiki into English and Persian is copied below.


If you can’t make me laugh, don’t make me cry
If you can’t help me, don’t hurt me

If you can’t make me happy, don’t remind me of joy
If you can’t make me joyful, don’t make me tearful

From the four corners of life to the pathway of life
If you can’t be a protector, don’t be an invader

If you haven’t been befuddled, don’t try it
With vaunt and flaunt, don’t try to fool me

Your body is free of any pain of being in love
Your hands are empty, don’t make mine empty

You haven’t seen the world, don’t promise me the world
You haven’t seen the sea, don’t make me thirsty for the storm


In Tajiki
Хандон агар намекунӣ, гирён макун маро,
Обод агар намекунӣ, вайрон макун маро.

Хушбахт агар намекунӣ, аз бахт дам мазан,
Шодон агар намекунӣ, нолон макун маро.

Дар чорсӯи зиндагӣ то кӯи зиндагӣ,
Раҳбон агар намешавӣ, сарсон макун маро.

Ҳайрони дил набудаӣ як лаҳза худ ба худ,
Бо лофу бо газофҳо ҳайрон макун маро.

Ҷонат тиҳист аз ғами ҷонсӯзи ошиқӣ,
Дасти тиҳӣ ту ин ҳама дастон макун маро.

Дунё надида, ваъдаи дунё мадеҳ ба ман,
Дарё надида, ташнаи тӯфон макун маро.

Лоиқ Шералӣ
[1986]

Jan 3, 2017

Lolita and Morality

The immorality of Humbert Humbert and his actions towards Lolita tell us how far one can get from his or her righteous conscience, the very inner quality of guiding to the rightness. It raises questions related to our understanding of ourself in our modern time, like to what extend has the human conscience lost its moral judgement. This is a chronic affliction that a reader might experience in reading Lolita and this is exactly what Humbert Humbert suffers from.

Lolita is a testimony to our pain and suffering in our modern day that is defeated by an indiscernible joy. We do not understand what Nabokov really says unless we put aside our preconceptions about the moral issues that the book raise.

I thought it is relevant to bring in Schopenhauer's input. In his essay on pessimism, Schopenhauer says in order understand this world’s suffering and misery is to accustom ourself with the fact that this world is a penitentiary, a sort of penal colony. If we do accustom ourself with such reality, we can locate ourself in front of a campus that would guide us through life and perhaps banish our doubts as to the right path to looking at it. If such authentic view is created, and if such desire has kindled a light in the darkness of our conscience, one can claim to understand what Nabokov means in Lolita.