What can Euro-American modernism mean to an undergraduate student of literature in Kuwait today? My students are much more focused on claiming identity than appreciating the power of not belonging. What this desire to identify forecloses, however, is contingency, openness, transformation — the possibility that things might be differently arranged.
Inscribed in Cyrillic, and in quiet solidarity with Russian objectors to the war, are perhaps 2 million copies of “1984” sitting on Russian bookshelves, whispering the link between the past and the present.
While the plot of Majnun and Layla is simple enough — boy falls for girl, girl’s father marries her to someone else, boy goes insane with love — the nature and depth of passion at the heart of the story are anything but.
Departure and return, variation and repetition — these movements that “ghazal” poetry makes with immense longing have come to qualify all my loves. I leave Lebanon and return to it. My daughters push me away and summon me back. I say goodbye to friends and meet them again in different cities.