happy birthday

Fesa is ten years old. Fesa is a factor of social development. Fesa says: Bread can kill hunger. Water can quench thirst. But only solidarity can nourish hope. And hope, says Fesa, is what Angola needs. For ten years Fesa has been working to give encouragement to those who most need it. Solidarity: this is what Angola needs. Happy birthday. This is what I read in Jornal de Angola last night. A double-page spread. A hand cupping an orange. A pair of hands reaching out or had they just thrown the orange into the cupped hand? All in the eye of the orange-holder. Fesa has a Swoosh – or is it a Swish? – a bit like the Nike one, except that it’s a double almost treble Swoosh. Other interpretations of Fesa have been made, in particular and perhaps most eloquently, by the late Christine Messiant.

I’ve just finished reading Joan Didion’s Salvador, which disappointed. It was based on a two-week trip to El Salvador in 1982 at “the height of the terrible civil war [she] travels from battlefields to body dumps”. There must be something wrong with me for not admiring this work enough. The New York Times said: “It is quite impossible to deny the artistic brilliance of her reportage.” The Sunday Telegraph said: “A writer of haunting power and global vision who sees a world on the edge of a nervous breakdown and is not afraid to deliver the news.” Crikey. I said: “A very good writer who spent too much time in the company of the US embassy and not enough time with the Salvadoreans.” Oh dear. Am I suffering from myopia? I must have missed the point somewhere. She writes much of terror and how she came to understand terror. Maybe this is the difficulty: reading this in 2007, in a world where we are warned of terror as if it were a pothole we might fall down at any minute in the dark. You can buy seatbelts to help avoid terror, by the way. Back on Didion: she is, says The Times, “one of America’s finest literary stylists, most penetrating reporters and acutest critics”.

I’m probably just jealous. Of Didion and Fesa. I’d love to be ten again.

One thought on “happy birthday

  1. Your blog is very fine – I am here via my friend Teju Cole’s blog.

    Not having read Joan Didion’s book, I can’t pass judgment on it directly, but I don’t think you are “just jealous.” What you describe is a reflection on our cult of celebrity, in which a few stars represent big dollars in their fields, to the exclusion of many deserving others, as well as our society’s (and media’s) preference for reading top-down “vetted” accounts of foreign realities, legitimized in by authors and spokespeople who seem familiar. And that trend has gotten worse.

    Don’t be discouraged; there is another place for the kind of inquiry you are doing, and there are other, mroe discerning readers.

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