OSCAR

This was my penpal Oscar from way back. Never knew his name. One day he stopped answering and that was that. I never knew who he really was.

And this is the real Oscar Wilde

juillet 28, 2011

Hi Annie,

I’m the Outcast from the Penpal website. Apologies for the late reply (without assuming you were looking forward to either.. the apology or the reply). I’m not in Syria at the moment but still strolling around the middle east. You’re the first one to write to me from Belgium. In fact, you’re the first one ever to write to me from anywhere. But what ushered your interest in our Bin-Ladenish culture? It’s probably so organised and peaceful down in Belgium, you need some anarchy and chaos for a change. But then again, syria is nice, isn’t it? (Please take my fragile national pride in consideration while answering).

If my voice was any better, I would have sung you the barbanconne, but I’ll probably do it worse than Leterme. I shall look forward to your reply.

Regards,
Outcast

___________________________________________________________

What a nice and funny letter, ya Oscar.
You speak of organised and peaceful Belgium ? Don’t you know that we
are on the brink of disappearing ? We lost our Prime Minister last
night and although we do not have, el hamdu lillah, the type of
disorder there is in the ME, things are not very dull here.

Bin-Ladenish culture ? Are you kidding ? It is law and order thru and
thru at least at the level of the shaab.

What seduced me in Syria was its people; no words can describe the
goodness, generosity, class, wisdom of the Syrians who crossed my
road. I went to your country for 8 months and stayed on for 5 years.
I would still be there but el kader decided otherwise.

I’ll be in Lebanon inshallah in September.
So, since you were looking for a penpal, tell me something about yourself.
Where do you live, what do you do ?

I am retired and I study Arabic, a final mission impossible, the most
impossible of all.
I was an simultaneous interpreter which was already kind of hard, but
this enterprise now tops it all.
Does not matter since I do it for pleasure. Knowing or attempting to
know people thru their language … well Arabic tells loads about
Arabs. The language is a maze with surprises at every corner.
I have to leave but I would certainly enjoy exchanging posts with you.
It is the Brabançonne. Hey, you seem to know something about Belgium.
I learned your National anthem at the Mahad.
Bye Oscar
Annie

__________________________________________________________________

Marhaba Annie

Aasef for not knowing about Leterme’s resignation, but I trust your political entity will remain intact. I can only imagine what would happen if Belgian politics were suddenly inflicted with an Arab tinge by some surreal stroke of magic: Albert’s nephew would claim his uncle is mad and announces himself supreme monarch. The army leader, being Albert’s son-in-law, vows allegiance to the nephew and occupies the TV building. Walloon declares independence and the Flemish invade Namur. Then the americans fly in and bomb everyone. Fun, isn’t it?

I’m in jordan at the moment; the geographical climax of boredom. It’s so boring, it makes belgium look interesting. (Not funny…I know). There’s hardly anything I can tell you about myself. My character is pretty much void, and my existence mainly virtual. In fact, if you ever hear me say anything interesting about myself, you can rest assure I’m making it up (kazzab).

Apart from that, I’m sure your linguistic crusade will not go in vain. Enshallah el kadr -and the Mahad- won’t fail you ya Annie. (You see, you know enough words to make a sentence). My only worry is that you’re extremely modest (i.e. kazzabeh) and speak the language better than me. Hmm..

Khalas. Take care.

Oscar

__________________________________________________________________________

Ya Oscar,

You won’t be hearing from me for a few days. I am going to De Haan. I
am sending you a couple of pictures from the place.
I need the rest.
To day was so emotionally charged with the release of Kantar.

He was threatened on my blog where I spoke of his release.

Jordan ? I have never been and have little desire to go because, and I
am not kidding, Syria is a difficult act to follow.

The Belgian scenarios you mention below are really far fetched
although a Belgian Yougoslavia is not an impossibility. A couple of
terrorist actions and c’est parti. There is some antipathy between the
two people or peoples.
I am Flemish, but a traitor in the sense that I speak French better
than my mother tongue although I do not come from a family of
« Fransquillons » (Flemish bourgeois who would speak French, a little
bit like the Lebanese who sometimes claim they hardly speak Arabic).

I’ll make this short.
When I watch the five asra I think they should have been given time to
meet with their families instead of being on that podium. They must be
dead tired. And so am I.
I am trying to imagine Oscar Wilde (I love his wit but Dorian Gray,
Eke Beke) When you read a few works of him in a row you can see that,
like all witty people, he tends to repeat himself.
In English, my grand amour is RLS. May be you do not know who he is in
which case I shall tell you next time. Do you know French ?
Best

_______________________________________________________________________

Marhaba,

Have a good rest. I’m equally battered. It’s been TV since morning, and the bastards kept delaying the release. The context might be appropriate to admit that my genetic composition is only half syrian. Mon autre demi is falasteeni, so the issue is all the more relavant to me.

It all proved worth following when the Sayyid showed up on the podium. I’m sure the asraa felt the same, so don’t worry too much.

So, you’re a J&H fan. Interesting. Dorian Gray is somewhat similar as it studies a somewhat schizophrenic character (yawn yawn..). I feel i’m sliding into my pretentious mode, so i might as well just shut up.

A gift till you come back from De Haan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2XvblPSO3U

Something shivers behind the ribs. Allah yonsro.

Take care, and thanks for the photos.

Demagogfuly,
Oscar

_____________________________________________________________________________

Hello Oscar,

I opened the gift before leaving; yes, it was worth standing on that
podium if you are going to get to embrace THE man; plus I realized that
I am a woman and they are men
plus, they are militants and the cause tops the family anyway.

I remember that girl I met at shat el ahlam north of Lattaquie who was so angry at her parents for having gone to jail and not « cared » about what happened to her. Of course, they did care but they took the risk of going to jail and she felt that they had let her down.

I am a very peaceful person but I can understand what goes on in Palestinian minds; at the mahad, all of us felt like going to explode ourselves . And we were not brainwashed. Just the sheer inhumanity of the ennemy, its total disregard for any justice made us feel totally outraged. Of course we left it at armchair heroism.

Did you go to the Julia Boutros concert in Damascus in 2006 ? We were extatic.

Tell me the truth : you knew without googling him who was RLS ? I would be really impressed and don’t kazzab me. I would be impressed because did not know who he was when I saw his puppet in a museum in the Cevennes ten years ago and there his full name was mentionned. Of course, Treasure Island and JH rang a bell. You know he wrote JH in one night and burned it because his wife disapproved of it, then rewrote it ? RLS fans hold that against her. Yet, Fanny Stevenson was quite a woman though.

My favorite RLS is The amateur immigrant and some of his poems.
I slept at his house in Edinburgh. That made me an expert overnight. Had I stuck to incredimail I could have slipped a few grimacing smileys here.

OK, the train will not wait for me and I have not packed.

Weather forecast is not very good, but I still have not had my full ration of rain and greenery after five years in a semi-arid region.

Take care

annie

______________________________________________________________________________

My belgian comrade .. Salamu alaykom,

Hope you’re enjoying your break, and thanks for the photos. I hope your Gabriellian Weidneresque attitude towards ME issues isn’t causing you much trouble, although i trust it is. You have my uncompromising armchair support. (ha .. very funny)

Your ‘mahad’ sounds more of a militant training camp, but I’m not surprised. All arabic teachers regret not doing a degree in politics. Their oratory fixations are particularly unleashed when faced with foreign students. They call it ‘arabic in context’. Hmm..

As to the RLS issue, I wish you didn’t mention you’d be impressed had I found it out in an ungoogly manner. My masculine intellectual ego is on the altar now. Allah ysamhek. But it’s interesting what you mention about his wife’s detrimental role. That’s what women are all about, aren’t they?.. (sorry, i’m just being arab)

Take care. And when you’re back, dessine-moi un email.

Egolessly,
oscar

ps … no, I only watched Julia on TV. Shame.

__________________________________________________________________________

Dear Oscar,

I cut the sea break short and I am ashamed to tell you why …. no I am not.
I am hooked on sanawat addaya a Turkish musalsal dubbed in Arabic and I just could not miss two episodes. So I caught yesterday’s rerun this afternoon. There is also Nour, another Turkish musulsal dubbed in Syrian arabic but I relate to it less. It takes place in a very rich Istanbul family where women seem to spend all of their time making babies and shopping. I am being unfair, they also hold jobs but don’t really have to. There is the dean of the family a really remarkable man. Very open minded.
The series contain in total three women who have children outside marriage. That is breaking some taboo.! They are not about to mention anyone gay.That is really haram.

A guy I met at the terras of the metropole told me that el adou offers automatically refugee status to any gay Arab. That would have to be checked; as if they cared about any Arabs ….

No, the mahad was no militant training ground; the news we learned came from watching al jazeera and reading the internet. In the West people know nothing about the events in Palestine and even the Israelis don’t know, and don’t care except for B’tselem and a few others. And some repentant winter soldiers who are ashamed of what they did to Palestinians.

If you have a chance in Amman, get the Occupation 101 or the Checkpoint dvd’s.

It took me some time to find a reference to Gabrielle Weidner; but I did find out that
she was born in Belgium, was a terrorist by German standards and died in a camp.
I get no flack here; people are rather sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Of course, one runs the automatic risk of being branded antijewish but I can take that because I know I am not.

If your people fled Palestine to Syria they probably came from the North, Safed, for instance.

Dear outcast, I am calling it a day

———————————————————————————-

Dear Oscar,
We shall have to call it a day. I mean, for good.
It was fun to meet you.
amg

———————————————————————-

Et tu, Brute?

———————————————————-

Je sais que cinq années de Syrie m’ont rendue un peu parano, mais tu m’as menti dès le début. Tu n’as rien d’un Arabe; tu te fous de moi.
C’est à toi que je pourrais dire et tu

————————————————————–

I’m flattered, I can’t deny. But in any case, if you do have arabic encoding on your computer, perhaps this can vindicate me:

آني،

تباً لك. أتكذبينني يا عدوة الله؟! سمعت عن عرب كثيرين يحاولون تقمص شخصيات غربية، ولكن أن يحصل العكس فهذه غرابة تبلغ حد الشذوذ. هل ينبغي أن يكون المرء غبياً حتى يبدو لكم عربياً؟

سامحك الله

Would you like me to tell you about the liguistic controversy over whether syria should be written with Taa marboota or an Alif… or perhaps about the poetry of motanabi and his infamous piece in mourning saif al-dawla’s sister. Sanawat al dayaa is on mbc and so is noor. And so was Bab Al-haara last ramadan. The third series of the syrian drama is also due on mbc the upcoming ramadan. Gays are evil and should be stoned to death. Sooriyah Allah haameeha. Sook al-hameediyyeh. Falafal. Hommos. Doctor Bashar. Shoo biddek kaman?

It’s the first time ever I feel compelled to prove being arab. For that alone, I have to thank you immensly.

Arabfuly,

————————————————أوسكار

Dear Oscar,

The text proves you know Arabic; this does not make you a Syrian.

At least, I did not think you were from the Syrian brand of gumshoes.

I would not be too flattered at not passing for an Arab, that might mean that this lowly Belgian (being from the Plat pays) does not believe an Arab can be funny, intelligent and with an esprit de répartie.

If I were you, I would be collectively offended.

It is the reference to Gabrielle that made my dime drop. That would be a typically Jewish reference plus I found her on a Wallenberg site.

What kind of Syrian would know about Gabrielle ?

Sorry Oscar if you are innoncent.

BTW, do you watch Sanawat al dayaa ?

annie

—————————————————————-

Ma soeur magnifique,

You Descartian sceptimaniac! Was it Lord Henry who once said: ‘Man is least himself when he speaks in the first person. Give him a mask, and he will tell the truth’. I’m only truthful about my identity when I intend to lie about it… (bollocks, I know)

I did express a strong sentiment of offence in my arabic paragraph (do we have to be idiots to look arabs), but I expressed the precise opposite in English. ‘Emotional Ambivalance’ Freud used to call it. You feel two opposite things, but they never mix, so you express them concurrently… as in the boy who punches his father and then hugs him immediately.. Why am I saying this? Probably showing off, although your intellectual stamina has proven too superior for my google-armed gimmicks.

As for Gabrielle (mal’oon abooha), I’ll tell you the story (although i’m sure you don’t give a whit). I was watching Russia Al-Yawm (new russian channel in arabic). They mentiond the Red Baron. I googled him. And min link la link la link, I ended up at Suzanne Spaak from whom, and with a click of a mouse, I landed on Gabrielle (metaphorically). A reference to Rosa Luxembourg would have been more to my taste, but I thought a Belgian character like Gabrielle would better cuddle your ethnical eros.. (figuratively). I was wrong.

I suppose I’ve bored you to the brink of death by now (allah ytawwel omrek). I want to precisely explain my Syrian ‘link’ (for my own sake) but I’ll save that to the next email, iza allah ahyaana.

Sorry for such a prolonged letter. If I had more time, it would have been much shorter.

Fraternally,
oScAr

ps No, I’m not following it. There’s a new syrian series on mbc that only started today ‘yawm mumter aakhar’. It looks really good. Definitely more sophisticated than Muhannad’s half-wit hogwash.

—————————————————————–

Dear Oscar,

I buy the road to Gabrielle; that kind of cheminement happens on the net.

It is true I have an image of Syrians (and God knows if I love them) as not conforming to the type of shahsiya I see in you. You are a surprise, but then I did not know that many people anyway when I was living over there.

Muhannad is the pits and the whole family too by the way except for the grand father. How come they call him jeddi and they call Sherifa, his wife, oumi ?
I prefer Sanawat al dayaa and of course specially the yahia character.

I went to the movies to night and saw Love and the city; I did not see the series but the film was fun.
The wonderful thing here is that you can buy your seat on the internet and you do not have to queue to get in. I also saw In Bruges, the pits as far as plot goes but the sights of Bruges are so beautiful.

« I’m only truthful about my identity when I intend to lie about it.. » This is a riddle to me.

If it is not a state secret tell me a little about yourself and I shall release some about meself although if you followed the thread I inadvertantly left in one of my mails you know already too much.

Good night achi or rather ibni

annie

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Dear Annie,

What a text.. I always maintained that Wilde was the first ever to write Arabic in English. I regret never reading him before learning English. In moments of rational-eclipse, I believe I could have understood him perfectly. The more you learn Fus-ha arabic, the more you’ll see what I mean.. or the less. But until you do, I can continue posing as an arabian De Saussure.

I don’t follow Noor, so I can’t comment on the seemingly incestful Jiddi/immi paradox. I suggest consulting Totem & Taboo. Sigmo might have a footer somewhere on the series.

As for my identity – which I trust resides in the abyss of your interests list – I will mention something for my own sake. The choice of Outcast as a nickname wasn’t under the effect of some fleeting Kafkaesque mood I had. One of my parents was born in Palestine, the other in syria. I was born in Egypt, but raised in Damscus, followed by three other countries. My identity documents are a hopeless mess if not downright illegal. My personal feeling towards my identity is equally dispersed. I would say half of it is syrian, a third palestinian, and the remaining fraction a sundry of many different places. The good side to all this is a diminished ethnic chauvinism and a heightened belief in the unity of arabs. I feel passionate towards cities more than countries. I feel strongly towards both damscus and palestine, although the first for me is a city, the second, an idea.

I don’t know if all this makes sense, but whether it does or not, I have to apologise immensly for this horridly self-centered letter. In case you read letters from bottom to top, I would strongly advise you to immediately hit the delete button. It would save you from a life threatening spasm of acute boredom.

I hope you can write to me about yourself. I never noticed any links in your emails, but I’ve been cheap enough to look up your blog. I duly apologise. It was too luring to resist. Almost like opening the forbidden room in the castle of Zeus only to find Aphrodite completely au naturelle. Extremely chic. Would have loved to post in the forums, but my french is even worse than my english.

مودتي

أوسكار

July 20

Dear Oscar

I don’t write because I am reading the fascinating Dorian.
I wish I could find an electronic version of Proust because with Dorian i can copy and paste the passages which have special meaning for me.
I was offered La recherche in the Bouquin collection so I could highlight what I am too lazy to copy by hand. But that is also an abandonned site.

About Proust : at one time it was very « in » to read him in the English translation of Scott Moncrief (Scott Moncrieff’s magnificent Proust translation (volumes one through six of the seven) has earned him a place as one of the greatest translators of all time.- says wikpedia). A Scott, of course. You know I place on the same footing in my heart Edinburgh and Damascus. I love both Syrians and Scotts.

I told you I had my Wilde period but that was a long time ago and I never really delved into his life.

I did not read much of Freud but I remember the knocking on the door of the memories we have pushed outside the room and which refuse to go away.

Having lived in the States for 17 years, of course I had to see a psychiatrist to keep my sanity. But that was the extent of my contact with Sigmo. And it was not even an analysis. Mind you, my american years were among the most interesting in my life. This is where I really grew. Belgium was a stifling experience in my childhood.

Like yours, my background is a jigsaw but not in the same sense. I have lived in a couple of different countries but I have a nationality and I found my identity after a lifelong search : I am nothing in particular. I am me.

If your Palestinian parent left for Egypt he or she was probably from Jaffa.
I am being terribly pretentious but my best friends in Damascus are Palestinians and he grew up in Egypt and was from Jaffa and she is from Safed. Tell me I am wrong. Have to cut a little my pretentiousness.

I am going to get me a copy of Dorian in English. Reading on the screen is not the same. I know a man who reads in a e-book. And he reads a lot more than the average person but I like paper. Watching Nour is a loss of time and since I know that Yahiya will marry Lamiss, why do I bother even with sanawat ? The excuse is that it is excellent for my amyié arabic.

Tousbih ala heir
annie

JULY 21

Annie,

A blindfolded ape whose brain is missing both hippocampi and suffering from dementia praecox would probably score higher than me in an IQ test. I’m very sorry. I only knew of your Syrian exodus last night.

I won’t call it cruel or express support. I’m sure many people far more eloquent than myself have done so in ways I can not vie. But perhaps admitting that I haven’t been to syria for ten years for a somewhat similar reason might provide some comfort. Or would it?

I haven’t lost hope..yet.

My father was born before the nakba. He went to damascus as a child, not a refugee. He didn’t miss much though. When the west bank was occupied, he was immediately promoted to Refugee. Your line of analysis is pretence-free, but palestinian matters are generaly beyond the realms of logic.

17 years … I’m shocked. How come your English is so impeccable? Your intelligence alone brings your putative american experience into question. You’re not even slightly vulgar. I doubt you’ve ever crossed the Atlantic.

What are you doing nowadays? Any exotic hobbies you’re into? I trust the Belgian summer has its joys. Still on the beach, or back to the concrete jungle?

I’m feeling terribly lonely these days. Your emails are my last remaining window onto this world. (sniff sniff).

oscar

July 21

Oscar,

A blindfolded ape whose brain is missing both hippocampi and suffering from dementia praecox would probably score higher than me in an IQ test. I’m very sorry. I only knew of your Syrian exodus last night.

Why would you be an ape ? I did not tell you.

How did you learn of my exile from paradise ?

How did you find my syrian website ? I did not mention it
I said nothing of being blacklisted because it is for me a badge of shame in spite of my innocence.


I won’t call it cruel or express support.

If you cannot go back either that makes two miserable creatures of us. It is no solace.

I have lost hope. Last week I closed my banking accounts over there.

I have friends with wasta but it does not seem to help.
I sought out a Syrian contact because I miss so much everything Syrian.
In spite of my initial suspicions I am not disappointed.
I suppose people who look for a penpal are generally alone. It is exciting to find a note from a stranger who has taken the trouble to write to me.

My English is poor given the way it should have been after 17 years; I never took to the language the way I loved Spanish or I love Arabic (that was the worst part at first when I was thrust here: the language. I would speak to the street sweeper if I suspected him of being an Arab, if only to say kifek, marhaba and establish that link, that complicity).

I have been with Dorian for a couple of hours; I have to check Proust again but Lord Henry immediately evoked le Baron de Charlus; it has been a long time since I went du côté de chez Swann. I suppose I would fit in as that dumb Sibyl. No, I would have acted better than ever but I would have been hopelessly in love, that is for sure.
So, your father was stuck in Damascus and never had a chance to say good bye to his fatherland (mère patrie in French); that was one of the worst parts of my exile : not looking at things for the last time. Including my friends. Fortunately two of them came to stay with me for three weeks and that put some balm on my wounds.
.
And what was the reason for my banishment ?

I learned thru a sahafiye friend that I was part of the 700 foreign university mustamiîn who were kicked out.
The others were kicked out, I was not : they simply told me never to come back.
When friends who had inspected my file and found nothing told me that the coast was clear I did go back and spent 20 hours at the airport but was not allowed in.

I suppose they cannot understand that a foreigner who comes from an « advanced » country might prefer to stay with them.

It was simply insaniya that held me there; the abolute charm (sihriya) of the Syrian people; their sweetness, their innocence and of course, the splendor of Damascus. La splendeur orientale from Baudelaire’s Invitation au voyage.
(Tout y parlerait
À l’âme en secret
Sa douce langue natale.) Everything would speak to the soul in secret its sweet native tongue – I am the worst translator.

What I do here ? Three classes of Arabic a week; hours watching mbc and al jazeera. Phoning my friends in Damascus (fortunately I had no paramour there). Reading a little.
Translations for info-palestine.net; informing the public here is SO important.
The others held the monopoly of information for only too long and they fooled me for a while. But you know the saying, you can fool some of the people all of the time etc.

I am going to dispatch this because I have friends for dinner and then we are supposed to go and watch the fireworks. It is the day of the watan. We’ll sing the Brabançonne one last time I guess.

To morrow the painter comes to occupy me for the week. I hate that kind of event. In the US I would leave the keys to two Spanish brothers, take a holiday and when I came back there would not be a speck of dust.

Did the same in Damascus and my landlady came to supervise the work but the painter told me afterwards he would never set a foot in my place again and demanded extra pay for all the extra stuff she had requested from him. I loved my landlady (from Halab). Seriously. What a woman !

Don’t you have people in Amman or wherever you are ?

My five year absence has decimated the flock of my persons here but that is all right. You never lose true friends. Plus Brussels is a fascinating town and all that greenery and that water everywhere !

Illalika

annie

Ma cheri,

Your email arrived in the form of an identical triplet. And though you’ll shrug your head and call me a liar, I enjoyed reading it all three times. A pecuilar trilogy of identical volumes with an ever increasing deja vu as one moves from the second to the third parts. In fact, I almost felt (…ok, I’ll cut it out).

I’m sorry for not writing earlier…not that you’d give a fig. I was entangled in a web of responsibilities and only escaped today.

I’m afraid my knowledge of Proust is shamefuly lacking. Still, a quick online research gave me a putative gist of the seven volumes. I’ll probably need to read the actual thing if I’m ever to dare a comparative Wilde/Proust dialogue with you.

On a different note, and considering myself a figurative Godfather of Wilde’s orphan novel, you might want to note my disapproval of your suggestion of taking on the role of Sibyl. I dare claim that the flow of the story would be completely disturbed as you’re slightly too charming to be abandoned.. even if you screwed up on stage. You’d probably better fit as a female Dorian, in which case I’d like to be a male Sybil. Lord Henry would then be best removed from the entire plot. We can finish off the whole thing by chapter 4. Or preferably 5, because that’s where we kiss. Not sure if Wilde would approve.

As for my friends here, I have eliminated them free-willingly, one-by-one. My sensitivity threshold is a bit too low, and there doesn’t seem to be an off-the-shelf antidote for this peculiar psychic tumour.

I read about your story from a blog. I think the blogger was called Reem. For me, I find your systematic understatement of your plight through comparisons with refugee examples only confirming the depth of your pain. I find it difficult to say anything more.

Apologies for the intoxicated nature of some parts of this email. I’m too sleepy to reread..

مع كل المودة

أوسكار


Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2008 16:45:46 -0700
From: oscarwilde_123@yahoo.com
Subject: then
To: annemariegoossens@hotmail.com

Sorry for this kilometric risala

Your email arrived in the form of an identical triplet. And though you’ll shrug your head and call me a liar, I enjoyed reading it all three times. A pecuilar trilogy of identical volumes with an ever increasing deja vu as one moves from the second to the third parts. In fact, I almost felt (…ok, I’ll cut it out).

True, I was in a kind of panic at the idea that something beyond your own will would cut this young and fragile exchange. Hence I moved us to this isolated spot where no one ever writes and which is protected from the undeliverable mail etc..
I’m sorry for not writing earlier…not that you’d give a fig.
You know very well that I gave a pomgrenate.

I was entangled in a web of responsibilities and only escaped today.
Not all of us are people of leisure. In a way neither am I. I produced a beautiful translation of Avnery and now I am working on an article from Al Ahram « Met with silence » by Khaled Amayreh
.
I’m afraid my knowledge of Proust is shamefuly lacking. Still, a quick online research gave me a putative gist of the seven volumes. I’ll probably need to read the actual thing if I’m ever to dare a comparative Wilde/Proust dialogue with you.
I know neither sufficiently and furthermore I do not have your analytical skills to do any valid comparison. I have not read Proust in a long time and I am rereading Wilde only now.

On a different note, and considering myself a figurative Godfather of Wilde’s orphan novel, you might want to note my disapproval of your suggestion of taking on the role of Sibyl.

At the risk of disappointing you I am a simple trusting soul just like Sibyl. I suppose it is plain flattery to put me on Dorian’s pedestal which to me feels more like – I forgot the name of that lauha with three holes and the criminal has his head in one and his hands in the other two- thus, that thing.

Got it ! Pilori in French.

I dare claim that the flow of the story would be completely disturbed as you’re slightly too charming to be abandoned.. even if you screwed up on stage.
I believe Dorian was right to abandon her. What ? She gave up that everything which mesmerized him ? People do that so often. You like someone for certain interests or hobbies they have and then they give up everything for you. It was just the way he did it which was not very halal.

You’d probably better fit as a female Dorian, in which case I’d like to be a male Sybil. Lord Henry would then be best removed from the entire plot. We can finish off the whole thing by chapter 4. Or preferably 5, because that’s where we kiss. Not sure if Wilde would approve.
Ya salam ! I’ll forgive the kiss since you were like Muhana to nite, drunk (unless it was intoxicated with sleep) and not knowing what he did during the night he spent at his former girl friend.

As for my friends here, I have eliminated them free-willingly, one-by-one. My sensitivity threshold is a bit too low, and there doesn’t seem to be an off-the-shelf antidote for this peculiar psychic tumour.
The antidote is acceptance although I confess that my acceptance threshold is rather low too; I have no time for chit chat and gossip or socializing. What surprised me in Damascus was the level of bienveillance (lexibase says kindness but the word does not feel the same as in French); even my poisonous friend Mari (with a qalb of zahab and a lissan made of sum) was so incredibly understanding where I was impatient.
How long have you been in Jordan? Were these friends the hammam type people who drink and tell dirty jokes all night long ?
I read about your story from a blog. I think the blogger was called What Reem. For me, I find your systematic understatement of your plight through comparisons with refugee examples only confirming the depth of your pain. I find it difficult to say anything more.
I am so litle inspired when writing in English it is painful; I feel very drab and clumsy but since it is the lingua franca on the net, we have little choice. My blog in French was very good the first years and often funny but I told you I was hacked and I still have to republish two years of chronicles;they are hidden in the basement of the blog. My present blogs are uninteresting. I just refer to interesting news but I write very little personal stuff.

You may have heard about the Questionnaire de Proust He adapted an original English one and took a long time in filling it out.
Have a go if the thing pleases you. When I finish my traduc I’ll work on it too.

The original Proust adaptation in French Proust’s answer

Your favourite virtue.Le principal trait de mon caractère.Le besoin d’être aimé et, pour préciser, le besoin d’être caressé et gâté bien plus que le besoin d’être admiré.
Your favourite qualities in a man.La qualité que je désire chez un homme.Des charmes féminins.
Your favourite qualities in a woman.La qualité que je désire chez une femme.Des vertus d’homme et la franchise dans la camaraderie.
Your chief characteristic.
What you appreciate the most in your friendsCe que j’apprécie le plus chez mes amis.D’être tendre pour moi, si leur personne est assez exquise pour donner un grand prix à leur tendresse.
Your main faultMon principal défaut.Ne pas savoir, ne pas pouvoir « vouloir ».
Your favourite occupation.Mon occupation préférée.Aimer.
Your idea of happiness.Mon rêve de bonheur.J’ai peur qu’il ne soit pas assez élevé, je n’ose pas le dire, j’ai peur de le détruire en le disant.
Your idea of misery.Quel serait mon plus grand malheur ?Ne pas avoir connu ma mère ni ma grand-mère.
If not yourself, who would you be?Ce que je voudrais être.Moi, comme les gens que j’admire me voudraient.
Where would you like to live?Le pays où je désirerais vivre.Celui où certaines choses que je voudrais se réaliseraient comme par un enchantement et où les tendresses seraient toujours partagées.
Your favourite colour and flower.La couleur que je préfère.La beauté n’est pas dans les couleurs, mais dans leur harmonie.
La fleur que j’aime.La sienne- et après, toutes.
Your favorite birdL’oiseau que je préfère.L’hirondelle.
Your favourite prose authors.Mes auteurs favoris en prose.Aujourd’hui Anatole France et Pierre Loti.
Your favourite poets.Mes poètes préférés.Baudelaire et Alfred de Vigny.
Your favourite heroes in fiction.Mes héros dans la fiction.Hamlet.
Your favourite heroines in fiction.Mes héroïnes favorites dans la fiction.Bérénice.
Your favourite painters and composers.Mes compositeurs préférés.BeethovenWagnerSchumann.
Mes peintres favoris.Léonard de VinciRembrandt.
Your favourite heroes in real life.Mes héros dans la vie réelle.M. Darlu, M. Boutroux.
Your favourite heroines in real life.
What characters in history do you most dislike.
Your heroines in World historyMes héroïnes dans l’histoire.Cléopâtre
Your favourite food and drink.
Your favourite names.Mes noms favoris.Je n’en ai qu’un à la fois.
What I hate the mostCe que je déteste par-dessus tout.Ce qu’il y a de mal en moi.
World history characters I hate the mostPersonnages historiques que je méprise le plus.Je ne suis pas assez instruit.
The military event I admire the mostLe fait militaire que j’admire le plus.Mon volontariat !
The reform I admire the mostLa réforme que j’estime le plus.
The natural talent I’d like to be gifted withLe don de la nature que je voudrais avoir.La volonté, et des séductions.
How I wish to dieComment j’aimerais mourir.Meilleur – et aimé.
What is your present state of mind.État présent de mon esprit.L’ennui d’avoir pensé à moi pour répondre à toutes ces questions.
For what fault have you most toleration?Fautes qui m’inspirent le plus d’indulgence.Celles que je comprends.
Your favourite motto.



The wonderful thing about not knowing you is that I can imagine you and may be I’ll tell you one day how I imagine you.
IN Wilde, I am reading the story of the Canterville ghost, which is rather delightful.
Good night dear Oscar.
To morrow is my last painter day thank God. Until October. The guy is quite nice but has the misfortune not only of being from Colombia but on top from Medellin. This is worse than being an Arab these days.

Where did you learn that excellent English? And don’t tell me at Damascus U and don’t insult me for saying this but I knew a few graduates in English literature.

Annie
Apologies for the intoxicated nature of some parts of this email. I’m too sleepy to reread…

مع كل المودة
أوسكار

— On Wed, 7/23/08, Anne-Marie Goossens wrote:

From: Anne-Marie Goossens
Subject: if
To: oscarwilde_123@yahoo.com
Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 7:36 AM

Dear Oscar,
If we are still on talking terms (men have a tendancy to split without a good bye) can we move here ?
My mailbox is full of undeliverable mail and unlike scs or aya in Syria, belgacom is hopeless as far as giving any information on why an unexisting address mail box is full.
I do not come very often to hotmail which is a very old address with my pre-syria name.
I left it when hotmail was blocked over there.
Without further ado, I am still here and hope to read something from you whatever it is.
Your syro-belgian friend
annie





24 July 2008 23:36:29

Annie,

Your kilometric letter barely measured an inch. Happiness is always short-lived. The fruit-value of your emails go beyond pomegranates as far as I’m concerned. Would it not prove horribly vulgar, I would have called you my beloved watermelon. I’m sure my fictitious inebriated hammam comrades would find that extremely romantic.

I have to lay an early apology at the doorsteps of your inbox. The drowsy state I was in last night is mainly to blame for my Chapter 5 indecencies. Many years of concentrated self-repression suddenly found a venting gap through a fictitious kiss in a century-old novel with a mysterious lady on the banks of the Senne all conveyed through a virtual means of communication in which humans are but names and letters. It was serpentine enough to dodge my psychic CCTVs. Thinking about it now, I can see that my pervert excuse only indicts me the more. I might as well just shut up.

So you’re into translation. I envy you. A palestinian poet called Khairi Mansoor once called it ‘The noble treachery’. But I’m sure it’s great fun. All treacheries are. Do you tend to be very loyal to the original text? It’s hard for me to guess. You seem too clever to do so, and too honest not to. I wonder how you manage..

My ex-hammam friends are not really the drunken bastards I would have liked to hang my social failures on. Perhaps it all started with a snowballing feeling of estrangement when amongst them. I couldn’t relate to them anymore, and I couldn’t find new friends. The Annie Goossens species, I’m afraid, is hopelessly endangered. And don’t call it flattery. For someone with my psychic mayhem to have felt ‘at home’ with you is perhaps the greatest intellectual affront you have suffered in your entire life.

It wouldn’t be easy for me to fill that Proustian table. I’m hypersensitive to banality, and although banal is what i truely am, I would definitely fabricate false answers to escape the pilori of mediocrity. Why am I being so oratory tonight? I think I’m getting drowsy..

Well, without further ado, and to avoid any further releases of my ghastly unconscious, I shall bid you good night.

Death to Coloumbia.

Oscar

This might be a carbon copy. I sent u same but cannot find it recorded in my sent fileAnnie, I thought I’d start off with « Your almond homosexual croissants are ready ro serve. Our zionist chef recommended them before boarding a flight to Yemen », but one can’t change mood so swift. It would border on the vulgar. I’m also concerned that my funny/ghaleez gauge meters are still malfunctioning after yesterday’s fiendish events. I can hardly tell a joke from an obituary in my current woozy state, and could soak your screen with puke should I attempt to spill out my humour in writing.

Yemen, again; I loved Sana’a and shall go back. The eyes are so beautiful and their extraordinary women who would – from under their veil – say: hi ! how are you ?
I woke up with an emotional hangover and I am happy I did not get your almond croissant with my first coffee; I felt light headed and needed to focus. There was a delay in delivery… I had rusks instead with ricotta and rhubarb jam.

It’s the first time I hear of Pausch. Shame on me. I watched his Last Lecture on youtube but had done the mistake of pre-reading about it from an overzealous fan. He placed it in such skyscraping high esteem, the actual thing was just bound to be a disappointment. But being from the Arab world, I’m all too familiar with overstatement.
The two links you gave me are spectacular, in the sense that they set the two ends of musical evolutionary scale. The Fairooz link was crucial for undoing whatever that other link did to me. But putting the singing aside, the hommos looks great. You have to tell me about your heroine pharmacist one day.

Ah Hala ! If I tell you she is the one who hooked me on Nour I know she will lose a few points but you would be wrong. And she has that extraordinary actor son who may have come to ourdoun. If he does again, with showcola, don’t miss him. The play is fantastic and the acting is great. Hala’s life is a novel. And how did Munif’s wife come across? Munif’s wife ? As a unsassuming widow in the most positive sense. I did not have a chance to speak at length with her. I ordered Cities of salt and the other two which have been translated (The trench and Variations on Night and Day) ; it had to be from amazon much to my dismay since they had refused to ship me anything to Syria and I would have asked elsewhere if there had been another provider.

I’ll keep my expectations low as I like they guy too much to put up with a disappointment. Really, what madame Munif was in private we shall never know. But of course, she could have been pretentious, but she was not. What you told me about retirement was truely inspiring. And believe me, I’m tighter-fisted than the theatrical Shylock when it comes to using the word. Very few things can still stir me from the inside. I have to thank you for breaking that. I didn’t miss your white on white phrases.

I was really afraid you might take offense at such a brazen pun. You are after all a rajul sharqui as Hattab reminds his wife regularly.

You will probably take it for a joke, but I even contemplated some mathematical analysis in search of a cypher somewhere in that table.

So, you are in the computing business. You know, I imagined you as a University professor and not of the type I would meet in the US which would automatically turn me off. The ones at Damascus U, I loved. I was in history with all the lowgraders from the bacalorea. kidding.

Your intelligence merits in me a certain level of madness.

True, you have to be a little mad to deserve entering my serpentine life. But mon Dieu, the five year Damascus stay was so bland ! so sage (in French) ! I never behaved so well except for the one week stitch as a human shield in Bagdad. In my life, the US was the pièce de résistance, back in Belgium the cheese fassel, Damascus was a fluffy desert without much consistence; let me explain : Damascus was le repos du guerrier. Pure bliss, happiness, purring. The ever presence of the mukhabarat would have made any exploration risky and although I claim I am unafraid I did not want to do anything that would get me kicked out. And yet I was.

What’s your insecurity about? Or is it like anxiety, of unknown root? No, bred in the bone, in the womb. I personally escape it only when alone,

How true ! I travelled in the desert by myself and two bedu. My only reflection I got of me came from the rocks and the sand and my camel and I liked myself. It is the look from others which puts me ill at ease. I had no conversation with the bedus but still there were interesting little events and signs. but even that doesn’t work all the time. Yes, sure

T. E. Lawrence used to be a ‘good guy’ using Bush’s terminology when my knowledge of him was solely shaped by Lean’s film where playing arab merely requires shoe polishing one’s face and acting dumb. Further reading proved otherwise. You’re not the first to have thought me gay, but you’re the first to have done it intellectually; making use of the pen name. I’ve been called ‘Shaaz’ several times, especially by members of the opposite sex. But I wouldn’t blame them. Men have maimed their reputation beyond repair. To prove male, it seems necessary to express a neurotic fascination in biological protrusions of the female body, beg for interest, and transform the entirety of language into a pervert allusive tool whose sole subtext is human copulation. Perhaps I’m exaggerating.
I can understand that. And specially with a Sharqui man (smile). With you, I am not into flirting although I am well aware of your maleness. I am grateful for the fact that except for the baiser vole, our exchanges are on another level. I need not say that had you been homosexual, it would not have mattered one bit but it would have changed the atmosphere, I should say the tension, between us.

I would have liked to comment on the Eve point you raised, but the latter paragraph forbids me now.. I’ll leave it to my next email.

The Eve comment was wrong; it was not about sex but about disobeying god. I must go back to Tabari. It was shipped recently from Sham together with my 1001 nights. Hala has opened the Annie library in her pharmacy but keeps sending me books thru the one and the other. The one I recovered with great emotion was Sindibad le marin in a wonderful French translation. I recently shared a room with my sister’s 10 year grandson and he loved the stories. I do not remember whether sindibad was part of the 1001. May be not.

As regards our homosexual friends, I only mentioned stoning as a mean of proving my Arabism through adhering to the western stereotype.
I had understood that so.
You know. Oscar riding a camel with four women, eating dates and stoning a dyke from the leisure of his camel hump. Very funny But the fact of the matter, I can’t care less about the subject. In bilaad Al-shaam, no one gets stoned to death as you probably know (except for political reasons). Paradoxically, Wilde used to escape England and head to Algeria when wanting to practice his pervert partying. My only reservation regards changing the subject into a philosophical theme, going on pride marches and talking about ‘gay literature’. A transexual pride parade would be equally repugnant to me. The way people ‘carry on’ should never be an issue.. God I’m wise.

This is all a private matter but they want to assert themselves on the model of Black is beautiful.

Your claimed foolishness PhD is besides the point. If beauty of the soul ever had a contest of its own, you’d be my Miss Universe.
Oh no, I am not. There must be snake nests and dark caverns in my soul. It all depends on which part of me you thread. What pain you awake. Though generally, when hurt, I tend to walk away.

Have a lovely day. wa anta kamam
Oscar

To be continued

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