Another "Hamlet" protest sign – Syria last spring – in Arabic this time

Just found this too, from Syria. Over a year old: Dera’a, April 2011. Reported here. The sign with two lines of black text right in the middle says “Imma an takuun aw la takuun.”  Written in Arabic, in case you were wondering whether only Anglophones use this line. 

Heading back to Cairo, briefly

I’ll be in Cairo briefly June 15-23.
Just found this image from Feb 5, 2011 – from the demonstrations in Tahrir that “toppled,” as the phrase goes, the dictator Hosni Mubarak. With the bitter wisdom of hindsight we might erase that “toppled” and write in: “allowed the Armed Forces to self-interestedly remove.”  The poor girl in this photo – what kind of country will she grow up in?
[Update – image has vanished from Transterra Media web site… this is just a Google cache thumbnail; anyone know how to get it back?]

شكسبير في التحرير (Shakespeare in Tahrir)

You knew it was coming, but here it is. As the post-“revolutionary” (I still think it was largely a military coup) situation in Egypt becomes more intense, with a tug-of-war between the military and the protesters, between secular-state and Islamist protesters, and between different branches of Islamists (traditionalists vs. neo-fundamentalists) — as all this heats up, could Hamlet be far from the conversation?

Tweeted about three weeks ago at http://yfrog.com/kil04ngj

Raja Shehadeh channels Hamlet

I first began studying Arabic fourteen years ago in part because, on my first trip to San Francisco, I had randomly met Palestinian lawyer Raja Shehadeh’s cousin Nabil and immediately afterwards, walking into a used bookstore, stumbled on a copy of Shehadeh’s memoir, The Third Way.  That’s part of what helped inspire my interest in the language and, eventually, in Arab appropriations of Shakespeare.
I want to quote Shehadeh here to illustrate how deeply the imagery of Hamlet — particularly but not exclusively the young angry Hamlet of Act I — has become interwoven with formulations  of Palestinian identity, Arab identity, and the conflict over Palestine.  This is from Shehadeh’s interview in David Grossman’s 2002 book The Yellow Wind  (also reviewed here).  He says:

Of the two ways open to me as a Palestinian — to surrender to the occupation and collaborate with it, or to take up arms against it, two possibilities which mean, to my mind, losing one’s humanity — I choose the third way. To remain here. To see how my home becomes my prison, which I do not want to leave, because the jailer will then not allow me to return.

I believe it is no stretch to read Shehadeh’s refusal to “take up arms” as related to Hamlet’s hesitation during the “to be or not to be” soliloquy — how to commit oneself to fighting an evil so huge that, like a “sea of troubles,” it will simply swallow up the humanity of anyone who engages with it?  Shehadeh’s “to surrender… and to collaborate” are symbolically identical, in Arab political discourse, with Hamlet’s “to die, to sleep.” 
Two unsatisfactory options which leave him searching for a “third way,” one that lets his essential humanity be recognized and gives him (at least) a voice in shaping how his history comes out.  You can see where the impulse comes from.  Even if you question its efficacy.  (And now his latest book, ever searching for a place to stand, seems to be harking back to the Ottomans.)

‘To Be or Not To Be’ in Lebanon?

Here’s the slide from my AUB talk that the Daily Star reporter was alluding to. I took this photo in late Feb 2005 – it’s the graffiti around Martyrs’ Square (later Liberty Square) in downtown Beirut, where people were commemmorating the Valentine’s Day 2005 car-bomb assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Can you see the faint writing, in English, right at the bottom of the photo? 

“To be or not to be now is the time.”

And here’s another example of Lebanon-related “to be or not to be” rhetoric: Walid Jumblatt (this was before he broke with the March 14 grouping) saying a rally was absolutely crucial to the existential future of Lebanon

“Notre combat c’est “être ou ne pas être.” No hyperbole or anything.

Flew home from glorious Beirut yesterday.  Sigh.