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August 2020


11 August 2020

Sound, Breathing, Calm

Adam Shatz remembers Jacques Coursil

‘You don’t make music by listening to music,’ the French-Martinican trumpeter Jacques Coursil said. ‘You must listen to the world.’ Coursil died in Belgium in late June at the age of 82. Coursil, whom I knew in his last decade, was an elegant, urbane musician, at home with both jazz and classical composition. He had a second, equally distinguished career as a professor of linguistics, publishing work on structuralism, the poetry of Négritude and la Créolité. A nomad and a bricoleur, he spent much of his life on the move, borrowing whatever ideas and sounds appealed to him. He embodied what his friend, the Martinican poet and philosopher Edouard Glissant, theorised as the restless, creolised aesthetics of the ‘tout-monde’.

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10 August 2020

Goodbye to Hasankeyf

Arianne Shahvisi

The ancient town of Hasankeyf has been wiped off the map. Nestled on the bank of the Tigris, it was one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world, its artefacts dating back 12,000 years. You can still find it online and admire photographs of its spectacular ruins, or of the thousands of human-made caves that studded its limestone cliffs, but in real life it’s gone. As Turkey’s new Ilısu hydroelectric dam has been brought to full capacity over the last year, the level of the reservoir has inched upwards. In April, Hasankeyf was quietly swallowed.

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7 August 2020

Clearing the Rubble

Loubna El Amine · Lebanon’s Future

It was unimaginable that things could get worse in Lebanon. But they did. Weeks into the country’s worst economic crisis, compounded by the pandemic, 2570 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, stored in Beirut’s port, exploded on Tuesday. Because the blast was preceded by a fire, phone cameras were already trained on the port when the mushroom cloud went up. Most of the video footage lasts only a couple of seconds before the people taking it are knocked to the ground. Blurry upside-down images follow, to the sound of cries, screams, prayers, metal and glass shattering, walls collapsing. One video I have seen was apparently taken by a man who died from the explosion. The blast has so far killed 137 people, injured 5000, and made 300,000 homeless.

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6 August 2020

Beyond the Ruins of Hiroshima

Jacques Hymans

Seventy-five years ago, on 6 August 1945, an American warplane destroyed the city of Hiroshima with a single atomic bomb. Over the following five months, 140,000 people died. The surviving 210,000 came to be known in Japanese as hibakusha, ‘bombed people’. A second atomic bomb destroyed the city of Nagasaki on 9 August, leaving 73,000 dead and 200,000 hibakusha.

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5 August 2020

On John Hume

Daniel Finn

The death of a notable figure is often a time for selective amnesia. Michael Gove is the Conservative politician with the keenest interest in Northern Irish affairs – a dubious blessing for the people of the region. After John Hume died on 3 August, Gove paid tribute to the Derry politician as ‘a man of great integrity and wisdom who stood against violence and for peace with courage and steadfastness’. You get a very different impression from Gove’s 2000 pamphlet denouncing the Good Friday Agreement, the principal fruit of Hume’s political labours. Gove compared the British government’s policy of engagement with Sinn Féin to the appeasement of Nazi Germany, and accused Hume of undermining confidence in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

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4 August 2020

Kashmir, One Year On

Skye Arundhati Thomas

Tomorrow will mark one year since the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which had provided a loose form of legal autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Democratically elected Kashmiri leaders were arrested, 30,000 additional troops deployed, and a total communications shutdown imposed, cutting residents of the valley off from one another and the outside world. Jammu and Kashmir were divided into separate union territories. Months passed without any internet or telephone access. A weak 2G connection has now been made available, but it is unstable and often suspended.

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3 August 2020

‘Easier prevented in the beginnings’

Paul Slack

Quarantine has always been a political tool, imposed on citizens by governments. In 1631, Charles I received a report from one of his physicians, Théodore de Mayerne. The king had asked Mayerne to look into how England’s quarantine procedures, especially in London, could be updated to meet current standards in the more civilised cities of France and Italy. Mayerne pulled no punches. People infected with plague in London should no longer be isolated either with their families at home or in makeshift sheds elsewhere. There should be new hospitals for the sick and separate ones for their contacts. Above all, Mayerne called for the creation of a metropolitan board of health, properly funded and with ‘absolute power’ in time of infection. Only that could guarantee ‘order’, the ‘soul and life of all things’, and so safeguard ‘the public health of all’.

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