The Maya Tree Liberal Arts Review Vol. 2, 2011
Beaconhouse National University 3C Zafar Ali Road, Gulberg V Lahore, Pakistan firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ÂŠ 2011 Beaconhouse National University. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior permission of Beaconhouse National University. Printed by Le Topical Printers, Lahore.
Cover and layout designed by Tasmia Khan.
Contents Foreword Acknowledgements PROSE
Of All the Matches Made in Heaven Hajra Ilahi 3 Misplaced Time Mavra Tanveer 6 Meant for Me Haroon Qureshi 8 Human Consciousness Transport Technology: The Inner Evacuation Aneesh Lohani 10 Faraz Hira Chaudary 13 The Three Winners Mahey Noor 15 Living America Sana Tanveer Malik 19 Guest Feature 8. Sorcerer Faulad Drug Glutton Musharraf Ali Farooqi 26
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
POETRY 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.
Orange Pantoum: Bane of the Mistress The Shroud Rockstar Grime Let’s Sway Guest Feature 14. leave-taking: arizona patio
CRITICAL DISCOURSE 15. 16. 17. 18.
Your Consciousness is Part of the Text: This is Magical Realism Bearable Heaviness of Being (in Love) in Milan Kundera’s World Magical Realism’s Extremities: Kafka’s Trial and Neruda’s “Obiligation” Theorizing the Political Anatomy of Pakistan: A Discursive Analysis of Power, Culture & Politics Guest Feature 19. The Nature of Shakespearean Tragedy
Mavra Tanveer Sana Tanveer Hera Naguib Palvashay Sethi Sahar Haq
41 42 44 45 47
Foreword The Maya Tree is a student-fuelled effort that began in 2008. The work, the energy, the time comes from them. There is certainly faculty guidance but little interference. The bulk of the stories and poems are from creative writing classes. The papers in the Critical Discourse section reflect some of the best academic work produced over the course of the year from both BA (Hons.) and Masters students. The Department of Liberal Arts of BNU is justly proud of its support for creative and critical writing, believing that independent judgment and the development of a critical faculty are crucial aids to maturity. Too many students in Pakistan are taught to repeat parrot-like the opinions of others. The wisdom of our elders of history and time should not be discarded but every intelligent individual must build on the past. At DLA, students are helped to find their own voice, to come up with new interpretations, to debate and evaluate, and finally to decide for themselves the issues they believe are relevant to their lives. The Maya Tree is the end product of what our students are thinking and feeling. We hope you enjoy their work. If along the way you appreciate and understand their concerns we will have done our job. Dr. Ira Hasan Editor-in-Chief
Acknowledgements This second issue of The Maya Tree carries the additional sub-title of Liberal Arts Review, which reflects our vision and mission a little less opaquely than when the illusory Tree stands alone. For helping us tread softly in this direction we are happily and deeply indebted to our guest contributors: Musharraf Ali Farooqi, for sharing a chapter from his epic translation of the Hoshruba; Ilona Yusuf, for her beautiful poem “leave-taking”; and Dr. Ira Hasan, our editor-in-chief, for obliging our request to contribute the critical discourse guest feature: a chapter from her doctoral dissertation on Shakespearean Tragedy, “The Fall of Man”. The students’ poetry, prose and critical discourse featured in this volume has made its way to the Tree through university-wide calls for submission; short-listing by student-faculty peer-review boards; faculty-student conferences; and extensive editing and proof reading loops. Our immense gratitude is also due, therefore, to our student contributors, and the faculty and students involved in peer-reviews and conferences. Editor in Chief Dr. Ira Hassan Editors
Prose Hera Naguib Sidra Nadeem Mavra Tanveer Jawad Haroon
Critical Discourse Haroon Qureshi Haseeb Asif Kyla Pasha Jawad Haroon Khadija Hassan Malik Jahanzeb Aslam
Poetry Haroon Qureshi Haseeb Asif Kyla Pasha Jawad Haroon Khadija Hassan Malik
The Second Maya Tree Student Council Haroon Qureshi Rida Khalid Ali Afzal
Haseeb Asif Sumaya Makhdoom and for design & layout Faculty Advisors Jawad Haroon Kyla Pasha
Ailya Waqar Noman Khan Tasmia Khan
Of All Matches Made in Heaven
Bright lights, camera flashes, piña coladas. Mingled voices swirl about me until they rise up in a crescendo, right to the top of the flimsy ochre tent. There are people everywhere. Women in flashy jewellery and flab-revealing saris, men in starched shirts, children dodging harried waiters. It is indeed an auspicious event. All focus is on the bride and groom, sitting pretty on a petal-strewn stage. The groom grins, rather wolfishly, for the camera. The bride lowers her head, as any decent girl would. Family, friends and many others cluster around the two, laughing, sighing, sniffling. Quite a charming tableau really. Everyone is talking at the same time; it’s the only way to get heard. Yes, the bride looks stunning, yes, the groom’s family seems rich, and yes, the décor is bloody fantastic. All prerequisites for the perfect marriage seem to be in place. Another over-the-top wedding, true Lahori style. An extravaganza like one the city sees every other night. An overly excited middle-aged woman in peacock green silk jostles me. Here, you have to be aggressive about what you want; murmured “excuse me’s” just won’t cut it. “Doesn’t it seem like a dream come true, a match made in heaven?” she gestures towards the stage while gushing unabashedly at me. Can this lady not think beyond clichés? I pretend I haven’t heard. I never had any fairytale dreams. I knew nothing extraordinary would happen to me. Why would it? Four months ago, there was another wedding much like this one, another match made supposedly in heaven. Except at that wedding, I was the bride. It was obviously an arranged marriage which, according to my mother, is the best kind there is. I was all of twentyone years old. I wasn’t glowing or nervous or sad. I was nothing a bride should be, because I knew nothing wonderful could happen to me. “A neurosurgeon! Congratulations!” guests had shouted in my general direction. Salman had towered above me at six foot two inches; he had worn a baby pink tie—a poor tribute to the colour I was wearing. His feet had tapped to the rhythm of the pounding dholak. He had whispered to me at random moments through my sheer, stone-encrusted dupatta, which separated us. The Lord alone knows what he said because it was impossible to hear in that din of voices, but he seemed satisfied with my lack of response. After the guests had left I watched him devour a bowl of halwa with obvious relish. We were unsuited in many ways. “Hi sweetie! How are you?” A woman in butter yellow pounces on me. I vaguely remember her as one of my many distant cousins. Superficial air-kisses follow; we agree that we should “meet up sometime.” She sees another familiar face and takes off in a flurry of chiffon, no doubt after having assessed the value of my eaings. It’s what all fashionable Lahoris do, no need to be offended. The worst thing about these functions is that they just drag on—for how long can you admire the bride, marvel at the decorations and speculate on the amount of money spent? It’s a quarter to eleven and there’s no sign of all this frenzied activity abating. I can feel someone sta-ring at me, I know it’s Salman with Prose
She felt like she was home alone and that her home was in the middle of nowhere, but what a beautiful nowhere to be in. With that thought she felt less alone. She had just abandoned writing for a more familiar undertaking. Private and silent, night did this. It made her distance herself from life, a well constructed soliloquy in her head, and two decades to look back on. She experienced a desire to give in to melancholy often, but she would politely decline every time, as some strength and the miracle of a beautiful nowhere remained. Among these decorated reflections she returned once again to herself a little withered, but with the intention of convalescing. Like a slow song, mornings lingered. Somewhere around noon the day picked up pace, or the home did, or maybe just the people who made up the home. We were now an hour ahead because daylight had to be saved and reallocated. Another hour under the sun. The misplaced sense of sixty minutes did not displace the perfected routine of the beautiful nowhere. It worked to a synchronized melody. Though it did displace her internally. Morning came too quickly, afternoon became lethargic, and the private, silent moments of an insomniac were cut short. Meals were mistimed, eventually skipped and another cup of tea had to be added to the day just to create a new sense of sequence. Her mind still refused to weave together extraordinary words and the question of a hot summer day, to be discussed over meals, became: was the president really going to resign? The synchronized melody never became monotony. Altering forces within the home kept it from dissolving into countless irretrievable fragments, disconnected. The man of the house was pragmatic, ambitious and kind. He weighed in like gravity, grounding them all, sometimes holding them back, but a blessed support for the time they were in. His wife with her unwavering humbleness created equilibrium, her compassion correcting everything that was under her control. Here were unique characters. They could be written about. A tragedy had struck already. They were broken beings, and who better to put them on paper than her? Which one was more alive? Who had more endurance? Who blamed fate and who found peace in the idea of it? The drama of life consisted of political hazards, overwhelming loss and Godâ€™s humour. To get to the heart of it, the layers of synchronized melody had to be peeled, like almonds soaked in water overnight, gently and slowly. Words had to be found that were a perfect fit but the mind was an hour behind and ideas kept escaping. It was going to rain. The ground smelled of anticipation. The vines covering the back wall of the home had new leaves and a distinct summer green. It reflected every season, every mood, made it a beautiful nowhere, made loneliness go away. She wondered what it would be like to lie where seasons cannot reach through the 6
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Meant for Me
A scream permeates the room. Its echo reverberates throughout the house. It is as if a multitude is screaming, rather than just one solitary individual. A tall old woman stands surveying the scene quietly in one corner of the room. Her hair is white except for the few strands of grey that still cling to life. Her face is blemished with deep cavernous wrinkles, her eyes fading from green to a pale greyish white. She stands there, staring blankly at the woman who grasps her bloated stomach and screams again. The old woman doesn’t twitch. Screams turn to sobs and tears run down her cheeks. The old one watches her soiling herself, the urine spreading across her clothes and flowing down her legs, dripping onto the floor. A man runs panting into the house, past the master bedroom into the lounge, where the two women are to be found. He forces open the door, and hurries through the old woman. The baby is coming two months early. “It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s just the baby coming. Relax… that’s it, come on let’s get you to a hospital,” he says, out of breath, trying not to panic, as she needs him to stay calm. He gently helps her to the car. The old woman also drifts in behind them. She seems to shrink slightly as she does. How, one cannot tell. As they hit the main road, a volley of curses explodes from the man’s lips. The traffic jammed, they crawl helplessly. The old woman smiles in the rear view. This throws light on her whole face: toothless, her bones jutting, almost bursting out from a taut papery cover of flaking skin. She shrinks in the frame behind them. He holds her hand in between changing gears. She grimaces and squeezes with all her strength when he does. He glances over at her, the road, her. Nothing seems to move. “Just hurry,” she pleads. “I’m trying,” the man responds through clenched teeth. She screams this time: “Just hurry!” Another wave hits her, she doubles over. He can do nothing, he says nothing further. They reach their destination, finally. It takes forever to arrive at the hospital. He rushes in; three nurses follow him out with a stretcher. As they struggle to get her onto the stretcher, the old woman, appearing even frailer now, looks on at all this amused. Her now-five-foot tall figure drifts gently towards the hospital doors. As she enters, she seems to diminish again. She heads past the maternity ward, peering in on all the newborn children, smiling as she does. The couple is escorted to the operation theatre. “Is everything going to be okay?” the woman asks him, her eyes wide, whimpering as she is pushed into the room. 8
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The round of tea is over. The subject of the conversation is the dying economy of the country, the dying love for the country and the dying loyalty of the politicians. The students around Faraz are now yawning and making feeble attempts to keep up the conversation, for his sake. Surely they aren’t interested in the topic. Rarely do they ever argue with him or discuss how they can improve the present or future of the country. For them, Pakistan is like a duck who knows that in a jungle it can never rule or live like a lion or a wolf. Faraz can never make an impact no matter how hard he tries to motivate them. It’s not the bright future he talks about; he tells them beautiful stories of the past, of how everyone would stick together, how everyone was driven to contributing to the progress and development of the country. They weren’t mere fragments, they didn’t do it only for themselves, their families and clans; rather, they tried to unite the whole country. For Faraz the past is still worth talking about. He belongs to a generation that was infected at birth with a germ called ‘patriotism.’ They like to think about their past. They still want to anticipate and harbour expectations. For them, Pakistan is still a dream which will come true one day. Aside from his obsession with the country, his students still love him. When it comes to his own subject, ‘the dying literature of Urdu,’ nobody in the whole town has as much knowledge as Faraz. His lectures are always intense and informative, and as he delivers them, no one can let their mind swim in the air. Faraz’s love for Urdu literature was also borne out of his love for Pakistan. It matured during the time he had spent with his friend Bukhari in Punjab University while they were doing their Masters in Urdu. Bukhari is a character (or let’s say a person) whom Faraz never fails to introduce to his students or colleagues. For years he has shared the same stories with every batch. For Faraz, Bukhari is a role model for the youngsters; his love and loyalty for the country remain exemplary. Today, again, Faraz doesn’t forget to mention Bukhari to his young students. He takes out his last cigarette from a flimsy red paper packet and lights it with a small matchbox, which has a miniature of the Quaid’s tomb cheaply printed on it. “During the 1-to-4-a.m. Urdu ghazal programme, lying on the wet grass of the garden outside the Lahore station of Radio Pakistan, Bukhari and I made several plans for how the channel could be improved. If Bukhari had stayed in Pakistan, he would have loved to see how Radio Pakistan can now be heard in twenty six countries.” He pauses for a moment then continues, “I have heard that when people go to America, they soon become Americans. So, they no longer wish to come back to Pakistan.” He looks up at the moving wings of the pedestal fan and slowly extinguishes his half-finished cigarette. “While walking on the roads of Washington, I just hope Bukhari thinks back to those beautiful days and always keeps them a part of his memories.” After completing his sentence, Faraz closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. The neighbour’s dog, which is barking Prose
Sorcerer Faulad Drug-Glutton Excerpted and translated from Tilism-e-Hoshruba
Musharraf Ali Farooqi
Before long it was morning and the Emperor of the Armies of Stars retreated from the arena of the sky. The golden standard of Emperor Sun fluttered in the zephyr on the morn of victory. The conveyance of the King of Planets entered the desert with great majesty. After Bubran Lion-Rider’s last rites had been performed with royal fanfare, Heyrat said to Afrasiyab, “Pray give me leave to march against the traitors and kill them.” Afrasiyab replied, “This time I will send someone to take care of the tricksters first, a sorcerer who will not be incapacitated by weapons or drugs.” He then recited a spell and called out, “O Faulad Drug-Glutton, present yourself!” No sooner had he issued the command than a towering and hideous sorcerer on a fiery rhinoceros descended from the sky and saluted Afrasiyab. The emperor said, “Depart hastily with twelve thousand sorcerers as Hamza’s tricksters have entered and caused mayhem in the tilism. Bubran Lion-Rider has been killed. Until now I showed indulgence toward the rebels, thinking they might see the light and return to the path of obedience and deference. But it seems that death has marked them for its own. I am sending twelve steel magic slaves to accompany you. They can be neither drugged nor killed. They will help you capture the enemies.” Afrasiyab clapped again and twelve steel magic slaves wielding swords sprang out of the ground and he said to them, “Accompany Faulad and obey his commands.” Faulad said, “Your Highness, there is no need for them. I alone can overpower the rebels. I would have to drink many doses of drug in my wine before feeling even the slightest intoxication. Weapons have no effect on me. Neither can the tricksters prevail against me, nor sorcerers or mighty warriors fight me.” Afrasiyab said, “There is no harm in taking the magic slaves along as a precaution. Go and fulfill your mission.” Faulad saluted Afrasiyab and departed. A twelve-thousand-strong army of sorcerers with their tents and equipage accompanied him. The twelve magic slaves rode beside Faulad. The criers of the camp called out, “Clear the way! Show deference! Keep your distance!” They sped on their path and, after crossing the River of Flowing Blood, arrived near Mahrukh Magic-Eye’s camp. The sound of their drums reached the ears of the righteous warriors and Mahrukh dispatched magic birds to gather intelligence. The magic birds flew away and returned after gathering particulars about the arriving army. With their gracious tongues they sang the praise of Queen Mahjabeen. “MAY THE QUEEN HAVE A LONG LIFE. MAY HER ENEMIES ALWAYS REMAIN INDISPOSED AND ILL. A WRETCHED SORCERER NAMED FAULAD DRUG-GLUTTON HAS ARRIVED WITH HIS ARMY AND THE INTENTION OF WAGING WAR AGAINST THE SERVANTS OF YOUR ILLUMINATED HIGHNESS.” 26
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Sorcerer Faulad Drug-Glutton
After making their speeches, the magic birds flew off to gather more intelligence about the foe.Mahrukh said to Amar Ayyar, “We come from God and to God we must return! Faulad Drug-Glutton is a bloody scourge against whom all weapons are useless. He can drink up great loads of drugs without batting an eye, and his body is proof against warriors’ weapons and sorcerers’ spells.” Amar replied, “O Princess, the assistance of the Creator of the Universe alone suffices against all challenges. Shaddad the Vile, the great infidel of the past had similarly safeguarded himself against his death. He had set all manner of conditions to God: that the moment of his death should be neither morning nor night; that he should not die either standing, lying or seated. All of these conditions the All-Powerful God accepted just to show him His supremacy and omnipotence. When Shaddad satisfied himself that he would escape death, he went to inspect the paradise he had constructed to rival God’s own. It was the break of dawn. He arrived at the threshold of his paradise and was about to enter it. His one foot was in the stirrup and the other not yet on the ground when the Angel of Death arrived to extract his soul. He was carried away by death and dispatched hellward, full of unrequited hopes and unfulfilled desires. Faulad Drug-Glutton is nothing more than a clown and neither Afrasiyab nor that despicable Laqa are of any consequence at all. O Princess, whoever shuns the True God and tries to assume His divine seat remains a loser in this world and the next. Do you not see how Hamza constantly drives Laqa from place to place, with the false god’s head covered with the dust of ignominy? Put your trust in God’s beneficence. Even if you fall into dire trouble, do not let your faith waver in the least. I will now depart to kill the ignoble Faulad.” With these words, Amar headed out of the court. Other tricksters had already left after receiving news of the enemy’s arrival and were busy planning their strategies.
Let us now give an account of the tricksters Amar, Zargham and Jansoz. They infiltrated Faulad Drug-Glutton’s camp in the disguise of sorcerers. Amar headed for the place of audience and said to the attendants, “Go and inform your master that sorcerer Maut the Death has come to see him.” When the message was conveyed to Faulad he ordered Maut to be presented. False sorcerer Maut entered the court and saw Faulad Drug-Glutton sitting on a throne from which a thousand tongues of flame continuously darted out. Faulad wore a crown that glowed like the heart of fire and his waist was encircled by a chain of flames. Hundreds of sorcerers in hideous guises were seated around him while the twelve magic slaves of steel marched up and down wielding swords. Sparks fell from their mouths when they conversed. The criers and attendants stood at their stations. The false sorcerer, Maut, replied, “I live in the City of Manycolors. Mahrukh Magic-Eye confiscated all my goods and chattels and for the longest time I prayed for her destruction. However, I was powerless to confront her on my own. The news of your arrival brought me untold joy and I thought of presenting myself to pay my respects.” Faulad Drug-Glutton said, “You did well in coming here. Consider this place your home. I will soon kill these ingrates and solicit the emperor to confer their belongings on you.” Faulad Prose
When it starts to drip orange The everymorning sun Wonâ€™t you be reminded? It was an almostwinter sunset When we had begun.
Pantoum: Bane of the Mistress
bittergourd secrets sublime clandestine scullions scrubbing at vile graffiti on the heart awhile
sublime clandestine betel-nut kisses graffiti vile on the heart saccharine and tart
betel-nut kisses as the cloying aftertaste saccharine and tart of a Canderel-ed pie
cloying aftertaste of mulberry sighs, like a Canderel-ed pie purple-stained goodbye
mulberry sighs clouding reflected gazes purple-stained goodbye in moonstruck eyes
clouded reflected gazes cacao memories in moonstruck eyes coffeed and toffeed
cacao memories wrapped in scuttling satin coffeed and toffeed wriggling out of grasp wrapped in scuttling satin 42
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I read Kurt Cobain’s diary today On a wintry-air-conditioned day in May It didn’t feel good, it kinda rang true, Brought memories of old days, bittersweet rue. There’s a rustle as I write this, a hit like cement My pussy snuggling close, a Freudian accident, Nothing ever said is said to be meant.
Bones and blood and guts and gore, He pretty much called every body a whore. His childish discontent with the world at large Felt like a ship, repeatedly hitting the barge. Even though he was heard, he shouted his words, At the end of the day he was a passive Columbine nerd. There’s a rustle as I write this, a hit like cement , My pussy snuggling close, a Freudian accident, Nothing ever said is said to be meant. Childish rhyme and simple truth Are oft regarded as word-uncouth And even though truth Is still what it used to be The monkey will insist on climbing a tree.
There’s a rustle as I write this, a hit like cement My pussy snuggling close, a Freudian accident, Nothing ever said is said to be meant. I won’t be forgiven, not for many things. The cold and callous wall divides All that is, I used to hide Now displayed, the truth undone I won’t even see the dying sun. Poetry
Let’s Sway Let’s dance together Just for a moment Let’s sway with the breezes of Berlin Let’s forget the yesterdays and tomorrows My joys and your sorrows Let’s sway with the breezes of Berlin Let’s listen to the blues of our forefathers Let’s drink cheap wine and sing Let’s sway with the breezes of Berlin. I want to be an insect on your wall Through the cement and the brick I want to crawl I want to sway with the breezes of Berlin With you as a canvas on my wall. I want to wait for something better Let’s swim with the sentences of love letters Our puddle of ink is wearing thin Let’s sway with the breezes of Berlin What could have been, I need to know I want to smell the air of Chicago I want to swim in the lakes of Madrid I’ll be the seventh leg, you be the squid I want to know what it is I did. Follow me to a nearby city Swim with me in the oceans of now Don’t think about the nitty gritty Don’t think about the how Let’s be insects on a wall Let’s dance together Skin to skin Let’s sway with the breezes of Berlin. Don’t hunger for unknown ideals Don’t gallop onto pathless woods Just hold me in your arms my dear Now a canvas, once a tear. Without a heart and made of tin At least let me sway with the breezes of Berlin. Poetry
leave-taking: arizona patio
in the plane on that journey of return my tray carries a wedge of lemon garnishing a plate of salmon and as i pick it up to squeeze it, flesh segmented and translucent, bursting with juice, the fragrance sharp as a blade with undertones almost of honey, like the blossom, hits my nostrils with the surety that this is a leave-taking. i may grow a lemon tree again but never the awakening to its foliage in this houseâ€Ś in this place where the arid clarity of light is so bright it almost hurts the eye...
the blossoms blew in their sweetness on the march breeze, showering the patio with tiny petals.
have you looked at the flowers on a lemon tree? they are tiny. thick and white and waxy, the tips veined fragilely like tracery in pink, curling backward from the central crown to make a five point star...
Your Consciousness is Part of this Text: This is Magical Realism
Magical Realism is a relatively new term. Due to its newness but more so the contradiction ostensibly inherent in the coinage—the conflation of what are largely considered mutually exclusive realms of the real and the magical—it becomes difficult to pin down an exact definition. Nevertheless, the question that has to be addressed before proceeding further with any enquiry in the field is: what is magical realism and how exactly does it operate? Attempting to answer this question necessitates briefly dwelling on the for mative background, exploring the historical and conceptual roots of the term; and, also constructing a theoretical framework probing magical realism’s constituent and operative dimensions, particularly as they apply to literature. This, the first section of the paper undertakes; in terms of the latter, based primarily on the theories of Franz Roh and Edmund Husserl, the framework establishes how the readers’ consciousness is a part of any magical realist text. This constitutes a central key to, and core of, Magical Realism’s very existence, and consequently also to arriving at an adequate working definition of what it does and does not constitute. The second section of the paper substantiates the framed hypothesis with reference to Honore de Balzac’s The Girl with the Golden Eyes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold and “Light is Like Water.” The third and final section ties together and concludes all of the above.
I. Background and Framework
It is typical for books and essays on magic(al) realism to begin by stating that the concept and its history are too complex to be able to provide a definition. (Bowers 5)
In order to (not) break from this tradition, at the ontset this paper offers a concise terminological, historical and structural background. According to Maggie Anne Bowers—who explores the lexical and historical roots of the term in her book Magic(al) Realism—Magical Realism has become a near phenomenon in the literary world since the late twentieth century (Bower 1). Associated with names such as Marquez, Salman Rushdie and numerous others, according to Bowers the genre appears to be growing ever more powerful (Bower 1). But if what equates to a genre or mode of narration truly is gaining momentum in literature, the pertinent question is why? What makesMagical Realism so appealing? And last but most importantly: again, what is it exactly? With countless authors now deploying Magical Realism in their work and a vast body of successfully marketed and consumed literature (and other audio-visual text) now accruing under this label, the genre does appear to yet be gaining mometum. However the term ‘Magical Realism’, despite being conceived of a diverse set of aesthetic principles, particularly of Critical Discourse
of composition, and attracting a great deal of academic attention, the term still continues to confuse its scholars. Confusing, as its nature is often conflated with magic and its origins are seen by most as a complete mystery. According to Bowers, the term ‘Magical Realism’ originated from the German term Magischer Realismus (Bower 2). She explains that after its germination, the term went through numerous transformations, in various different languages and cultures (Bower 2).1 The current variation of the term was translated from its Spanish derivative, a translation that in itself has changed with time (Bowers 2). At one point, the term which denoted this particular mode of expression was either Marvelous Realism or Marvelous Reality, which translated, and eventually congealed in our times, into Magical Realism (Bowers 2). The point to be noted in all these transformations is how the term was constantly reinterpreted to convey slightly different variants: “With each translation the connection between the terms and their origins became blurred and confused” (Bowers 2). The central construct holding the genre together over time and these variants appears to be the focus on constructing the ‘real’ in such a way that it seems magical, without falling over into the realm of fantasy. Also, just as its own history seems all convoluted, so does the genre itself focus on re-viewing history as just another narrative: one which can be re-written when desired within the body of the magical realist text (Bowers 9). Herein lies this literature’s deeply subversive rub. Adherence to a ‘linear narrative time’ is also contested by the genre: rather than following conventional rules, the genre seeks and manages to alter the normative rules of time, blending past, present and future (when necessary) into the plots’ progression (Bowers 9). Before proceeding with an analysis of magical realist texts and the way they play with the reader’s perception of history, time, space and, in a sense, the social fabric, several aspects of the term must yet be clarified.
The first of the terms, Magischer Realismus or magic realism, was coined in Germany in the 1920s in relation to the painting of the Weimar Republic that tried to capture the mystery of life behind the surface reality (Bowers 2).
Franz Roh coined the term Magischer Realismus to emphasize the existence of a group of post-expressionist artists (Zamora 1). 2 From the inception of the term Magischer Realismus, through to its current variant, Magical Realism, the primary focus is not on the isolated interjection of fantastical elements into a realistic landscape. On the contrary, the terms celebrate a return to reality, but a return with a “mystical” twist (Zamora 1). It is here, as far as definition is concerned, that yet another problem arises. What is mysticism? The problematic aspect of Magical Realism, in terms of pinning it down to one or two standard archetypes is that it is explainable only through means that are nearly as abstract and unexplainable as the term itself. First of all, the concept of magical versus mystical must be examined. Can a clear distinction be drawn between what is magical and what mystical? These terms are usually explained in co-relation with reality. However, this begets yet another question: what exactly is reality? Whose reality is being spoken of? 54
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Your Consciousness is a Part of this Text
Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or lesser degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment. (Qtd in Underhill 16)
Consequently, “reality” is clearly but unfortunately yet another relative and ambiguous term. What and whose reality is being spoken of here? This question has no real answer. According to Underhill, in her book Practical Mysticism, only a mystic can answer this unanswerable question (Underhill 16). However, an answer, at least at a certain level, is necessary in order to differentiate between the magical and the mystical. For the sake of bridging and brevity the following contradistinction can be made between the two: Magic refers to otherwise (under ‘normal’ logical conditions) inexplicable events. It represents an aberration, an occurrence of apparent discord with the normal rules of nature: an impossibility which occurs; whereas, its counterpart, mysticism, refers to a deeper understanding of reality, making it magical because of the viewer’s perception of a changed truth: not because of extra-ordinary inexplicable events (Underhill 16-19). Is it surprising that the term went through terminological and interpretive convolutions, and was reconstituted repeatedly, until it finally settled upon Magical Realism? In light of the above contradistinction, however, perhaps Mystical Realism would have been more accurate and less confusing for people. Reality for practical purposes may be seen as a fixed norm; however, things are not as simple as that (Underhill 21). A picture, for example, is not merely what is seen with one’s eyes, but is rather a coalescing of learned behavior and knowledge, which is then utilized to interpret the image in a certain fashion (Underhill 21-23).
Magical Realism Aesthetically, it is significant perhaps that the term Magical Realism originated from a movement in art rather than literature (Zamora 1). Contrary to the imbalanced fixation on the magical half of the dyad, which the literary genre appears to have shifted its focus to (probably to the brink of falling out of the realm of pure Magical Realism), the term’s originator, Franz Roh, emphasized the “return to figural representation after a decade or more of abstract art.”
I wish to indicate that the mystery does not descend to the represented world, but rather hides and palpitates behind it. (Qtd in Zamora 1)
Here Roh alludes to how Magic involves external and extra-ordinary influence, of supernatural behavior, whereas Magical Realism originates from creativity in the usage and rendering of reality; rendering the represented reality in a larger than life form and manner. To reiterate: Magic, as traditionally and conventionally understood, refers to aberrations, any existence or event that, going by accepted laws of nature, should not exist or Critical Discourse
The Bearable Heaviness of Being (in Love) in Milan Kundera’s World
Introduction Why does love seem to be the most elusive emotion in Milan Kundera’s world? Perhaps because it is not love per se, but rather a mixture of love, compassion, poetic memory, everything; it appears more like a jumble of emotions that have some semblance of love, but it does not come across as love in its purest form. In this state of affairs, does love in its pure, unadulterated form even exist? What is compassion? What is the significance of interjecting what seems like a scientific theory of lightness and weight, and that too at the very beginning of a love story? This paper sets out to investigate rather than answer such questions;1 the objective is to explore one of the major concerns in Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being, the ambiguity of love in the light of a framework drawn primarily from his theoretical work The Art of the Novel. The inquiry is composed of five sections. The first articulates the theoretical framework of the paper, establishing Kundera’s idea of how a novel discovers unknown segments of existence, and how this shapes his inquiry into the psychology or phenomena of love. The paper then proceeds to map out how this inquiry plays out in Kundera’s novel: the second section elaborates how the novelist depicts the ambiguity and inconsistency of love as well as the vacillations between love and non-love. It illustrates how the novel’s protagonist, Tomas, is trapped and struggling to hold on to the two worlds in which he dwells. The third section sheds light on the one emotion that comes closest to love in the novel: compassion; and the fourth inquires into the philosophy of lightness and weight, body and soul, and how this relates to Tomas’ feelings of compassion and love. The paper concludes by questioning the purity of what appears to be one of the most common words in our world— love—and attempts to weigh its significance to characters in Kundera’s world. I. Kundera’s Discoveries in the History of the Novel
Kundera’s desire to protect human kind from the “forgetting of being” leads him to examine “what happens inside” a man’s mind (Art 4, 5). In his theoretical work The Art of the Novel Kundera asserts that “the sole raison d’être of a novel is to discover what only a novel can discover,” and that this amounts to discovering “a hitherto unknown segment of existence” (Art 5). He disapproves of the one-sided nature of the European sciences, “which reduce the world to a mere object of technical and mathematical investigation” (Art 3) and contends that these advancements in science and technology take man further into the “the forgetting of being” (Art 4). According to Kundera, we can discover such unknown segments by exploring the complexity of existence, by investigating “what really happens inside” and “by getting 64
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Magical Realism’s Extremities: Kafka’s Trial and Neruda’s “Obligation”
Introduction Literature finds expression, imperceptibly blends into and lends to many different artistic forms and modes. In the history of art, magical realism is one such mode that has found itself at crossroads with both literature and the visual arts. The exclusive universality and commendableness of the mode ensues from the inherent ambiguity and diversity that define it: both defining features capture and communicate the essence and morality of art. In literary terms, verbal descriptions open room for either daydreams or nightmares, poetic visions or unrelenting mystifications, all stemming within and from the mundane, and combine to project a multifarious worldview that is either liberating or ensnaring. This essay traces the roots and basic definitions of the narrative mode, Magical Realism, and explores two inverse approaches in which the mode has been utilized. In Franz Kafka’s novel, The Trial, the surrealistic verbal descriptions of the banal reflect the inherent mystery of the court, its mechanisms and its principals, aspects that combine to evoke a mythical journey for the protagonist. In Pablo Neruda’s poem “The Poet’s Obligation,” figural images and descriptions empower the poet’s vision to overcome its inherently disenchanted approach to natural phenomenon and master the ability to create a magical world view. Magical Realism: Historical, Lexical and Theoretical Roots The narrative genre of magical realism has recently gained much currency in contemporary fiction across the world. However, its varied historical, lexical, and theoretical roots have stirred much debate between literary, arts and critical discourse circles. The three variations of the term, ‘magic realism’, ‘marvellous realism,’ and ‘magical realism’ have gained much popularity and also suffered much criticism since the 1980s (Bowers 1). In 1925, German art critic Franz Roh first coined the term Magic Realism, or rather Magischer Realismus, to depict the post-expressionist paintings of European artists (Zamora 21). Within these post-expressionistic paintings, Roh celebrated the artists’ return to figural representation after a decade or more of abstract art (Zamora 21). In the introduction to the expanded version of the essay in which he originally coined the term, he explained its advent in the visual arts—Roh is said to have emphasized the artists’ blending of the “everyday” and the “commonplace” “with the word ‘magic’” (Zamora 21). The form tried to “capture the mystery of life behind the surface reality,” and demonstrate that “the mystery does not descend to the represented world, but rather hides and palpitates behind it” (Bowers :2; Zamora 21). The magic thus lay in the style of the paintings and not in the matter (Wood 10). Later, Roh him74
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self disavowed the term, tying its demise to the insignificance of the object over the representative powers of the abstract form (Zamora 2002:22). However, Roh’s dismissal has been largely overlooked by literary critics, who have tended towards ignoring the historical origins of magical realism in the visual arts (Zamora 2002:22). Moreover, by the time Roh rejected the movement in 1958, the term was gaining more popularity and usage amongst literary critics in Latin America (Zamora 2002:22). Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier popularized the second term, ‘marvellous realism’ or ‘lo real marvilloso’ in Latin America during the 1940s. He also argued that this new representational mode of writing is unique to the Americas, one firmly rooted in and inseparable from the peculiar realities of life as experienced by the inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean (Moses 3). In his essay, “In Reality,” Michael Wood maintains that reality, in marvellous realist narratives, is represented as extraordinary, that “reality itself, whether historical or natural, is fantastic, a form of daily miracle” (Moses 12). As in the mode, magic realism, this miracle comprises the ordinary in its relevant contextualization. However, its inherent marvel lies in its foreignness, and is experienced when it strikes like an overpowering reality. As Wood posits: “it would be fantastic if [the reader or the character] came across it somewhere else… calling it marvellous expresses our surprise at its undeniable actual existence” (12). In his essay, “Magical Realism at World’s End,” Michael Moses describes Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s incorporation of this technique in One Hundred Years of Solitude. He contends that “it is at once a realistic novel, a family chronicle… and a fabulous tale of marvellous events that would seem more akin to a Catholic saint’s life… a sixteenth-century Spanish crónica, an Amerindian myth, African American folk tale, or fanciful family story passed down orally (with increasing embellishment and unreliability) through the generations” (12). The novel, as he further describes, incorporates hyperbole or what Carpentier found as the literary solution to representing this profuse, extraordinary reality—the baroque. The reference to myths, legends, and fables further signifies how the readers and characters, since “both Márquez and Carpentier write from the point of view of someone arriving in a strange place,” are encountering anew a pre-modern and non-Western world which has yet to be disenchanted (Moses 7). Because indigenous traditions, like the oral narrative, are explored; because “one or usually several pre-modern, pre-secular, pre-scientific and sometime preliterate narrative traditions” are promoted through this modern literary technique, the narrative self-consciously stages an encounter between the West and its Other, and in this respective power play, encourages postcolonial discourse (Moses 7). Therefore, this narrative technique promotes new and various dimensions of perception geared towards understanding the nature of reality, particularly one different from the didactic, authoritative and stringent one of its colonizer. The third term, ‘magical realism’ or ‘realism magico’ was introduced in relation to Latin American fiction in the 1950s. In this mode, the element of magic is narrated factually and ordinarily amalgamated into the commonplace: “admitted, accepted, and integrated into the rationality and materiality of literary realism” (Zamora and Farisqtd. in Bowers 2). Therefore, its key factor is that the “magic [is] in the material, and the realism [is] in the style” (Wood 10). In realist narratives, representation is as objective as the tone. However, in magical realist fiction, the “reporters are sober while reality is drunk” (Wood 11). This Critical Discourse
variation of magical realism closely adheres to that of marvellous realism. In this mode, facts are embellished so that “they appear to be ‘fables’ or ‘embroidered facts’” (Wood 10). Moreover, magical realism texts also question the empirical scientific laws that govern reality in order to uncover new angles of perceiving that culminate in a process of its redefinition and re-conceptualization. For example, both Marquez and Salman Rushdie offer approaches to reality alternative to that of Western philosophy in the respective post-colonial or non-Western nature of their works (Bowers 1). Because of its varied and heterogeneous approach, this mode has acquired the most critical and commercial attention. Bowers posits that the complex and divergent origins of the three terms have led to its inaccurate application, which has in turn triggered much confusion in critically differentiating between the three terms (2). Furthermore, various translations of the terms over the years has blurred and confused the connections between them and their origins even more (Bowers 2). Even Michael Wood questions whether these terms are reconcilable (13). However, he concludes that “they are already together… in a great deal of remarkable fiction” as evidenced above with reference to Marquez (Michael 13). But most importantly, the answer to whether the claims of these terms can be reconciled or not lies in our conception of these terms: what is marvellous, what is fantastic, and what is magical? Moreover, it also depends on how these terms are defined against our notion of reality. Both “reality” and “magic” are in essence relational terms that acquire their meaning in opposition to what is respectively unreal or real. However, realism possesses the peculiar characteristic of being able to deny its own relational status (Wood 14). It fails to offer the real thing or the real story that essentially lies beyond discussion or one’s interpretive powers (Wood 14). In this, it covers its own contingency and continues to do so unless it is countered: “unless we manage to retrain it, or reveal its machinery” (Wood 14). This counter-movement is precisely the driving force behind both these narrative modes. Theoretical Framework: Two Inverse Approaches to Testing the Visualizing Capacity 1of Magical Realism The First Approach: Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways
Roh row, row your boat, Gently down the stream, Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily Life is but a dream.
The discourse surrounding magical realism has encouraged many writers, critics and literary theorists to expound various ways in which the mode can retrain and re-conceptualize our worldview. Lois Zamora explores how magical realism questions reality by interrogating both the nature of visual representation and the nature of the objects represented in the visual and literary arts. Zamora launches her argument in her essay “The Visualizing 76
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Theorizing a Political Anatomy of Pakistan: A Discursive Analysis of Power, Culture and Politics Mavra Tanveer Foundation Let me begin with an assumption rooted in sociopolitical history, that the collective culture and/or various subcultures of a people form an integral part of the political framework of any state.1 The social value system of any area, composed of religion, caste, language, class and other social indicators, translates into a unique political culture that heavily influences the composition and infrastructure of the formal political institutional sphere. Be it a national culture or localized subcultures, whoever maintains a cultural monopoly over the body politic2 controls the political bearing of the area. Hence, powerâ€”ideological and materialâ€”inherently becomes central to the equation of culture and politics. Political power struggles, relations and representations, then, take on a cultural form, shaping the state governance mechanisms that emerge as amalgamations of political, social and economic capital in proportion to how much cultural influence a political leader or party wields in a particular area. As culture is the inextricable ideological dimension of a politically and geographically independent entity, a nation-state,3one cannot attempt to deconstruct4 the centrality of power within a polity without venturing into its cultural context. Developing a holistic reading involves not isolating one facet of reality (social, economic, and/or political), but rather constructing an analytical and theoretical framework that combines parallel narratives (historical, current). Only such an inclusive approach will allow an informed focus to be developed towards analyzing the role of power within formal (constitutional laws) and informal institutions (norms, traditional value-system),5 to determine what principles of membership (social identity markers)6 emerge and how they contribute to the configuration of a political culture. The central consideration of power dynamism, then, evolves into an exploration of how a culturally adapted political system is utilized in a way that proves to be politically expedient for particular interest groups. Be it a dictatorship, autocracy, republic or any other form of government, the public sphere and all its apparatus maintain themselves on a cultural base.7 The focus of this inquiry rests on the cultural nature of electoral politics, in particular democracy. The somewhat flexible western political philosophy of democracy (Fotopoulos) is one that has evolved over time and branched out into various systemic variants. Nevertheless its fundamental political principles remain the same across all versions. Depending on the degree and type of participatory representation (direct, consensus based) (Fotopoulos) employed by the state, all components of a modern democratic process such as election campaigning and voting are deeply embedded as ideological variants of democracy (liberal, emergent, religious) (J. Derbyshire, I. Derbyshire 31-37 and the form of government (parliamentary, presidential) (J. Derbyshire, I. Derbyshire 52-69) further 94
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determine the extent to which a political framework accommodates the cultural and vice versa. What is to be determined is what kind of power matrices materialize when a western philosophy of governance is culturally appropriated to establish Pakistan as a sovereign republic. The culture of the region that was to become Pakistan was not only a vital factor in its conception, but over the years has also proved to be the central catalyst in the changing political landscape of the country. As an independent sovereign republic,8 Pakistan functions on a democratic system of governance. Being an Islamic Republic (“The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973” 2009) religion remains central to the political architecture of the country. Balancing the liberal contentions of democracy and orthodox elements of Shariah Law in the constitution poses a tremendous sociopolitical challenge. In the federation,9 the constitution divides sovereign authority, though not always equally, between the national and provincial governments. The question of, and struggle for, equal political autonomy of the four provinces of Pakistan is also embedded in the cultural disparity between each. Provincial subcultures allow for the political control of a community to fall under a few select people in the position to dominate locally and translate that influence nationally for their own advantage. A bi-cameral legislative body divides the Majlis-i-Shoora (Council of Advisors) (“Government Structure” 2009) into the national assembly and senate, allowing a culturally saturated constituent assembly to emerge that creates and maintains domestic policies directed towards retaining political power. The state-established precept of democracy is meant to function at various levels of society. The internal electoral system of some political parties, multi-tiered local non-elective bodies, and senate is also meant to reflect the essence of democracy. Each of these political mechanisms has its own cultural context allowing it to be seamlessly integrated in the equation of power and political culture. As Pakistan is a relatively new state its culture cannot be considered as isomorphic with the nationstate, which is still a developing amalgamation itself. A political concoction has been and is being created of Islamic ideology, sub-continental cultural heritage, the remains of colonization, political legacies, and failures of past and present leaders. Keeping in mind all these factors and the complex political situation of Pakistan, what remains to be deconstructed is how sociopolitical determinants create a discrepancy or coalition between the de facto and de jure modes of political power within democratic Pakistan. Analyzing such a socially dynamic process raises various questions and prejudices. What is the composition of the political culture of Pakistan that has ossified to a large extent over the years? If there is a lapse between the sociopolitical reality and the political ideology put forward by the state, what then emerges as legal constitutional power? Does a culturally variant political framework better mobilize and involve people in the democratic process while simultaneously facilitating the political agenda of their representatives or is only one side guaranteed a gain at the expense of the other? Does the framework of democracy and the consequent socially constructed political process aid a consolidation of informal forms of power and how does it, in turn, affect the cultural base of the country? Is the political power that emerges from culture inevitably diffusible? If a quid pro quo relationship were to develop between those who govern and the governed, based on an exchange of favors, would it Critical Discourse
not empower both parties involved? If culture cannot realistically be divorced from the political realm of any state, a discord between the two has the capacity to destabilize an entire political infrastructure.10 It is important, then, that the political ideology that forms any state’s governmental base is one that is culturally viable. The aim of this paper is to examine how democracy harmonizes itself with the culture of Pakistan and vice versa, and the role of power within this mutual process or adjustment. In pursuing this analysis, I choose to not rely on the work of any one particular theorist, school of thought or research methodology. Theory and method materialize according to the theoretical and practical needs of the study, as the eclectic focus includes everything from the general to the idiosyncratic. Framework
Culture, Politics and Political Culture Conceptually, culture is discussed in the epistemic universe endlessly. Yet it still remains an indefinite concept, changing according to the discipline it is used by, as it encompasses a plethora of ideas. Why, then, an emphasis on culture specifically as the central constituent of the theoretical framework? Simply because this very “disjunction of meanings [is] the concept’s most enduring disciplinary characteristic” (Borofsky et al. 49). It permits us to go beyond paradigmatic distinctions and develop an analytic model based on holism,11 extracting theoretical facets that allow the centrality of power within a political system to be deconstructed. Nevertheless, in order to ground the inquiry within a particular context, establishing an analytic boundary of the concept becomes necessary. To come to a working definition that pivots us centrally within our query, we need to consider what the use of a universally accepted term such as culture entails for this particular study. If we venture into categorical disciplinary definitions of culture, an interminable stream of interpretations appears. In order to get to an adequate one, we need to break down the inquiry into segments and sieve through a pool of classifications accordingly. First, as the exploratory focus is on social existence, organization and the public domain,12 the term culture is used in its macro sense, thus acquiring a Structuralist dimension. Structuralism13 constitutes an analytic approach focusing on the structural units, symbols and patterns of society14 such as social institutions, relations, and roles. The second consideration, however, does not allow the scope to be limited to the notion that only external societal structural forces shape everything, as the role of the individual as the carrier and enactor of culture is also undeniable. Taking on a structural perspective allows us to magnify the collected and compacted cultural patterns, but the lens has to be altered to include a focus on the social nature of an individual’s relationship within the political entity it is part of. Individuals as members of social groups become part of a larger community. If social structural elements of a community act as political agencies then particular individuals act as political actors, propelling the creation and reproduction of political culture that forms a system.15 Hence, rather than regarding the individual as, on the one 96
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The Nature Of Shakespearean Tragedy Dr. Ira Hassan As far back as 1946, H.B. Charlton claimed that, as a life-long professor of literature, when he was invited to lecture at Trinity College, Cambridge, the honor went to his head. He said he rashly chose to talk on Shakespearean tragedy, justifying this decision as “a matter of professional morality” (Charlton 7), pleading that since all universities have a Literature Chair, obviously everyone believed “literature has a special contribution to make to the moral or spiritual well-being of mankind” (Charlton 7). He goes on to say, “It is the duty of every professor of literature to say his say on Shakespeare and on what Shakespeare means to the world. To shrink from the task is immoral: to face it, is to expose one’s own unworthiness” (7). Building on this long ago august foundation, I proceed with my case. Shakespearean tragedy has touched humanity across the globe and moved more men and women to tears than any other drama. Great drama, says Una Ellis Fermor, depends upon the passion and intensity with which the dramatist apprehends the world of experience. It is the intensity, first of his imaginative experience of
the world about him, then of his artistic experience—the act of transmuting this into a world of art—that gives to the great dramatist his power to move men, to touch the depths of their imaginations, to free them, and to set at work the powers of life. (Fermor 3)
In great dramatists such as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Shakespeare, this passion and power can be seen throughout their great works. There is no slackening in plays like King Lear or Oedipus. Shakespeare’s art is consistently dramatic according to Ellis Fermor, perhaps because he has limitless sympathy with the acting and suffering of man. Thus he enters wholeheartedly into the lives of each of his characters. This is true not only of major characters, but also the supporting players. We see Lady Macbeth’s growing isolation and hear, in the broken phrases of her sleepwalking scene, all the past actions that haunt her. But in a few lines we also learn of the miserable lives lived by the two murderers. We are given enough clues to see beyond their brief appearance in the plays, to see a life lived in poverty, the grim uncertainty of their future and the desperation to change it. Shakespeare’s universal sympathy for victor and victim, for do-gooder and crook, for king and beggar, rises above personal prejudice, race and creed. He cares for them all. He understands the motives of all and the power of his poetry reaches over four hundred years to make us care and understand. To begin with Bradley’s views on Shakespearean tragedy seems logical. There are 108
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