Dubbed the “Jon Stewart of Egypt”, Bassem Youssef was the host of the first satiric political broadcast in the Middle East, Albernameg – until, you know, he couldn’t. Now he’s got a new book from Dey Street, Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring.
As the sun sets on Imperial Russia, freelance journalist Alfred F. Jones
seeks to interview the growing diaspora of Russian emigres in Paris.
There, he meets Ivan Braginsky, who shows him the full spectrum of
revelry and mourning, persisting and succumbing. Both far from all they
knew, one knows he has a home to return to whenever he chooses, while
the other can never go back. Amidst this concentration of pain and
stubborn endurance, even Alfred’s optimism is tested. He and Ivan seek
in each other the precarious signs of comfort in a world where the only
constant is change. The Russian emigre community in Paris, Alfred’s dear
emigre, teaches him and the world how to carry on. RusAme historical
Enormous thanks to @no-rules-no-responsibility for taking time from her day to provide invaluable feedback and corrections, and to @hannicanny who took time from her day to read excerpts and helped immensely with how to direct this.
This is a follow-up to that post I made about writing about Alfred going to Paris to interview the growing diaspora of Russian emigres escaping the revolution, where he meets Ivan and the two learn how the other can help them be whole again. This took a lot of work, and I’m pretty proud of it; it feels good to have done and I tried to incorporate many facts to further educate readers. Anyone familiar with the Anastasia Broadway track, this draws strong inspiration from “Stay, I Pray You” and “Land of Yesterday.” Enjoy!
“We talked earlier of how we made this corner of the city
Russia for ourselves,” Ivan began, once more lounging in his seat. “How we can
still open our windows and hear the call of familiar languages, read the paper
in our alphabet. Smell the enticing scents of candied sweets and fresh bread,
visit one another to serve and be served zakuski.
Our names sound similar, follow the same patterns.” A soft featherlight smile
played across Ivan’s lips, one of abundant fondness and unshakable love. “Fires
crackle in hearts, incense wafts around our prayers drifting up to heaven
beneath the tricross. I mention Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and people say ‘You mean the Riot of Spring.’ The snow falls here too, it crunches underfoot
with the same crisp sound. We still take off our shoes at the door to avoid
tracking it in. The cold wind still stings bare flesh, the sun still soothes our
chilled bones. But…”
For an eternal instant, a roaring silence deafened Alfred.
“This feeling,” Ivan said slowly with his mysterious smile
and sunset eyes. “This aura in our exiled corner of the world that feels so
different from the rest of Paris, that permeates everyone who comes here… It
certainly is not France, but it is not Russia either. I have felt the presence
of my home, and it is not here, despite all our efforts. I hear the Seine, but
it is not my Neva.”
The smiling face stilled but the smile did not remain. “I’ll
never see it again,” Ivan murmured, and with a pang Alfred realized he was
witnessing something far too intimate, far too penetrating of the human soul:
the dawning realization of a man far from home that he would never set foot in his
Motherland again. It was the kind of revelation that stripped a man down to his
very essence, beyond thought of vulnerability and protection, for there simply
only was the soul and the sinking truth of a longing with nothing to long for
because that precious intangible treasure was his no more. Alfred wanted to
look away, wanted to save himself from the memory of this émigré’s suffocation
in a reality he chased with revelry and mourning of unparalleled ferocity. But
his duty was to witness, to put words to Ivan’s story, not just to hear him but
to see his futile homesickness, carry that personal burden with him, to no
one’s benefit, not even Ivan’s. Lost. Ivan was lost and had lost, and was left
longing with nothing to long for…
And as sudden as that realization, so too was Alfred’s
awareness that he himself had been changed by what he had witnessed. Like a
swift and impersonal step into untouched snow, Alfred was different now,
permanently so, and like an imprint in a field of snow there was no way to mask
it without changing the entirety. No soothing swipe, no matter how gentle,
could erase what had been done without reshaping the landscape of the soul
And so violet eyes searched into the distance, across
horizons and nations, reaching beyond comfort of life and acceptance, desperate
for a final clasp at the soil he had tread as his own. It was a pain too deeply
rooted to ever address, the ache of seeing such futile longing that soared down
streets, toppled walls, speared across rivers to glide into the welcoming arms
of northern winds and weave among swaying, laughing birches. To hear the call
of gulls and feel the rattle of carriage wheels under boots on cobbled streets.
To admire ornate wood trim among windows swinging open to welcome the sound of
a returning loved one.
To know it all exists.
To have had it.
To be robbed of it.
Alfred did not speak, merely surrendered himself
to this raw baring of the soul entrusted upon him. All the while, Ivan himself
seemed to be drained of that earlier essence, that sustaining bravado that
strengthened his movement and voice, let him create artful tributes with his
fellow exiles. All that remained was what he was, human beyond country, beyond
YEMEN. Sana’a. May 16, 2011. Nabel Ali Mohamed, 28, receives treatment at a makeshift field hospital. While protesting, Nabel was detained and tortured by security forces. They used his body as an ashtray.
Photograph: Yuri Kozyrev/NOOR for the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund
Asmaa Mahfouz (b. 1985) is an Egyptian activist, responsible for sparking the mass
uprising that led to the 2011 Egyptian revolution. She is one of the founders
of the April 6 Youth Movement.
After her video which encouraged Egyptians to stand up for their basic
human rights and fight the Mubarak regime, over 50,000 protesters followed her
lead in Tahrir Square, Cairo. She received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Thought for her contributions to “historic changes in the Arab world”.
The continent-shaking Arab Spring began with the public self-immolation of a despairing fruit vendor in the bitter winter of 2010. Within a few short years, dictators had been brought down by the masses in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.
What flows from the deaths of as many as ONE HUNDRED AND FUCKING FIFTY PEOPLE in a tower block fire which was explicitly caused by external cladding installed to appease the wealthy residents of neighbouring mansions - when the current government minister for fire safety is one of 72 Tory slum landlord MPs who voted against a motion to make social housing ‘fit for human habitation’?
Various depictions of the “People’s Spring” of 1848, such as the Battle of Buda, the Five Days of Milan, the slaughter of Galician nobles by Polish peasants, the declaration of the Serbian Vojvodina, the short-lived victory by the revolutionaries in Berlin, and the victorious return of Royal Danish troops from the First Schleswig War.
Inspired by The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters swept through the streets of Egypt on the 25th of January, 5 years ago, demanding an end to the corruption and Mubarak’s 30 year rule as President.
25 January 2011: An anti-government protester defaces a picture of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria [Stringer]
26 January 2011: Riot police clash with protesters in Cairo as thousands of Egyptians defied a ban on protests by returning to Egypt’s streets and calling for President Hosni Mubarak to leave office [Goran Tomasevic]
A protester holds up a banner in front of a line of riot police in downtown Cairo. [Unknown]
28 January 2011: A protester stands in front of a burning barricade as police and demonstrators fought running battles on the streets of Cairo in a fourth day of protests
28 January 2011: An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo, Egypt [Lefteris Pitarakis]
28 January 2011: A man tries to protect himself with an Egyptian flag as police fire water cannons at protesters in Cairo
A masked protester throws a gas canister towards Egyptian riot police, not seen, near the Interior Ministry during clashes in downtown Cairo. [Tara Todras-Whitehill]
28 January 2011: A protester watches an Egyptian Army armoured vehicle burn in Cairo after President Hosni Mubarak ordered troops into Egyptian cities in an attempt to quell growing mass protests demanding an end to his 30-year rule
28 January 2011: Egyptians gather around the burning headquarters of the ruling National Democratic party (NDP) in Cairo [Khaled Desouki]
A graffitied smiley face on a wall constructed by the military to impede protesters. [Amru Salahuddien]
29 January 2011: The headquarters of the ruling National Democratic (NLD) party burns after it was set ablaze by protesters in Cairo [Yannis Behrakis]
Riot police use water cannons on protesters trying to cross the Kasr al-Nile bridge. [Peter Macdiarmid]
30 January 2011: Protesters in Cairo hold a banner featuring a cartoon calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down [Asmaa Waguih]
31 January 2011: Egyptian film star Omar Sharif points to Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, in Cairo, Egypt [Lefteris Pitarakis]
31 January 2011: A protester holds a placard depicting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as Adolf Hitler in Cairo’s Tahrir Square [Yannis Behrakis]
1 February 2011: Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators march in Alexandria, Egypt [Ahmed Muhammed]
1 February 2011: An Egyptian man sits atop one of the lions at the entrance of Kasr El Nil Bridge, leading to Tahrir Square [Zeinab Mohamed]
2 February 2011: A pro-Mubarak rioter riding on a camel clashing with anti-government protesters in what became known as the Battle of the Camel [Chris Hondros]
6 February 2011: A Muslim holding the Quran (left) and a Coptic Christian holding a cross are carried through opposition supporters in Tahrir Square in Cairo [Dylan Martinez]
8 February 2011: Egyptian anti-government protesters perform the evening prayers as they gather at Cairo’s Tahrir square [Patrick Baz]
10 February 2011: Anti-government bloggers work on their laptops from Cairo’s Tahrir square on the 17th day of consecutive protests calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak [Patrick Baz]
10 February 2011: Anti-government protesters raise their shoes after a speech by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak saying that he had given some powers to his vice president but would not resign or leave the country [Chris Hondros]
11 February 2011: Egyptian women celebrate the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who handed control of the country to the military, at night in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt [Tara Todras-Whitehill]
11 February 2011: Celebrating the announcement of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in Tahrir Square [Jonathan Rashad]
18 February 2011: A girl attends Friday prayers in front of an army tank in Tahrir Square in Cairo a week after Mubarak resigned [Suhaib Salem]
18 February 2011: A woman waves an Egyptian flag on a balcony overlooking Cairo’s Tahrir Square as hundreds of thousands of people gather to celebrate the revolt that forced president Hosni Mubarak to step down [Mohammed Abed]
Revolution and insurrection must not be looked upon as synonymous. The former consists in an overturning of conditions, of the established condition or status, the State or society, and is accordingly a political or social act; the latter has indeed for its unavoidable consequence a transformation of circumstances, yet does not start from it but from men’s discontent with themselves, is not an armed rising, but a rising of individuals, a getting up, without regard to the arrangements that spring from it. The Revolution aimed at new arrangements; insurrection leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and sets no glittering hopes on “institutions”. It is not a fight against the established, since, if it prospers, the established collapses of itself; it is only a working forth of me out of the established. If I leave the established, it is dead and passes into decay. Now, as my object is not the overthrow of an established order but my elevation above it, my purpose and deed are not a political or social but (as directed toward myself and my ownness alone) an egoistic purpose and deed.
Every revolution, being a normal outcome, contains within itself its legitimacy, which false revolutionists sometimes dishonor, but which remains even when soiled, which survives even when stained with blood. Revolutions spring not from an accident, but from necessity. A revolution is a return from the fictitious to the real. It is because it must be that it is.