Book Lover’s Paradise Part 2 – London!

London Christmas

Book Lovers, once again, this is for you! Over two years ago, I wrote of my travels to New York City and how it inspired me to redefine my persona as an author. Now, I wish to discuss my travels to another one of the literary centres of the world – London – and how it inspired me in a different way to New York City.

London – The First Book Lover’s Paradise!

In New York I visited the Strand Book Store and the New York Public Library. I spoke of being humbled by the awesome and gargantuan 18 miles of books in the Strand Book Store.

However, my experience in London was much more different and far more inspiring. Instead of just visiting two havens of books, I planned for months before my trip of my visits to many sites. In the end, I saw far too few of the literary havens that YouTube bloggers promised. However, I did not just see a book store and a library. In fact, I did not even enter a library. Rather, I dedicated an entire day to exploring the gems of London.

These are the gems I found…

Of course, being in London, I did not just visit book stores on the day I had planned to – 30 December 2018. I visited numerous book stores on the days preceding and on the days after. Amongst them, I visited a few branches of Foyle’s and Waterstones, as well as Hatchard’s (est. 1797).

Hatchards London

I came back with a ton of books, which along with hundreds of my other books, still has no shelf space.

But books aside, these were the most interesting parts of it all.

Inspired

Seeing so many books inspired me even more to get my novel done. One that had been sitting half-finished for two years. I was also inspired when I saw my name in a book at Foyle’s. A book that I had helped fund to publish a few years ago – Cleverlands by Lucy Crehan. Somehow, even seeing my name in print, not as the author but as one of the many people acknowledged, I was still motivated by that to complete my novel.

Other inspirations found in London were places like the British Museum and a tiny little shop opposite it, Tea and Tattle, selling African and Oriental rare books. Somehow, all of these things – places infused with history and literature – inspired me. Just like in New York City, these places inspired me to become a part of it all, by using that history in my book, and by adding my name to the masses of literary accomplished. Sure, it sounds irrational, but these were life exchanging experiences in that they moved me more than anything.

Southbank

Apart from the odd sense of inspiration gained from places in New York City and London, I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of walking along the Southbank of the river Thames.

A haven of culture, it was great to see the Christmas market, the stalls selling food and warmed whiskey, and most of all, beneath Waterloo Bridge, the sellers of rare and second-hand books and antique maps and prints. While I bought none of these prize rarities, exploring it all I found a map of India from the 1500s. This was an interesting find as it reaffirmed my knowledge that Europeans at the time were woefully uneducated about the Eastern world. Emphasising Eurocentrism, it reminded me of the fall of Constantinople.

For those unaware, the fall of Constantinople from the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire represented a shift of the region’s religion to Islam, and posed a perceived threat to European trade with the East. As a result, the search for new routes to the East was intensified. In this search, and their extreme ignorance regarding the East, people like Christopher Columbus found the Americas (note, not discovered) and called it India. This would lead to a cascade of historical inaccuracies that would shape the present nomenclature of the native peoples of North America and the nation of the West Indies.

This frantic search also led Europeans around the Southern tip of Africa. All these explorations culminated in colonisation, slavery, and the privilege that people of European descent still enjoy today.

Thus, this chance find of a centuries old Indian map, very inaccurate, elicited profound thoughts of the 15th and 16th century worlds. This would come to reflect itself deeply in my novel.

And thus the trip to London proved once more to be more than just a holiday.

Considering Eurocentrism…

I was inspired to write yet another story. A fantasy story that challenges the Eurocentric tropes of the traditional fantasy genre. Tropes such as the good West vs the evil East, the fair skinned civilised peoples vs the dark skinned barbaric peoples, and strong parallels with Christianity.

This would result in the idea to create a fantasy world with a queer person of colour as the protagonist, navigating a world parallel to our own in that its nations have history of colonialism and slavery – histories which would come to intimately determine the protagonist’s struggles.

This is an idea that I will share in a future post.

But, telling a bit about it here represents more how incredible my journey was.

On Theatre…

In London, I also had the pleasure of seeing two plays.

The first was a production of Matilda showing at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End. This was a fun show that took me back to the original movie and my initial exploration of the writings of one of my favourite authors and inspirers – Roald Dahl.

Here is a picture of the beautiful set.

Matilda Cambridge Theatre London
Matilda Cambridge Theatre London

The other play was a brilliant performance of Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre. Starring as Antony was none other than Ralph Fiennes. And starring as Cleopatra was the extremely talented Sophie Okonedo who delivered a performance that stole the show with her strength and wilful portrayal of the infamous Cleopatra.

Here is a picture of that set, alas a simple one as I could not capture one as the play progressed.

Antony and Cleopatra Ticket London
Anthony and Cleopatra National Theatre London
Anthony and Cleopatra National Theatre London

Both plays had been my first time to a theatre – barring one production of Othello which I had seen while in school – and exceeded all my expectations. They left me feeling that my trip of London had been complete with nothing in want.

In conclusion

My trip to London far exceeded the one to America. As small as the UK is, it contains far more rarities and enjoyable experiences. Some, no doubt the result of the British Empire’s cruel rule on people around the world, but still enjoyable in that it provides a very authentic appreciation for history and privilege.

On the matter of Israel and Palestine – Neturei Karta

Neturei Karta

Last week, I came across a very interesting video. It was a journalist exploring the workings of Neturei Karta, a group of Orthodox Jews who oppose the state of Israel and its occupation of Palestine. The journalist explored the group’s functions in London.

So what is Neturei Karta?

Quite simply, it is a group of Orthodox Jews supporting Palestine. Sounds strange, doesn’t it. A Jew, supporting the Islamic state of Palestine in opposition to the Jewish state of Israel. Well, quite frankly, no. It is not in the least bit strange.

Why?

If you read my previous post on Palestine’s Nakba, or the exodus of the Palestinian people when the Western nations decreed a state of Israel, you will know that I do not believe that the conflict between the fake state of Israel and the rightful state of Palestine is one of religion. No. It is one of politics. Indeed, the holy land is holy for all Abrahamic religions. Why is it then that it is seen as the birthright of the Jewish people? No people should have the birthright of an entire nation based entirely on their ancestry or religion. It goes against many fundamental human rights and the right of self-determination of statehood.

So, no, it is not about religion, at least, not anymore.

So, it is no coincidence that Neturei Karta recognise the Palestinian claim to the area now occupied by apartheid Israel. Even in making the case of religion they deny that the Jewish people have right to the holy land. They posit that the Jewish people shall be delivered to the holy land, as promised, but by God, not by force and by murder of other people.

This seems so logical. That is because it is. No religion should have claim to a land based on their beliefs. In making their beliefs transcend the rights of adherents of another religion, they are asserting the supremacy of their religious beliefs over that of their victims. That is to say, it claims that their religion is the one true one. That is fine. Religious people do believe exclusively in their God. But, if this God prohibits murder in His commandments, and if He promises deliverance to the Holy Land at His hand (much like he delivered the Jewish people from Egypt), then why are the adherents of this God going against His fundamentals?

I cannot say that I know of the Jewish God. I have read the Old Testament but my knowledge is limited to that. So, I cannot claim to base the argument above on scriptural reference.

But Neturei Karta certainly knows enough about their faith. And they recognise that the promised land shall not be delivered to the Jewish people by force and murder. It shall be delivered by the Messiah.

Religion aside, the Israeli state is an apartheid state. To substantiate this, I simply need to reference the fact that South Africa is rapidly ending its relations with the state of Israel. South Africa is the birth place of apartheid. South Africa is my home. And for South Africa to recognise that Israel is an apartheid state, it means that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. And, this makes me proud to be South African. No matter our economic and social problems, at least we know when to say stop to the destroyers of the world.

Perhaps this is something King Bibi, the delightful despot of Israel, should consider before basing his election campaign on Zionism. Perhaps this even gives insight into who exactly is making this struggle a religious one. It is undoubtedly a politician. So then, is this about religion or is this about politics? I think the latter, but I shall leave you to determine that.

Can Peace Prevail?

I promised myself that this website would be what I call my ‘author website’ when I created it. I dedicated myself to sharing my literary journey in its entirety. But, today, I come with a very different message. And, heck, I know it’s totally off-topic, but I simply must share it! Yesterday, the world, or the Western World, shook yet again by another act of terror in London. This follows a series of attacks which began with a man driving towards the Palace of Westminster, and with a recent bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Amidst this chaos, especially after last night’s events, I ask myself this: can peace prevail in this world of ours?

My thoughts on this are not just isolated to terrorism. I am taken back to the harsh inequality and inhumane treatment inflicted on the world by colonialism. I am taken back to the subjugation of people of colour. I am taken back to the racism of Apartheid-era South Africa. I am taken back to the murders of two Indian men in a bar in Kansas simply because of the colour of their skin. I am taken back to any of the moments in recent history where one man was thought or shown to be inferior to another because of his race, his creed, his religion, his place of origin. And, I realise through all of this, is that this world is ruled by something very close to racism – but not racism itself. It is ruled by the pride, arrogant feeling of superiority that one group of people have over others. This could be a white supremacist who disregards the rights of a black person. It could also be the cowardly terrorists who show a disregard for freedom and liberty. It could be a politician declaring or implying that all whites are racist (yes, that’s you, Jacob Zuma) or it could be another politician encouraging anti-Islamic sentiments (I won’t say any names here). On that note, I should just declare that Islam, like any other religion, is a religion of peace, and so the answer to terrorism is not an attack on Islam. For more details on the nature of Islam, I refer you to a Ted Talk by Lesley Hazleton (a Jewish personality of great intellect).

Have I (or Lesley Hazleton) convinced you to accept the beliefs of all people, including Muslims? I should hope so, but if I haven’t, here’s my message.

Let us stop blaming groups of people for acts against humanity. Instead, let us unite. Wait, I can hear people screaming ‘close the borders!’, ‘don’t let in immigrants!’, ‘cultures should not be allowed to mix!’, or something else of that sort. If I may, let me stop you there. In terms of diversity, I come from South Africa. Here, I have witnessed first-hand the brilliant capabilities that diversity has. I have witnessed the peace with which the South African melting pot of culture continues to live.

Now, this may not even be enough to convince all the naysayers to accept diversity. But if you take away one message from this blog post, let it be my final plea.

Let us be honest with ourselves, all discrimination of all forms needs to stop! We should not frown on Christians or Muslims or Jews or Hindus. We are all human, and no religion teaches terror. No race teaches terror. We must accept and forgive even those who harm us – this is humanity, and yes we can protect ourselves against terror, but we must never act like the terrorists by attacking people because of their affiliation with any group be it Islam, or the West. I believe that we have forgotten what peace means. We have forgotten what humanity means, and we must rediscover both! I just don’t see why we as humans cannot accept other people who are different from us – is that so wrong?

But I believe that we are just proud to unite, too vain to unite, feel too superior to unite. We always want to be and feel better than someone else. Why can’t we all be our best together? Now I am not a communist if it may sound like I am, but I just think that we should learn to respect difference and then many issues will dissipate, in a time of course.

And yes, vanity and pride are natural characteristics which we all bask in. But, we should not let those feeling make us think that others are wholly lesser than us. We are better in some ways, and they are better in other ways. That is what being human is – being flawed, and being talented in multiple facets. I believe that humanity is the acceptance of that, it is the peace with that. It is when terrorists will respect the sanctity of life. When they will respect the values of liberty and equality. It is when white supremacists or Islamophobes will accept people of colour, or people of different religions, and will allow them to live alongside them. This is what is needed: acceptance, and respect.

Now, I know that I am an idealist, and this will probably never be achieved. In fact, I am sure many readers of this will abandon the post if they haven’t already, but I believe that every change we make – accepting our crimes of the past, recognising how those injustices have shaped the present, and showing humanity to build a better future – will make a difference at the end of the day.

I leave you with that message, and I hope that you take it out and into your life and daily practice.