I recently tracked down a film about Mark Gertler (thanks to Anna at Indpendent Film Office who tracked it down at Concord Video) made by Phil Mulloy in 1981, with Antony Sher as Gertler. The film arrived this morning in a box with a canvas belt – like a secret document, like a miniature suitcase. I felt like somehow this was connected to Gertler, had belonged to him – something he had sealed together and kept in a drawer, like he did with Carrington’s letters, until just after Lytton died and Gertler, by chance, came across her letters again and read through them all. And I don’t have a VHS player (never mind a TV set) – and I still haven’t found somewhere to go and watch it. But I will.
Last week I went to listen to Etgar Keret at Jewish Book Week. Hephzibah Anderson was interviewing him. Everything was nice. Keret was funny; Anderson was reverential and flirtatious and asked nice questions. Nice is sometimes the opposite of interesting. I got angrier and angrier and turned to K and asked her whether I should ask my political question. “Should I spoil the fun?” I said. She nodded. But I didn’t ask my question, which was: “What’s it like to be a writer with everything that’s going on in Israel – the corruption, the atrocities Israel continues to inflict on the Palestinians, the apathy of Israelis.” I think I did want to spoil the fun, rather than ask out of a genuine interest. A couple of days later I was reassured by Keret’s interview on Night Waves, where Matthew Sweet asked all those political questions and Keret gave interesting answers about what he calls the “in the ditches mentality” in Israel where the general message is not to talk about certain things “till we have peace” – it’s an old argument that keeps a lot of Israelis in denial with what they see as the justified excuse of “we’re still fighting for survival.” I like what Keret says about the boycotting of Israeli intellectuals – that boycotting “comes from the same place as public stonings… it’s an action that doesn’t take much out of you” – He comments on how trendy it is to hate Israel. And although I agree with him, I still think there has to be a way to force Israel to notice and rethink what it’s doing. I don’t know what – and I suppose it was partly because of my reluctance to take an active role in the dwindling minority that wanted to make Israeli leaders aware of the implications of their war crimes, that I left. I lost hope.
At Toynbee Studios on Wednesday contributors to Sable LitMag‘s queer issue paid tribute to Audre Lorde and read from her and their own work. Dorothea Smartt talked about meeting Lorde in London and then again in New York and it really felt like she was channeling her and bringing her into the room – it was fantastic. That was after the break. Before the break, Jackee Holder read from her beautiful work that is really a record of her struggle with writing, and the frustration and exhiliration that comes from that struggle. “It’s all in the struggle,” someone like Sisyphus said. And it is. When I can remember that it is a struggle – and not be embarrassed by it, or so quick to run away from it into “busyness” – and that struggle is where the treasure lies, then I know I am being a writer. I love the connotations that the phrase “The Struggle” carries with it – the fight against oppression and injustice and the desire for freedom. Ngawethu.