A Brief Geo-Poetical Consideration: Where do East and West begin? | Jalel El-Gharbi
A Brief Geo-Poetical Consideration: Where do East and West begin? Print
Jalel El-Gharbi   
A Brief Geo-Poetical Consideration: Where do East and West begin? | Jalel El-Gharbi
Jalel El Gharbi
Being a lover of the West and coming from the East isn’t always easy, nor is it painless to feel for the East when you come from the West. In the first case, you’re seen as being in the pay of foreign powers, in the latter, you’re deemed a victim of the distorting prism of exoticism.

Being isn’t very easy.
It is perhaps twice as difficult when you bear within you a double belonging you may have deliberately chosen to cultivate.
Unintentionally, I usurped a name (El Gharbi in Arabic means the Westerner) and I would by no means change it.

Wherever the East begins, there begins the West. But this singular bothers me. We should say the Easts and the Wests. In the Koran, these words are inflected in the dual and plural. Then, on further thought, why bother with East and West? I like to quote these verses of the great poet Ibn Arabi, who was born in Murcia, such a Western part of the East, in 1165 and died in Damascus, such an Eastern part of the West, in 1241:

"The lightning came from the East, he longed for it
Had it appeared in the West, he would have longed for it
As for me, I’m in love with the small lightning and its perception
I’m in love with no place, no land"

I like to correct these verses into: I love all the places in which those amazing revelations of beauty take place. It’s the mosaics of Bardo, Siena, Damascus, the sculptures of Rome, the columns of Baalbek, a painting in Paris or London, an illuminated manuscript in Istanbul. What I’m trying to say is that beauty requires progress, trips and spirituality. A pilgrimage. A spirituality of beauty is asking to come to light. Another logic is asking to come to light of which I would like to outline some features. You’ll find that these are the selfsame canons of poetry:

To assert my Arab nature, I reject it, to reject my Western nature I cultivate it. Neither one, that is, either one. Today, you have to be like the Koranic olive tree, neither from the East nor from the West, that is both from the East and from the West.

I am what I deny! We need to invent another “cogito”, which would make being dependent on non-being, to convey the closeness of being and nothingness and to abolish the boundaries that separate assertion from denial.

Frontiers are not the boundaries of a world; they invite us to overcome them, to infringe them, to be tempted by the elsewhere. Frontiers stir up my desire to overcome them. Frontiers support my desire.

In the pursuit of this daydream, I often engage myself in shuffling the cards to entertain this dream I once called “Est” or Weast”.

Therefore: wherever the East begins, there begins the dream, the fantasy. Wherever the East begins, there the West begins, its dreams, its fantasy: the frenzy of exoticism of the XIX century was above all a frenzy of images coming from elsewhere, or a frenzy of images disguised in the marks of “the other”, over-determined by the distance. Delacroix painted baths that resembled boudoirs. Baudelaire looked for his Oriental dreams around Holland.
We are all the East of another, the West of another. The other is the same. The other is not. He’s not even other.

The more a map has errors, the better. I prefer historiated portolans to today’s maps whose exactness makes me miserable.
We must praise error in our writings. If I’m not mistaken.

All I have left to say is that I know these daydreams are essentially idealistic. I bear in mind the fact that, since the Crusades and the colonial ventures, we have settled for a power struggle logic that overshadows the contribution of others. South of the Mediterranean, the Palestinian issue, which requires a fair solution, most painfully illustrates this power struggle, but the rift that splits the North and the South can also represent it. Today, the new Manicheans, those who see the world divided in two (us/the others, that is the forces of good and the axis of evil) can easily recruit their followers. They can claim arguments such as injustice, lack of democracy and misery. We who still believe that the world cannot be divided in two, are we diminishing?

a rive Sud de la Méditerranée, ce rapport de force trouve son illustration la plus douloureuse dans la question palestinienne qui exige une solution équitable, il peut être illustré également par l’abîme qui sépare le Nord et le Sud. Aujourd’hui les nouveaux manichéens, ceux pour qui le monde est divisible par deux (nous/les autres, autrement dit les forces du bien et l’axe du mal) ont plus d’un argument qui leur permettent de recruter leurs adeptes. Ces arguments ce sont l’injustice, l’absence de démocratie et la misère. Notre nombre est-il en train de décroître nous qui pensons que le monde n’est pas divisible par deux ?
In a world that has rediscovered the comfort of Manichean dichotomies, we should bow to
Those that by their birth mix up identities!
Those that by their culture muddle up the tracks!
Those that by their love have chosen different lands!
Those that by their wish, their dream, have one day longed for an otherness without which the world would be inhabitable!
May 5, 2006
Jalel El Gharbi