Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Great Regulars: "Diaries of Exile" is a sequence of three

poetic journals [Yannis] Ritsos composed between late 1948 and mid-1950 while he was a prisoner at two detention camps. Its power comes from the way it blends the diaristic with the poetic--steeped in the small movements of the everyday, but ramped up by the situation in which Ritsos finds himself.

There is no pity in the book, nor resignation, despite the circumstance. Rather, the poems here are marked by what we might call a weary passion: tired of fighting, struggling for survival, yet engaged nonetheless.

from David L. Ulin: Los Angeles Times: Yannis Ritsos and the poetry of witness


For the New Guineans, this may involve not camping under a dead tree in case it falls on you, and in fact, the best writing in the book involves Diamond's account of nearly drowning when a canoe he hired to take him to an outlying island ended up swamped and capsized because of the carelessness of the crew. When Diamond tells the story to a New Guinean, the other man responds that he too looked at the canoe but had been scared by "its big engines" and the "young crewmen and their cocky and laughing behavior." Constructive paranoia, to be sure, although to me it sounds more like simple engagement, like paying attention to where you are.

from David L. Ulin: Los Angeles Times: Jared Diamond's 'The World Until Yesterday' is as ambitious as it sounds


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