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Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for March 2016

‘Burning Country’ North America Tour

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Yassin T03090To promote the publication of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, authors Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami are embarking on an extended tour of North America. This will be a great opportunity to hear both about the book itself and about the developing situation in Syria more generally, and to engage in dialogue with two of the most important contemporary commentators on the Middle East.

Tuesday March 29 at 2:00 PM – Wayne, NJ
Gandhian Forum for Peace & Justice at William Paterson University, University Commons, Ballroom C, 300 Pompton Road — Wayne, New Jersey

Click here for more info

Wednesday March 30 at 4:00 PM – Boston, MA
Emerson College, Charles Beard Room, 80 Boylston Street, Boston

Thursday March 31 at 12:00 PM – Cambridge, MA
Harvard University, Kalb Seminar Room, Taubman Building, Kennedy School of Government, 15 Eliot Street, Cambridge

Click here for more info

Friday April 1 at 3:00 PM – Los Angeles, CA
UCLA, Bunche Hall, Room 10383 (10th floor), 315 Portola Plaza, Los Angeles
Click here for more info

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 24, 2016 at 11:56 am

Posted in North America

Binet, Hitler and Putin

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Putin1This (slightly subedited) was first published at the New Arab/ al-araby al-jadeed.

I’ve just finished “HHhH”, an excellent ‘non-fiction novel’ by the French writer Laurent Binet. It tells the true story of Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of top Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich co-ordinated by the Czechoslovak resistance and the British government.

In the Nazi surveillance agency, the SS, Heydrich was second in command only to Heinrich Himmler (or perhaps he was even more important than his boss – “HHhH” is the German acronym for ‘Himmler’s Brain is Called Heydrich’). He was the highest official in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, and the chief architect of the ‘final solution’ for Europe’s Jews – the Holocaust.

The larger background to the drama of the assassination is Britain and France’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia, the final layer in these states’ disastrous appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s.

Germany had been defeated in World War One. The post-war settlement forced Germany to pay enormous reparations to the victors. This national humiliation was immediately followed by economic collapse and social disorder. Hitler emerged from this context, a strong leader promising to restore German order and pride, identifying enemies domestic and foreign, and lamenting the scattering of the German people across various borders.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm

With Syria Solidarity UK

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It was a pleasure to give a talk at the LSE. The talk was organised by the brilliant Syria Solidarity UK.

Here is Part One:

and (after the break) Part Two:

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 21, 2016 at 10:40 am

Posted in Syria

Drawing Blood

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mollyThis review was published at the National.

Molly Crabapple’s “Drawing Blood” – “the story of a girl and her sketchbook” – is at once memoir, reportage, literary description, aesthetic enquiry, road novel and romance.

Crabapple’s painting, lying somewhere between Toulouse Lautrec and surrealism, is increasingly celebrated. The surprise here is that her best writing is as provocatively beautiful as her visual art. Her prose is sweet and sour in equal measure, the eye she watches with is both refined and raw. Very often she watches herself. The comfortable clash in her personality of cynic and idealist, highbrow and lowbrow, recalls Saul Bellow’s early characters. Like Augie March, a young Molly shoplifts high-canonical texts and reads them on the elevated trains which pass above slums.

Native of New York, of a stimulating Puerto Rican (Marxist) and Jewish (artist) background, Molly nevertheless hated being a child. School diagnosed her with “oppositional defiant disorder”; by twelve she’d become a goth-punk. At seventeen she was travelling in Paris and Morocco, an American on tour – “nothing but an eye, soaking up the world” – but one seeing a freshly unexotic vision.

“When you draw you are performing quietly,” she writes, “inviting strangers to engage you.” Strangers engage her, of course, wherever she is, whether she’s drawing or not, simply because she possesses (or is possessed by) an attractive female body. This she finds to be both a power and a vulnerability. The financial power leads her to pose for photo shoots. “When I thought of every proposition and threat that I got just walking down the street in my girl body, I decided I might as well get paid for the trouble.” And so she became “rendered into image, untouchable yet tradable.”

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 10, 2016 at 11:27 am

Posted in book review

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Free City Radio

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By now I’m repeating myself, but here I am talking about the Syrian revolution and our book on Canada’s Free City Radio. Topics include democracy, how Assad engineered a war, and the meanings of the word ‘jihad’.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 4, 2016 at 8:54 am

Posted in Syria

Can Literature Liberate?

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It was a real pleasure to attend the first Bare Lit Festival in London – great idea, great audiences, panelists, organisers. In this panel there’s Sareeta Domingo (who writes erotic fiction, amongst other things), poet and academic Joan Anin-Addo, and the accomplished novelist Leila Aboulela. And me. (I reviewed one of Leila’s excellent novels here, and I’m looking forward to reviewing another.)

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 3, 2016 at 10:35 pm

Posted in writing

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