Maisy ❤ April + May 2015

reading time: ca. 4 min

I somehow forgot to make a "book/movie/music favourites" post last month, so here's a compilation of what impressed me most in April and May. Better late than never. I did think about omitting this section of my blog altogether though... should i write about what i read and watched and listened to every month? or should i just do it whenever i feel like it...? because it almost feels like a job, writing short reviews on movies and books. But then again, it's a nice challenge to sit down and reflect on what i consumed...

After the huge hiatus ever since October due to the enormous workload of my masters program at university, i've finally come around to catch up on reading, and i read quite a few books over the past few weeks, such as A Clash of Kings, The Old Man and the Sea, and 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea. However, the book i want to talk about is the wonderful Ghana must go by Taiye Selasi.

Read: Ghana Must Go (Taiye Selasi, 2013)

source: goodreads
Ghana Must Go (the German title translates to "These things don't happen just like that") is the debut novel by Taiye Selasi, a writer of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin.

The Plot:
Kweku Sai, a highly respected Ghanaian surgeon, is 58 when he dies. He has four children, an ex wife and a new wife. Through his eyes we watch a family as it is being built, through struggles, hardships and fleeting triumph only to be torn apart and seemingly destroyed beyond repair. Each of the family members (his Nigerian wife Fola, his eldest son Olu, the twins Taiwo and Kehinde, and the youngest daughter Sadie) comes to terms with his death in ways that are unexpected to them. 

The Writing:
First off, if I hadn't read this book from the perspective of my masters program (all about transnational relations, boarders, migration, translations and (colonial) power structures - don't ask, it's complicated), i might have considered Ghana Must Go a challenging read because the first 50 or so pages are grossly overwritten, if you read this only for personal pleasure. Kweku's death is relived by the reader at least four times in the first half of the book, and each time the death is revisited, it is perceived from a slightly different vantage point. This retelling of the same incident would probably have irritated me - however, with the focus of my studies, this repetition contributes to the assumption that there is always a second, mostly oppressed, opposed perspective that has not been paid attention to yet (Edward Said calls this "contrapuntal reading"), for example when we look at colonial or post-colonial literature. Whose perspective is the narration? Probably the one of the white, dominant coloniser. Who is not able to speak? Probably the colonised, indigenous people, a suppressed ethnic group or nation, women or other "subalterns". So retelling one event in various ways points out the fact that an event can be perceived differently and also be communicated differently.

There was also a lot of jumping back and forth between past and present - this makes the story hard to comprehend and connect with in a sustainable way, but it also shows how closely present and past are connected and interwoven (the so called "transtemporal" approach).  
But even without the order to read this novel for our analysis seminar, i would have enjoyed this book! I was actually really grateful that i bought this book instead of borrowing it from the library because this is a book, so complexly, densely, emotionally and beautifully written, that i will definitely get back to this a couple of times. 

The Message:
This is the story of a family - and of the simple, devastating ways in which families tear themselves apart, and of the incredible lengths to which a family will go to put itself back together.

It is the story of one family that gets disillusioned by grotesque injustice; it is the story of a wife who left her home country behind and, despite trying to hold her family together in her new American home, loses the connection to her children; it is the story of a firstborn son, who is determined to reconstruct the life his father should have had; it is a story of twins, one seductive, the other an acclaimed artist, both brilliant but scarred and flailing and broken inside; it is also the story of the lastborn, jealously in love with her celebrity best friend and struggling to come to terms with herself, both outside and inside. All of them shattered, all of them lost.


This is the story of a family: torn apart by lies, reunited by grief.



Watched: Babel (2006)

source: imdb
I watched Babel for one of my seminars, and i have to say i really, really liked this film by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Babel is set in four countries across three continents, and in four different languages. It is also one of the most intelligent and artfully made films i've watched in a while, and even though i'm not a huge fan of Brad Pitt, i highly recommend this film a) due to its stunning performances and b) due to its important message.

The Plot:
Marocco, desert. Two brothers Yussef and Ahmed are trusted with their father's gun and head out to shoot jackals in protection of their goat herd. In a competing game of practising the gun, the younger brother Yussef ends up shooting at a tour bus.

San Diego, California. The Mexican nanny Amelia tends to the young twin siblings Debbie and Mike while their parents are in Morocco. Due to an incident during the parents' vacation, Amelia is forced to take care of the children longer than planned and decides to take the children with her to her son's wedding in a rural community near Tijuana, Mexico.

Marocco. The American couple Richard and Susan Jones arranged their vacation to get away from things and mend their own marital woes. The death of their infant child has strained their marriage significantly and they struggle to communicate their frustration, guilt, and blame. During their ride on the tour bus, Susan gets shot by a bullet of supposedly terrorist origin.

Tokyo, Japan. The rebellious, deaf teenage girl Chieko Wataya is traumatized by the recent suicide of her mother and bitter towards her emotionally distant father, whom she blames for not looking after her the way her mother did. She is sexually frustrated after experiencing multiple rejections due to her deafness, and starts exhibiting sexually provocative behaviour.

Iñárritu's direction is brilliantly layered and intricately woven. Each story is complete, but a series of snapshots that leave as many questions as answers. As the stories unfold, the back stories and the futures of the characters are chock full of possibility and pain. Babel is constructed as a puzzle, with different pieces transpiring during different times and in different places. Only in the end will you realise how the different story lines are interconnected with each other, and how one act can set off a series of tragedies with global implications.

The Acting:
Starring an ensemble cast, you get to see a lot of fresh faces in Babel. Of course Cate Blanchett (who i really like, but who spends most of her screentime lying on the floor) and Brad Pitt (who i don't really like and who is mostly crying and screaming in this movie) served as a hook and sales angle for the masses - but luckily the film doesn't focus on the two all too much, but manages to create a nice balance between the several episodes. The two Middle Eastern boys who play the brothers Ahmed and Yussef (Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid) give Oscar-worthy performances, but also Adriana Barraza as Amelia, who turns in a powerful and heart-breaking performance, and especially Rinko Kikuchi, who is absolutely mesmerizing as the silent Chieko, blew me away. Her character really got under my skin.
The most remarkable thing for me however is the way director Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga capture the different rhythms of life in Morocco, America, Tokyo and Mexico. Rather than using some kind of clear-cut stylistic device, they establish the distinct flow and feel of each country early on and maintain it throughout the film. It's that kind of depth that makes Babel such a unique non-mainstream, transnational film.

The Message:
The tag-line, though intentionally obtuse, sums the film up well - »If you want to be understood... Listen«. The film has two central themes - culture and communication. Or more exactly miscommunication. At the heart of each tragedy is an inability to communicate. The tragedies begin with bad decisions that spin each plot somewhat out of control once cultural interference and miscommunication kick in. The film also exposes the connections between these themes in the arenas of politics, religion and geography sensitively and intelligently.  

The film is labelled an "American-Mexican-French" production, but looking at the languages and cultures portrayed in the film i would call it "American-Mexican/Spanish-Arabic-Japanese-Japanese/Deaf-French". This film is more concerned with cultural assumptions and biases that tend to obscure reality and how our perceived differences keep us from connecting to each other.

Maisy rates: 8.5/10


Listened toHero (Family of the Year)


Yes, i am still in love with that song. Not least because it reminds me of my boyfriend and the death of a beautiful human. And because the message is great.

(I listened to this in continuous loop while i was gone over the weekend, away from my boyfriend )

To be honest, my play list has been a little one-sided lately. No new discoveries, and lots of repetition, partly due to the long road trips i was on (to Ruegen Island, to my family...). But here's what i listened to over the last two months:  

One Way Or Another by Blondie (Coyote Ugly :)
One Way Or Another covered by One Direction
Aufstehn by Seeed
Ding by Seeed
Schwinger by Seeed
Next by Seeed
Now We Are Free by Lisa Gerrard (The Gladiator soundtrack)
The Battle by Hans Zimmer (The Gladiator soundtrack)
The Might of Rome by Hans Zimmer (The Gladiator soundtrack)
Barbarian Horde by Hans Zimmer (The Gladiator soundtrack)
Elysium by Hans Zimmer (The Gladiator soundtrack)




Maisy



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