This is an intermediary entry in this blog but the question is probably among the greatest of the century, and it has been courageously tackled this week by a blog I like much: Vulpes Libris.
Vulpes Libris is a blog where friends or colleagues meet to write, one after the other, usually thrice a week, and, very often, each week is dedicated to a thematic. The bloggers, among whom I find Kate MaDonald – one of the specialist of my beloved middle-brow novels -, are mostly academics, but the blog reads easily, and surveys a lot of different topics. Of course, I have preferences but one may always avoid bloggers or matters that one does not care for.
This week is devoted to refugees with this introductory caution:
The BookFoxes have allowed me to hijack our normally non-political site with a week of writing about, and by, refugees.
Therefore, it is clear from the beginning, that there will be no political side but an overview of refugees and the status of refugee from a literary point of view, with books critics.
- Monday: Kirsty D returns to Lloyd Jones’s Hand Me Down World and finds a renewed relevance in his story of a woman being smuggled into Europe.
- Wednesday: Jackie explores the universality of displacement in Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem We Refugees.
- Friday: In a VL Classic, Hilary revisits her review of Marjane Satrapi’s account of her experience as a refugee, Persepolis.
And it starts with a review from Kate MacDonald:
of which is the beginning:
“There might be urban foxes in the docks area of Brussels, but I doubt it at the moment. There’s a long sliver of a park there, with a playground and football pitches, between Gare du Nord, the red light district and the canal. For the past three weeks its been filled with over 1000 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea. The camp came into being by the efforts of a small group of volunteers active in the ‘sans-papiers’ movement, helping asylum seekers with housing and food, and when the flood of refugees arriving in Europe from the south and south-east reached Europe’s political capital, they set up the camp. Belgians have long memories about refugees: they have family members who were refugees during the Second and First World Wars, and they have long welcomed refugees from the former Belgian colonies of the Congo and the DRC. The sustained generosity and volunteer effort from Belgians to help today’s refugees is staggering (I’ve been sorting the mountains of donated clothes and tents), especially when you think of how utterly useless the response of Europe’s leaders has been to find a unified political response to help. How can the people’s will be so strongly different from the apparent will of those we’ve elected to represent us? The BookFoxes have allowed me to hijack our normally non-political site with a week of writing about, and by, refugees.”
I shall ask my own question with the following photograph:
We should remember that at one moment or another our families have been refugees. During WWII, my father’s family was a refugee family in the Dordogne. There have been other refugees before in my parents’ family for many reasons, and as we are able to trace both families centuries ago, we are able to see how much they have had to move for several causes. They returned to their roots and grounds, mainly, but some shoots have stayed abroad.
Refugees in France came from other countries quite recently (I mean in the last century) Italy, Poland, Spain, Russia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, sub- Saharan Africa (I will not talk of the disgraceful French attitude during the genocide in Rwanda and afterwards), what we used to call “Indochina” – but also from one part of France to another because of poverty, like Bretons when Brittany went through a spell of shameful poverty in the beginning and middle of the 20th century. Not to speak about the French families who thought they had a home in colonies who were deservedly given their independence.
We are now in Europe (and I do not mean the European Union, but the European continent) rather static countries with some wealth and comfort that we do not wish to share with others. We are at the same time going through a financial and economic crisis that is lasting, and we, Western Europeans, are so used to get ting what we want quickly that we do not understand that, even in our economy, there are cycles, and that life is not all consumerism. We have retired into ourselves and we are scared to move ahead. The future is always frightening, more or less, but it is frightening because it is the unknown.
Let us give the future a chance and remember we have not always been ensconced in our comfortable life – like my Girls who find reassurance in a routine life. We are able to find solutions, whether these are implied in politics, associations, churches, or as individuals.
This major crisis could have been avoided had we listened to intellectuals, philosophers, economists, anthropologists, and others who told us in the 1970s that the 21st century would be a century of migrations because of wars, of food crises, of droughts, of climatic changes, of too great differences between the Southern countries and the Northern ones… We did not listen and we did not hear. And now we have to be creative now.
Refugees are what we have all been at one time or another and, most of all, they are what we are: Human Beings.