Besa: The Promise

H. and I saw a remarkable documentary at Canadian Mennonite University last evening. Besa: The Promise told a story I’d not known, of Muslims in Albania taking in and saving Jews during World War II. It seemed unexpected, surprising actually, that this would have happened–Muslims and Jews are enemies, aren’t they?–and the more inspiring because of it.

BessaRescreenBesa refers to an Albanian honor code: one opens the door to a knock, one offers safety to refugees, one keeps one’s word. Several stories played within the larger story: the narrative of the German invasion and hunt for Jews with commentary from elderly survivors and their Muslim hosts; a Jewish photographer’s quest to honor via portraits the Albanians who’d responded so nobly and at great danger to themselves in those evil times; and most compellingly, a Muslim man’s attempt to fulfill a promise made between his late father and his wartime Jewish guest. Since I hope others will see the film, I won’t say more about that particular promise. Continue reading

Binoculars on

 

photo_2Christmas was spent in Toronto. We had a wonderful time with Second Son and family; just the granddaughters’ expressive joy over their gifts alone was worth the airfare. The four-year-old’s top wish was an Elsa doll, of the Frozen movie franchise, which she duly received from her parents, as well as the Anna doll. We’d gone to see Frozen after it came out, on account of our grandchildren’s interest, and it had seemed to me that Anna, with her act of sisterly love, was the heroine of the story. I noticed that the girls of my acquaintance were more strongly attracted to Elsa, the princess who turns the kingdom into snow and ice, however. When I puzzled aloud about this, my daughter-in-law explained (and the four-year-old confirmed), “It’s because Elsa has the power.” Hmm; interesting.

While in Toronto, H. and I also went to see the Alex Colville exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I’m intrigued by Colville’s paintings for several reasons, not the least of which is the way they suggest stories, though not telling them as much as demanding I create them myself from what’s set in the frame. What happened? one wonders. What’s going to happen next? And why this moment? Continue reading

Narratives of place

H. and I took a short road trip through parts of the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana recently, in connection with my participation at the Billings (MT) Bookfest and the High Plains Fiction Awards on Oct. 25-6.

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near Thermopolis, WY

We enjoyed it. We were impressed by how dramatically terrain can shift in a matter of hours (we covered more than 4000 kilometers) and how much of what we passed was interesting or wondrous in some way. Okay, there were a few patches — in  Wyoming — almost too desolate-looking for words, but I was reading Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories – a collection I highly recommend – and for that, the patches were perfectly necessary. For the connection between place and art, I mean, which is what this post is sort of about. Continue reading