The witch is a dangerous person. Neither his appearance nor his behaviour betray his satanic nature. He does not wear special clothing, he does not have magical instruments. He does not boil potions, does not prepare poisons, does not fall into a trance, and does not perform incantations. He acts by means of the psychic power he was born. Malefaction is a congenital trait of his personality. The fact that he does evil and brings misfortune owes nothing to his predilections. It brings him not special pleasure. He simply is that way.
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[... ] I began to see Algiers as one of the most fascinating and dramatic places on earth. In the small space of this beautiful but congested city intersected two great conflicts of the contemporary world. The first was the one between Christianity and Islam (expressed here in the clash between colonizing France and colonized Algeria). The second, which acquired a sharpness of focus immediately after the independence and departure of the French, was a conflict at the very heart of Islam, between its open, dialectical - I would even say 'Mediterranean' - current and its other, inward-looking one, born of a sense of uncertainty and confusion vis-e -vis the contemporary world, guided by fundamentalists who take advantage of modern technology and organizational principles yet at the same time deem the defense of faith and custom against modernity as the condition of their own existence, their sole identity. [... ] In Algiers one speaks simply of the existence of two varieties of Islam - one, which is called the Islam of the desert, and a second, which is defined as the Islam of the river (or of the sea). The first is the religion practiced by warlike nomadic tribes struggling to survive in one of the world's most hostile environments, the Sahara. The second Islam is the faith of merchants, itinerant peddlers, people of the road and of the bazaar, for whom openness, compromise, and exchange are not only beneficial to trade, but necessary to life itself.
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A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.
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His August Majesty chided the bureaucrats for failing to understand a simple principle: the principle of the second bag. Because the people never revolt just because they have to carry a heavy load, or because of exploitation. They don't know life without exploitation, they don't even know that such a life exists. How can they desire what they cannot imagine? The people will rvolt only when, in a single movement, someone tries to throw a second burden, a second heavy bag, onto their backs. The peasant will fall face down into the mud - and then spring up and grab an ax. He'll grab an ax, my gracious sir, not because he simply can't sustain this new burden - he could carry it - he will rise because he feels that, in throwing the second burden onto his back suddenly and stealthily, you have tried to cheat him, you have treated him like an unthinking animal, you have trampled what remains of his already strangled dignity, taken him for an idiot who doesn't see, feel, or understand. A man doesn't seize an ax in defense of his wallet, but in defense of his dignity, and that, dear sir, is why His Majesty scolded the clerks. For their own convenience and vanity, instead of adding the burden bit by bit, in little bags, they tried to heave a whole big sack on at once.
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Because it was enough for one of those favorites of His Distinguished Highness to issue a thoughtless decree. These young smart alecks see it, and they immediately imagine some fatal result and come running to the rescue. They start trying to mend things, straighten things out, patch things up and untangle them. And so instead of using their energy to build their own vision of the future, instead of trying to put their irresponsible, destructive fantasies into action, our malcontents had to roll up their sleeves and start untangling what the minsters had knotted up. And there's always a lot of work to untangling! So they untangle and untangle, drenched in sweat, wearing their nerves to shreds, running around, patching things up here and there, and in all this rush and overwork, in this whirlwind, their fantasies slowly evaporate from their hot heads.
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I want to defend Ben Bella just as I am going to defend Boumedienne. Ben Bella was not the 'demon' that the nervous, demagogic communique of 19 June accused him of being, no more than Boumedienne is the 'reactionary' that L'Unita wrote about. Both are victims of the same drama that every Third World politician lives through if he is honest, if he is a patriot. This was the drama of Lumumba and Nehru; it is the drama of Nyerere and Sekou Toure. The essence of the drama lies in the terrible material resistance that each one encounters on taking his first, second, and third steps up the summit of power. Each one wants to do something good and begins to do it and then sees, after a month, after a year, after three years, that it just isn't happening, that it is slipping away, that it is bogged down in the sand. Everything is in the way: the centuries of backwardness, the primitive economy, the illiteracy, the religious fanaticism, the tribal blindness, the chronic hunger, the colonial past with its practice of debasing and dulling the conquered, the blackmail by the imperialists, the greed of the corrupt, the unemployment, the red ink. progress comes with great difficulty along such a road. The politician begins to push too hard. He looks for a way out through dictatorship. The dictatorship then fathers an opposition. The opposition organises a coup. And the cycle begins anew.
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When World War II erupted, colonialism was at its apogee. The courde of the war, however, its symbolic undertones, would sow the seeds of the system's defeat and demise. [... ] The central subject, the essence, the core relations between Europeans and Africans during the colonial era, was the difference of race, of skin color. Everything-each eaxchange, connection, conflict-was translated into the language of black and white. [... ] Into the African was inculcated the notion that the white man was untouchable, unconquerable, that whites constitute a homogenous, cohesive force. [... ] Then, suddenly, Africans recruited into the British and French armies in Europe observed that the white men were fighting one another, shooting one another, destroying one another's cities. It was revelation, a surprise, a shock.
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The next prisoner looks twelve. He says he's sixteen. He knows it is shameful to fight for the FNLA, but they told him that if he went to the front they would send him to school afterward. He wants to finish school because he wants to paint. if he could get paper and a pencil he could draw something right now. He could do a portrait. He also knows how to sculpt and would like to show his sculptures, which he left in Carmona. he has put his whole life into it and would like to study, and they told him that he will, if he goes to the front first. He knows how it works - in order to paint you must first kill people, but he hasn't killed anyone.
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Such people, while useful, even agreeable, to others, are, if truth be told, frequently unhappy-lonely in fact. Yes, they seek out others, and it may even seem to them that in a certain country or city they have managed to find true kinship and fellowship, having come to know and learn about a people; but they wake up one day and suddenly feel that nothing actually binds them to these people, that they can leave here at once. They realize that another country, some other people, have now beguiled them, and that yesterday's most riveting event now pales and loses all meaning and significance. For all intents and purposes, they do not grow attached to anything, do not put down deep roots. Their empathy is sincere, but superficial. If asked which of the countries they have visited they like best, they are embarrassed-they do not know how to answer. Which one? In a certain sense-all of them. There is something compelling about each. To which country would they like to return once more? Again, embarrassment-they had never asked themselves such a question. The one certainty is that they would like to be back on the road, going somewhere. To be on their way again-that is the dream.
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Man knows, and in the course of years he comes to know it increasingly well, feeling it ever more acutely, that memory is weak and fleeting, and if he doesn't write down what he has learned and experienced, that which he carries within him will perish when he does. This is when it seems everyone wants to write a book. Singers and football players, politicians and millionaires. And if they themselves do not know how, or else lack the time, they commission someone else to do it for them... engendering this reality is the impression of writing as a simple pursuit, though those who subscribe to that view might do well to ponder Thomas Mann's observation that, 'a writer is a man for whom writing is more difficult than it is for others
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To understand our world, we must use a revolving globe and look at the earth from various vantage points. If we do so, we will see that the Atlantic is but a bridge linking the colorful, tropical Afro-Latin American world, whose strong ethnic and cultural bonds have been preserved to this day. For a Cuban who arrives in Angola, neither the climate, nor the landscape, nor the food are strange. For a Brazilian, even the language is the same.
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