3 fragments on the contemporary

The contemporary. Three appropriately fragmented and possibly unrelated observations or quotations:

1) The very contemporary Arabic fiction I have read in the last couple of months (all published since 2013, so the literal or popular definition of ‘contemporary’) is invariably a mixture of reportage/documentary involving real events and even real characters, or fictional characters based closely on real people, juxtaposed sometimes clumsily with way-out fantasy and cartoonish humour. Does this characteristic feature in contemporary novels from other countries? In the context of Arab countries, is it to entertain and lighten the mood, or just a way of confronting the awful or inexplicable? (- for example the two faces of the Arab contemporary: archaeologist Prof Khaled al-As’ad who understood the contemporaneity of the Palmyra artefacts better than most, killed by Islamic State, who don’t or don’t want to)

2) ‘Salomon saith, There is no new thing upon the earth. So that as Plato had an imagination, that all knowledge was but remembrance; so Salomon giveth his sentence, that all novelty is but oblivion.’ (Frances Bacon: Essays, LVIII; quoted at the start of Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Immortal’.)

3) A poem by Charles Bukowski, ‘I Cannot Stand Tears’; incidentally, Bukowski is apparently an inspiration for the contemporary Russian poet, Kirill Medvedev:

there were several hundred fools

around the goose who broke his leg

trying to decide

what to do

when the guard walked up

and pulled out his cannon

and the issue was finished

except for a woman

who ran out of a hut

claiming he’d killed her pet

but the guard rubbed his straps

and told her

kiss my ass,

take it to the president;

the bird was crying

and I cannot stand tears.

I folded my canvas

and went further down the road:

the bastards had ruined

my landscape.

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