Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dear Bretha Von Suttner: Wake up!

Today, I made it to the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands. Though the building itself is impressive, the mission behind it is vital, I found myself in turmoil once I learned about its major founder. Bertha Von Suttner was the mother of the peace movement. In 1905, she was the first woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Czech-Austrian pacifist and novelist spent her life advocating for the construction of the Peace Palace and the establishment of the International Court of Justice for the settlement of conflicts threatening peace. The palace opened in 1913 with most world leaders attending on the premise that justice leads to peace, and peace leads to justice.

Bertha died of cancer in June 1914, a few weeks before World War I broke out. She witnessed the build up to the conflict and continued to advise against international armament to her last breath. I can't get past thinking how she must have felt seeing all her dreams, efforts, and life's work literally go up in flames, worldwide.

If Bretha, the author of Lay Down Your Arms, somehow comes back to life and travels to the future - our present - what would she say?
How would she feel?
Could she hurt more?
Would she hope less?
Would she forsake her dreams?
Would she call our tremulous state World War III?
Would she write another pacifist novel?
And more importantly, would we read it?

Lilas Taha is a novelist, winner of the 2017 International Book Awards  and is the author of Shadows of Damascus and Bitter Almonds.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Toddler And The Sea

So I’m two years-old and, because I’m special, I was given a miracle: I can tell you my thoughts. I don’t know where I’m from, or where I am now, or where I’m going. I can only tell you what I’ve experienced so far.

Are you ready?
Here we go:

I filled my stomach on my mother’s milk when I was smaller. It was warm and plenty.
I slept on my father’s shoulder when I was too tired to walk. It was comfortable and wide.
I smelled my grandmother’s breath when she kissed me every morning. It was fruity and sweet.
I bounced on my grandfather’s lap when he tried to stop my crying. It was soft and a bit awkward.
I popped soap bubbles my older brother blew in my face when we bathed. It was fun and magical.
I kicked a football around and didn’t fall on my face for the first time. Everyone clapped for me.
I danced with my cousins to derbakkeh drums and oud strings. I liked the way their music moved my body.

I heard noises coming from the sky. They sounded like thunder, but were not followed by rain, only ash and cement chunks. It was too loud.
I hid in a closet to wait for the man with the heavy boots and long shiny rifle to leave our house. It was scary.
I crawled under metal wire with sharp spikes. They hurt when my skin caught on them.
I felt the sun burn too close, too hot. The only moisture came from my mother’s eyes.
I saw my uncle lie very still in the street, a circle of red paint spread around his head.

I bobbed up and down on a boat. I was sick. I only saw water.
I slipped through my father’s hands. I didn’t float.
I heard him cry. His voice went hoarse.
I swallowed water. It was too salty.
I breathed sand through my nose.

I am cold, very cold.

I’ve arrived.

Lilas Taha is a novelist, winner of the 2017 International Book Awards  and is the author of Shadows of Damascus and Bitter Almonds.