It has been far too long, yes it’s been quite a while, Since we greeted each other with a hug and a smile. And we listened intently to the paper being read, Agreeing to the comments with the nod of our head.
It’s been ages since the minutes were shared, And we nibbled on treats that a member prepared. The silence we feel brings a sigh to our hearts, This nasty Corona still keeps us apart!
But the good news is that we all still keep well, Just imagine the stories we’re saving to tell. Though our luncheon a virus has hauled off in stealth, Let us raise up our glasses with a toast to our health.
In my request for members to enliven our website while we could no longer meet, Janet S. took up the challenge and sent me some photos from Timbuktu, which until recently had a famous library. You must read on, lest we take libraries for granted. Timbuktu represents (or used to?) the most remote location on Planet Earth, wherever you live. Of course, our Janet S. has been there, with pictures to prove it. Two photos show the Timbuktu Library door. (Janet H.)
I visited Timbuktu in 2009, on my way to the Tuareg Festival in the Desert. Touring the dusty town, I was fascinated to hear of the history of this fabled city. It was once a rich trading centre, a crossroads in the trade of salt, gold and slaves, and the site of the first university in the Muslim world, established in 1140. It became famous for the study of sciences such as astronomy and medicine, as well as for literature and religion. I was shown the library, which held the handwritten manuscripts dating back to the establishment of the university. Many of the manuscripts remained in private hands. It was explained to me that many of the families who had passed them down through the generations were uncomfortable having all the precious manuscripts kept in one place. They felt that it was their duty to protect these ancient records of the past.
Their instincts were very good, as I was there at a very uncertain time. The private army of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi had just disbanded, and taking their weapons with them, they were making incursions into Mali. The people of Timbuktu were worried as to what the future would hold for them as they were Sufi Muslims and the fanatic Sharia jihadist Muslims from Qaddafi’s army were on the move south. The governments of all 8 of us in the tour group, Canadian, Australian, British and American sent warnings to us in Timbuktu that we should get out. We were all certain that we would be safe until after the festival. Luckily that was the case, and then we left rapidly. The Festival in the Desert went off well, carrying on the melodic traditions of the Tuaregs that stretched back at least to the times of the founding of Timbuktu. Many tribesmen had travelled hundreds of miles across the Sahara by camel to attend. I found out later that it was at this time that two Canadian diplomats had been kidnapped in Niger, and it turned out later that they were being kept in Mali, about 250 kilometres from where we were. About 2 months after, a tour group was attacked near Timbuktu and a British man and a German lady were killed. However, it was not until three years later that the jihadists burned the library of Timbuktu and destroyed the forty-two tombs of the prophets that were a feature of Timbuktu. Luckily, those manuscripts in private hands were smuggled out of the area.
If you ARE getting through some of those books on your shelves, consider showcasing your favourites here! Your recommendation can be added to the website, and archived in Category “I’m Reading.” (Check out the menu to the right.) These can be short and sweet, as if you’ve been asked to comment for a book sleeve. Just send your draft to the webmaster, Janet Halls.
On October 15, 2019, we welcomed special guest Jaspreet Singh, an internationally renowned novelist, essayist, poet and short-story writer. He was accompanied by Christine Gingerick of the Calgary Public Library Foundation, our marvelous tour guide when the new library was unveiled, and Calgary poet Rosemary Griebel. Mr. Singh is the 2019 Calgary Public Library’s Author in Residence.
Mr. Singh read excerpts from ELENA FERRANTE, of whom he is a huge fan. He spoke of the art of Ms. Ferrante’s English translator Ann Goldstein, which segued smoothly to reading part of his essay “My Mother, My Translator,” which you can (should!) read in entirety (link provided below.)
This poignant essay begins with a relatively short visit his mother made to Canada. Her son’s first book, 17 Tomatoes: Tales from Kashmir, had been published. She had arrived with her own translation into Punjabi of the first of the fourteen short stories contained in his English work.
Mr. Singh was impressed that his mother had so eloquently captured in Punjabi the emotional impact of the story. In six weeks, she had handwritten translations of 13 of the 14 stories but had skipped the 9th. When she mailed it later, her son — the author — was upset, as she had made some specific changes to the story. She insisted the story then should be left out, should he not make her changes! Eventually, they compromised by adding a Translator’s Note.
However, “the 9th” was more her story, and became the catalyst for her to write her own memoirs of a woman born in British-occupied India, who had experienced the 1947 partition creating Pakistan and the 1984 Sikh Massacre. It is now her son Jasmeet who is learning much more of his mother’s life, while translating from Punjabi to English. We look forward to being able to read these memoirs someday!
Mr. Singh also mentioned briefly two of his novels, Chef and Helium. They are perfect reading for gaining deep insight into India, Pakistan and Kashmir, for our season of Cultural Awareness Through Literature.
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s magazine Westword published an article about our Club in their October-December issue. Moorea Gray wrote the article, and we have been granted kind permission to post this article on our website.
Once again, our gracious Winter Party host was Honorary Member, Ruth Hilland. Ruth and the staff at Amica Aspen Woods provide a most welcoming venue and delicious meal for our Club’s Winter Party.
Needless to say, there are a few creative behind-the-scene CWLC elves who add extra pizazz through tablescapes and entertainment.
This was a perfect time to have two new members introduced by their friends. What “resumés!” To top everything off, we had a most special performer, opera singer Melissa Jackson (Calgary Opera, Cowtown Opera and more.) Singing seasonal songs, her voice carried beyond our room and into the foyer, to the delight of Amica residents and staff, as well as ourselves.
For the New Year, it’s our members that will continue to make the Calgary Women’s Literary Club “sing.” We resume March 3rd.
Program Coordinator Sandra Ens introduced our November 12th special guest speaker. Natalie Meisner is coordinator of the Mount Royal University Writer-in-Residence Program and a professor in the MRU Department of English where she works in the areas of creative writing, drama, and gender/sexuality studies.
Professor Meisner, who is also a published author and playwright, spoke engagingly about the importance of telling stories outside the mainstream so that other voices are represented at the table of post-modern literature. In addition to this focus on diversity and the “lit of now,” her teaching emphasizes the role of empathy in helping emerging writers engage with their subjects to craft stories that create community. She concluded her presentation by referencing the shift in her own writing away from tragedy and anger toward comedy as a means of effecting social change.
After reading an excerpt from her very amusing work of non-fiction, Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family, Professor Meisner answered questions from the membership that confirmed the idea that literature is something we make, not just something we read.
How honoured we were, to have Mr. Bill Ptacek, CEO of the Calgary Public Library, join our Club’s special events over the last few years. As if he didn’t have anything else to do! (Search “Bill Ptacek” for more on this site.)
As reported by Christina Frangou, he “dedicated his career to public libraries in both U.S. and Canadian cities, modernizing, expanding and reshaping them into places where people can gather.” He made an enormous difference to our entire City, and in June was named Calgary’s Citizen of the Year.
We join so many other Calgarians in mourning his passing.
“Life isn’t worth living if you don’t have a good book going as far as I’m concerned.” (Bill Ptacek)
Frangou, Christina. “The American who helped Calgary’s libraries begin a new chapter.” August 19, 2019.