Six degrees of separation and Holy Ground
When Steve learned that Kay and I are staying in the apartment of Abdelwahab Meddeb, he wrote that he had interviewed Meddeb’s translator, Jane Kurtz, on his weekly radio interview program, Keepin’ the Faith (WILL-AM at the University of Illinois). Sure enough. Steve contacted Jane. Jane Kurtz emailed me. And voila! Six degrees of separation.
Jane wrote that she translated two of his books into English, including Talismano, and that they corresponded quite a bit during their work. She listened to his weekly radio program, “Cultures d’Islam,” thanks to the internet and Radio France-Culture (one of the most remarkable radio stations in the world). They were supposed to meet in Palo Alto, and teach a class together at Stanford, but that semester corresponded with his onset of the cancer that took his life in a short time.
“His writings can be very esoteric, since his interest in Islam spanned so many continents and cultures (hence the title of his radio program, “cultures” with an “s”.
“…. I almost think it was a good thing he didn’t live to see the terrible violence that struck his beloved Paris these recent years. It would have broken his heart to see the evil done in the name of Islam in the city he so loved.”
Abdalwahab Meddeb practiced his Muslim faith “though he also believed strongly in the secular values of France —he was of that generation—and in the possibility of an Islamic reform coming out of the communities of European Muslims. How sad that exactly the opposite is happening, French Muslims are being radicalized and are filling mosques and prisons.
“Anyway, a few of his books are available in English, if you are not a reader of French (and believe me, many readers of French still don’t understand his writings), so I would recommend starting with The Malady of Islam.
The old saying “wherever you go, there you are,” is worth heeding. The intent of the saying is to remind us that we take ourselves wherever we go. But it occurs to me there’s another dimension to the adage. Wherever you go, be there – really be present to the place and see it for what it is. This apartment in France has turned out to be a kind of holy ground.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Paris, France, June 7, 2016.