25. jan 2008

Jonathan Raban: Arabia

Skrevet av kl. 10:21 pm i kategorien Raban, Jonathan

Jonathan Raban: ArabiaEtter en rundreise i den arabiske verden – Manamah i Bahrain, Doha i Quatar, Abu Dhabi og Dubai i De Forente Arabiske Emirater, Sana’a i Jemen, Kairo i Egypt og Amman i Jordan – har Jonathan Raban skrevet en av de aller mest fascinerende bøkene jeg noen gang har hatt gleden av å lese.

En del av verden som for oss i den vestlige verden bare er en klatt på kartet klemt inn mellom Afrika og Asia, mest kjent for ørken, olje og sjeiker med dyre biler, kjortler og underlige hodebekledninger trer gjennom Rabans ubeskrivelig gode skildringer fram som særegne spennende nasjoner som langt fra oppfyller det stereotype bildet vi gis inntrykk av gjennom de reportasjene vi ofte fores med.

Sjelden har jeg lest en bok som har fått meg til å humre så meget samtidig som øynene har blitt åpnet for så mye nytt. Beskrivelsene av natur, kultur og mennesker – både individer og grupper – er så fengslende gode og morsomme at jeg til stadighet ble sittende og undres i misunnelighet over at det er mulig å velge riktige ord på en så tilsynelatende liketil måte. Språket er like lekende lett som Ibsen på sitt beste (syns nå jeg, da). Ta for eksempel hans første møte med Amman

Primed to expect anything now, I walked down the steps of the hotel loggian into Switzerland. Amman was a mossy, alpine rock-garden. Its folded hills were packed solid with little stone chalets, but these houses looked more as if they had been quarried from the rock than built on it. They took their colours from the surrounding stone: pink, lime-green, oxide-blue, pale, creamy grey. If one squinted for a moment, there were no houses at all, just a pastel-coloured abstract of rocky outcrops and crevices. Every crag and knobble held a stunted tree, like a Japanese bonsai. There were little cedars, baby olives, and eucalyptus trees growing at queer angles on rosy pinnacles of bare stone. A shaly patch of waste ground at my feet was bright with periwinkles and daisies. The hills were cross-hatched with zig-zag streets and twisty mountain paths. Even the air was alpine – bright and biting, without a trace of that putrecent smell which I had thought was an essential ingredient in every Arab city. It all looked so dinky and bijou that I thought I had overshot my target, and landed up in a province far beyond therange of the book I was trying to write. Minarets … there must be minarets … I looked for them, and found a few hidden away in the crooks of the hills, where they looked quaint and curious, like picturesque relics of some old superstitious sect. The Roman amphitheatre in front of the hotel looked more at home here than the mosques. It was an exact replica of one of the Fiesole where I’d spent a long dull evening the previous summer watching an American mime troupe tell the entire history of the Wobblies in floodlit silence. In Amman, I was back on my summer holidays.

eller beskrivelsen han gir av Major Barza, en jordaner som tjenestegjør i forsvaret til De Forente Arabiske Emirater i Abu Dhabi

He was a big man with a face of clownish gravity. He smelled of hair-oil and appeared to have sublimated a passion for gardening by the intense cultivation of a magnificent moustache. Its points were waxed. It had been so combed and curled and trimmed that it seemed to have made some sort of declaration of independence from the face which had borne it. Major Barza himself looked tired and scruffy. Keeping his moustache in the style to which it was accustomed was obviously costing him dearly. He was a Jordanian serving in the Abu Dhabi Defence Force. He loved the English people, he said. The British Army was the finest in the world. He admired Sir John Glubb, and it was one of his great disappointments that he had not been able to go to Sandhurst.

Rabans evner til å komme i kontakt med alle mulige slags mennesker – fattige, rike, barn og gamle, kvinner gjemt bak slør og prostituerte, forretningsfolk og tiggere, bønder og militære… – og hans velutviklede ferdigheter i å få disse til å åpne seg og fortelle om sine liv og tanker er intet annet enn forunderlige.

For den som setter pris på godt fomulerte skildringer fra fremmede, ukjente og fascinerende kulturer er Arabia intet annet enn en drøm.

Forlag: Picador
ISBN: 0-330-30058-X
Utgivelsesår: 1987

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