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IDENTITY CRISIS, Waymade University, India

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05.12.2021

International conference held at Waymade College of Education, India 4 & 5/12/2021.

Since the theme of our dicussion is Identity crisis, let me give you a few clues concerning my background: My father was Sephardic Italian, my mother British, with relatives of various religions: Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, animist, and God knows what else, and I have cousins of mixed-blood in both Congo and Zimbabwe. I was born and raised in Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Afterwards I studied at NYU and spent eight years in the Big Apple. Then nine years in Milan, Italy, one year in each of the following countries: Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, forty years in Paris, France and now Tel Aviv, Israel. English and French are my two ‘mother’ tongues, whilst Italian is my ‘paternal’ tongue. I also speak fluent Spanish and German, and still know some coloquial Swahili, or Kiswhahili, as well as a smattering of Hebrew. I can read Portuguese but cannot speak it. I compare myself to that tropical aquatic plant whose many roots spread out of the water.

POEMS:

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

They call me Gianni

They call me Jim

But also Dominic

In both genders

In every guise Advertisement

Whether it be Gianni, Jim or Dominic

In the present tense as in the past

First or third person

We’re talking of the same person Advertisement

With the difference that each one

Speaks in another tongue

Confounding strangers

Claims the spiteful gossip

At times Gianni and Jim will be one and the same

At times they will oppose each other

Sometimes they might act as total strangers

And so it goes for both Dominics

The distance between them may be paper thin

Or else wide as the ocean

That which separates two languages

Or lies, mute, within the blood cells

IDENTITY Advertisement

who are you who inhabits

that body of mine?

what makes me me

and not he or she

or it, for that matter?

how I’d wish I could

distance myself

from that inquisitive guy

who watches over

my every move

sucks in every breath I breathe

how I’d wish I would

not have to share with him

that pervasive intimacy

which can be so sickening

even obscene at times

it is like lying

on the operating table

and watching your own heart

being removed

then transplanted

then removed again

there are dreams, of course

but here too, the obsession

doesn’t seem to cease

and I catch myself in limbo

undergoing the autopsy

of my own body

how tired I am of being me

that persona at once

so familiar and so strange

almost alien

when his mind rebels

and his nerves take over

doing exactly the opposite

of what I would want him to do

I dreamt once that all the mirrors

around me had disappeared

and I felt like a breeze of liberation

I shall thus read a few poems of mine and excerpts of novels to illustrate our theme.

My first novels were set in Africa, where I had lived for 17 years. It was then much later that my original novels appeared in English, in North America, Europe, India, and South Africa. I write in three different styles. Serious historical and autobiographical novels set in the pre- and postcolonial DRC, the former Belgian Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and South Africa, that constitute my AFRICAN QUATUOR which will come out later this month with the prestigious Swedish House, l’Aleph / Wisehouse Publications: namely MIXED BLOOD or ADOPTED BY AN AMERICAN HOMOSEXUAL IN THE BELGIAN CONGO, EUR-AFRICAN........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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