Tariq Ali

I had heard Tariq Ali on Democracy Now! but I have not read his books. He was excellent. I think it is very easy to criticize the US government and the war in Iraq, but to come to Mexico and criticize Carlos Fuentes at a book fair and then suggest that President Calderon and his wife should read Don Quixote, that takes something more than guts. And, to do that eloquently and smartly takes a lot of skill (and smarts). He discussed world literature and engagement. Authors and readers need to be engaged in their world and understand the context of what they are reading. He criticized Fuentes for not being engaged, particularly in the fact that he wrote the introduction for a biography of one of the billionaire media tycoons of South America. Who, of course, would be more interested in fewer voices in the media, instead of diversity of journalists and opinions. Ali actually praised Mario Vargas Llosa who switched from being a left-leaning Latin American author, to a right-leaning Latin American author. But, Vargas Llosa was open about this and maintained an engagement with his world and defended his position. Fair enough.

The guy who introduced him mentioned that he went to Bolivia to find Che. While he was with Che he was captured by the Bolivians. When he ended up in jail as a suspected insurgent, he learned some Spanish.

And, at the end of the talk, one of the audience members (who was obviously either a huge fan, or a friend) asked him to talk about John Lennon and Mick Jagger. So, then he told a couple stories about being asked by John to listen to Imagine before it was recorded. And, about being the inspiration for the Rolling Stone’s song “Street-fighting Man.”

After the talk finished, I went up to him and told him I heard him speak on Democracy Now! and really appreciated his talk. Then Adolfo and I raced off to buy a few of his books (in Spanish). Adolfo wanted to see if we could get them signed, so we went back to the lecture hall, he was still there and we got our books signed.

What a great lecture!

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One Response to “Tariq Ali”

  1. aj burke Says:

    I saw him on Democracy Now, too – he IS good.

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