Archive for January, 2015

NOSTALGIA / PROGRESS: Issue 3 of Rusted Radishes: Beirut Literary and Art Journal

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Rusted Radishes, Beirut’s only English-language literary and art journal, is in its third circulation, having launched in early December 2014. The following is the preface as it appears in the journal.

Now It Is After

This autumn, I was in Berlin one week before the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. Cozied up at a bar, I sipped on the house wine, a Cabernet. I told the bartender, “After this glass, I’d like a Pinot Noir.” He swiftly plopped a French bottle of the blood-red juice onto the bar, and with a triumphant smile said, “Now it is after!”

It occurred to me that “after” had come so logically, yet unexpectedly; graciously, though beckoned, that it melded with the present moment in a way that “before” and “after” were just strung by a few moments of time, of desire, of drinking. There I was, in a city that was reminiscing of the day that history was made within hours of a news conference, and everybody had a story of how they heard the Wall was coming down, who they were with, how they reached the Wall, and so on. (Did you know that Angela Merkel was somewhere other than a soccer game at the time the Wall began to be chipped away? She was in a sauna. She recalled that day as “unimaginable happiness.”)  The city is in the “after,” 25 years after, but what about those moments just after the breaking of the Wall, when the future – and the past, literally – were suddenly in their hands? They could have never known that “after” would come so suddenly. Nor what the next 25 years would bring them.

The writers and artists of the third issue of Rusted Radishes raise images and questions of nostalgia and progress; nostalgia in the wake of “progress”; the seductive nature of each; and the narratives that we weave in the interstices of these concepts. These themes arose naturally and without solicitation – as we at RR like it. Again we did not call for a theme, but instead looked for themes in the work we accepted into the issue. It seemed appropriate that the concepts of nostalgia and progress be considered together.

Our writers offer us images of nostalgia:

Tightly zipped pockets.

Child-sized, outdated, pinching staircases.

Crushing the lemons for us in summer.

Eyes as vast as samaa’.

In a red booth picking a lock.

Black birds on a fence like a pattern of a kufiya.

Frayed cushions.

A long scratch in the old hardwood floor.

The cliché of a café.

Killers, their bones rattle while jogging along the


Rocks that had been painted yellow and pretended they were the sun.

Pinecones crack and spill shells from within shells.

They write about moving forward, making progress, seeking the future. Christine Rice shows us the seductive powers of moving straight into a tornado, in “Atmospheric Disturbances.” Tarek Abi Samra writes about the torpor that seizes his character as he holds a heavy rock and contemplates killing a turtle with it.  In “Honey Apple,” Ziad Lawen seeks out a love interest with the oldest trick in the book, honey.

The photos and artwork behold old staircases and doors, tumbled gas cans, Mickey and Minnie, the subtle beautiful movement of water, the opening of light through a tree, an ostentatious remembrance of the dead, a paradise of gummy bears, and people and rockets taking off into their own adventures. Look at our cover, and try to hold its gaze.

Finally, in a conversation with Kasper Kovitz, we discover how his art is inspired by the wilderness, the rigor of creation, and the rejection of the progression of time as “progress,” or improvement. He further leaves us with a question that challenges our understanding of a narrative vis-à-vis this question of progress.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, doctors believed that nostalgia was a disease, and therefore could be cured; in some cases it was thought to have been, as there are common symptoms between nostalgia and tuberculosis – chest pains, loss of appetite, fatigue. While tuberculosis may have been cured, a cure for nostalgia was never found. How did doctors ever think they could cure a feeling that was so individual and based on humans’ senses, emotions, and experience? Eventually, they figured the cure would be found with “universal progress and the advancement of medicine.” Little did they know that the progression of time was actually the soul mate of nostalgia.

Rusted 3.0 cover