Best of ’04: Arts & Cultures

Maryam Maruf
23 December 2004

‘Becoming Pakistani’

From the superb ‘Multiculturalism: translating difference’ debate, this piece, extracted from Maruf Khwaja’s as-yet unpublished memoir, was for me a particular highlight. The year is 1947, the event, the partition of India – ‘a bewildering time for everybody.’ In elegant prose, both luscious and immediate, this eye-witness story, recalled from childhood, vividly brings to life an historical moment, and the mood and manners of a country on the hinge of devastating change – the echoes of which run right to the heart of the notion of ‘multiculturalism’.

Untranslatable Words

So how well do we understand each other, and do we ever, really, speak the same language? Is it true, as Wittgenstein once claimed, that ‘whatever can be said can be said clearly’? Or are words more slippery, and more freighted with meaning and hidden dimension than we can ever, really, begin to discover? Loaded questions, to be sure, and what better way to consider the possible answers than by spending a while in the ‘Untranslatable Words’ series. Launched in July 04’, it’s a glorious compendium of the stories and significance attached to words from around the world – if it were only gift-wrapped, it’d make an ideal Christmas present!

Sounding the Sea

I confess I’m cheating in choosing this piece, but there’s a reason for doing so… It’s something only possible on the web: a single article that is in fact a window opening up a vista – the view stretching for miles – back over some of the best moments in the long-running ‘Shorelines’ series. The South China Sea to South Beach, Florida, surfers to sharks, icebergs and underwater adventures – the series is full of surprises, visually stunning, and rather like the effects of being at a real beach, both a pleasure and a prompt to contemplation. And to accompany you while you stroll along the strand, there are even some waves, in the form of musician Mike O’Brien’s marine soundscape.

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