Croatia and Montenegro

CROATIA: Our journey from Mostar to Dubrovnik can be best described as circuitous.  Dubrovnik is a coastal exclave, isolated from the rest of Croatia by the city of Neum, which is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only coastline.  In 1699, when Dubrovnik was its own nation-state, it voluntarily gave up control over Neum to the Ottomans, mostly in order to form a powerful buffer between themselves and the Republic of Venice which lay to the north.  The anomaly has remained ever since. The area around Dubrovnik is mountainous, so it is best to approach along the coast.  To do this from Mostar, … Continue reading Croatia and Montenegro

The Many Arabics of Politics [link]

My new Bosnia post should be up over the weekend.  In the meantime, the rather excellent website muftah.org has just published an article of mine about the use of various forms of the Arabic language in political contexts.  Go and check it out, along with the rest of the site (although I suspect that many people reading this are doing so because of that article). Continue reading The Many Arabics of Politics [link]

No-one is called Abdul: A Guide to Arab Names

This week’s blogpost will be a little short and somewhat out of the ordinary – it’s on the subject of Arabic names.  During the past two days I’ve encountered three journalistic examples of mutilation or incomprehension of Arab names.  I therefore propose, for your scrutiny, a look at how Arab names are put together, how they are taken apart, and how they are not taken apart. CAVEAT: Before we get any further into this, remember that – for whatever reason – there is still no agreed-on way of transliterating Arabic into English.  This is why we had القذافي written as … Continue reading No-one is called Abdul: A Guide to Arab Names

Hafez al-Asad and the Propaganda of Guilt

This week we’re back to my favourite subject: dictatorship, and more specifically, how does it work? I’ve started reading Lisa Wedeen’s excellent book The Ambiguities of Domination, which is based on fieldwork she did during the 80s and 90s in Syria concerning the cult of Hafez al-Asad.  I am about halfway through and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  It is well-written, intelligent, and casually readable as well as academic.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in dictatorship or Syria. Wedeen’s extensive interviews and conversations with Syrians form the basis for her argument, which is that although it would seem … Continue reading Hafez al-Asad and the Propaganda of Guilt

Mapping ‘Lobachevsky’

We interrupt our irregularly-scheduled programme of Belarus blogposts to ramble vaguely on about something incredibly pointless, namely Tom Lehrer’s song “Lobachevsky”.  If you don’t know it, have a quick listen here (the song itself starts at 1:05).  In it, Lehrer – in the guise of a struggling Soviet mathematician – is given advice by Lobachevsky that plagiarisation is the only way of succeeding in his field.  Thus, when he is tasked with a paper on ‘”Analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean parameterization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold”, he goes to great lengths to obtain someone else’s research on the … Continue reading Mapping ‘Lobachevsky’

The Lit-Bel Trip, part 1: Vilnius

I hadn’t really thought much about Lithuania before going there – Belarus was the main draw of the trip and Vilnius was simply a cheap place to fly into and spend a day and a half before leaving for Minsk.  Out of the three Baltic nations, it was the one which interested me the least, or so I thought.  Then I arrived. About the closest reference I have for Lithuania is Hungary, although Budapest is larger and far more bustling than Vilnius.  This is probably connected with the placement of the older parts of both cities.  In Vilnius, the Old Town lies between the new town … Continue reading The Lit-Bel Trip, part 1: Vilnius

Lesbian Palm Tree Bondage

Now that I have your attention, here is my translation of a horticultural text concerning how to cure palm trees of their undying infatuation with one another.  It’s quite a famous piece amongst my friends and associates, although this translation is fuller than the one I have previously supplied to them.  This is the second of my intermittent blogging translation series in which I translate bits of rather weird Classical Arabic for the general amusement of the kind of people who read my blog, the first being the bat text. NABATAEAN AGRICULTURE Ibn Wahshiyya, 960 Palm trees are similar to … Continue reading Lesbian Palm Tree Bondage