[A Beggar in Jerusalem] is neither novel nor anti-novel, neither fiction nor autobiography, neither poem nor prose—it is all this together.
— Elie Wiesel

My idea of the ideal text is still the Talmud. I love the idea of parallel texts, with long, discursive footnotes and marginal commentary, texts commenting on texts.
—Noam Chomsky

[Mahmoud Darwish] offers us a multivocal text that resembles a broken mirror, reassembled to present the viewer with vying possibilities of clarity and fracture. On the page different kinds of writing converge: the poem, both verse and prose; dialogue; Scripture; history; myth; myth in the guise of history; narrative fiction; literary criticism; and dream visions. Each segment can stand on its own, yet each acquires a relational or a dialectical meaning, a history, that is contingent upon the context provided for it by all the other segments of the work. … Suspended between wholeness and fracture, the text, like Palestine, is a crossroads of competing meanings.
-–Translator Ibrahim Muhawi, on Darwish, Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982

That is why I want to use short chapters, each with verselike heading, and very many such chapters; slowly, deeply, moodily unfolding the moody story and its long outreaching voyage into strange space. And to run up a pace of such short chapters till they are like a string of pearls. Not a river-like novel; but a novel like poetry, or rather, a narrative poem, an epos in mosaic, a Kind of Arabesque preoccupation…free to wander from the laws of the “novel” as laid down by Austens and Fieldings into an area of greater spiritual pith (which cannot be reached without this technical device, for me, anyway) where the Wm. Blakes and Melvilles and even spotty, short-chaptered Celine, dwell.
—Jack Kerouac, Windblown World

Noam Chomsky, GTU, Berkeley, April 1994; photo by Mev

This page is part of a book-in-progress, Dear Love of Comrades, which you can read here.

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