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This week we are publishing a selection of articles by AUP Creative Writing students who attended literary events in the city.  Maysan Nasser visited Ken Mackenzie’s ‘Ain’t Neccessarily So’ at La Ville d’Epinal, Paris, organized by Moving Parts.

Where Angels Fear to Tread by Maysan Nasser

“We’re all walking universes,” Ken Mackenzie begins. Tonight, English feels like an umbilical chord, an extended hand, a smiling stranger. English feels. English feels whilst Arabic thinks. Tonight, I rejoice in emotion and the foreign tongue and wander into Mackenzie’s universe. Thirty-five years of experience left her work resonating with a question that my delicate perception yearned to nod fiercely to. Why? Tonight, her characters pursued a reason to live, each seeking in their drastic differences, an overlapping answer. Love? Truth? God? What about writing? I think as I recline in my seat with a growing introspective lust in my eyes, and an incessant need for ink in my palms.

Confined by the boundaries of English, my need to express myself often trips over the resting feet of my laying mother tongue. She doesn’t move. She allows me to retreat into the arms of English and chuckles as I struggle to find the words. Growing up, our house was fiercely unwelcoming of the ‘invasive’ Western culture. My parents often sought to remind me, when they noticed my growing weakness for English, that a foreign tongue will never be as kind. They warned me that no matter how much I loved her, she would never be mine. She would never consider me one of her own.

Regardless, I persisted, gradually falling more and more with her voice. Infatuated with how her words made my mouth dance, how her sounds made my tongue curl. Quietly, I would repeat to myself new words that fascinate me. Salvation. Oblivion. Transcendence. I still have a weakness for her shoulders. Her collar bone. I let the words breathe themselves, long Os, meditative Ns, lingering Ls.

Home. How a language can become a home, I can’t quiet answer but I can testify. A refuge for the troubled mind. English became my little universe.

“I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.” Ken Mackenzie voice carries Anais Nin’s words to me. They feel safe, warm. I stand a little closer to the hovering congratulating audience. An hour and a half reading of her play, ‘Ain’t Necessarily So’ had left me a shade darker, questioning my own stand on morality and truth. How frustratingly rich language can be, I thought, as I recalled the story that had just come to life.

The buzz of shuffling feet, the relieved sighs of empty chairs, the evening was coming to an end. But I still had an unanswered question to caress. Why?

“Because I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me.” Her velvet voice confesses, “the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics.” Anais Nin’s words travel through Mackenzie’s smile. She moves on to answer the next question. I flow in and out of attentiveness. Consumed by the relentless hunger to write, I cave and drift into the ocean of my salivating thoughts.

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