Ed Pavlic, SLS-Kenya permanent faculty member, has a new book out with Bard University Press: But Here Are Small Clear Refractions. Based on the dhow trip Ed took around the Kenyan Archipelago in 2006, together with Binyavanga Wainaina, Martin Kimani, Usama Goldstein, Mike Vazquez, Gary Dauphin, and YT, among several other people, the book features some seriously beautiful, powerful writing — and tells a fascinating story along the way.
What if, Pavlic asks without asking, the War on Terror is also a war for America, between America, of America. What if this is the scream of a nation in psychic crisis, a scream that bounces back at itself, increasingly louder. We travel, with Ed on a boat, to Siu, on an island a few miles away from Somalia; an island where Fazul Mohammed, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, once spent a few months. If, here, we have found ourselves in one geographical epicentre of a global war, we find no embers or fevers, no axis, no Weevils-we find a community, where “they bragged about the beautiful donkeys of Siu. Well-fed. Rested. Oiled. They said the donkeys of Lamu are more like flea-bitten dogs than donkeys.” This book is not quite prose, not really a travel book. We move through this space, with photographs, in real boat-rowing, feet-walking time, in poetic and metaphysical space, the words create their own human country, and allow us to inhabit Pavlic’s question. The world he makes begs such a question, one of those giant dangerous worlds poets and writers sometimes forget it is our job to make.