Letter 2: Rodaan Al Galidi
I am writing you this letter to tell you that I haven’t left this city since the first lockdown. Except for one time. Never before had I spent so much time in the same place without any possibility to leave. Not even for a moment. Fortunately, life taught me that the fear for difficult times is worse than the difficult times itself. The first few months were difficult though. Throughout the years, I have built my life on a shaky foundation: travel. I kept travelling from one place to the next, to free myself from any specific place. I spent more time in train stations and airports than in parks and on beaches. You could say that travel itself was my destination. And all of a sudden, here I was stuck in one place. Surrounded by many Rodaans, not knowing anymore which one was me. Cycling outside that circle of Rodaans, I encountered people with whom I felt no connection.
Oh well, this period has been perfect to return to the most beautiful thing I used to do: reading. At night by candlelight and by day in the sun or under bright lights.
There is no better way to escape reality than reading, there is also no better way to connect with it.Some books aren’t written to touch our souls, but for the writer to tell us something he knows. Those books I throw away to the recycling bin, even after reading just one page. I only read books that empower me and make me stronger, that touch my soul. Regrettably, I sometimes feel we are living in the past. The past that destroys us. Reading a good book helps us escape our own past to step into somebody else’s. Just by reading, reading until the very last page. All so easy.
For the past three months I have been walking every Monday from one until three with a funny little dog, a female of 18 months. On Wednesdays from nine to twelve I walk with a dog who’s not much to look at but is very sweet. And on Sundays I walk from ten to eleven with two elderly dogs. On rainy days, my living room smells like dog, and some of my neighbours wonder if the lockdown has got me barking. I can safely say that I have four new friends now that don’t bother me with twaddle and moans, but just with their wagging tails. I pick up their turds, they pick up my soul. How wonderful is life without language and without shame.
These walks would often take me to the park. There, I picked a tree where I just stand under every day. Now I see her naked branches and think: without internet, without heater, without warm showers and definitely without blankets she waits for better times. I can do that too, just like her. That tree gives me strength. My soul will bloom again. Blossom and buds will appear.
Do write to me please, stroll to the post office and send me your answer: Eendrachtstraat 75, 8012 VW, Zwolle.
Do remember while you write your letter, that your footsteps to the mailbox will be my answer to you.
Rodaan Al Galidi (1971) is a poet and writer. Born in Iraq, trained as an architectural engineer, he has lived in the Netherlands since 1998. His book Holland was published in 2020 as the sequel of the bestseller Hoe ik talent voor het leven kreeg (Two Blankets, Three Sheets), which was recently translated into English. His poetry collections De herfst van Zorro (Zorro’s Autumn) (2007) and Koelkastlicht (Refrigerator Light) (2016) were nominated for the VSB Poetry Prize. His novel De autist en de postduif (The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon) (2009) won the European Union Prize for Literature. Shortly thereafter, he failed his inburgeringsexamen (citizenship test).
Translation: Canan Marasligil and Daan Brâchel
“And so, every night, at 3am, I talk to you. The people I haven’t met but know deep down, somehow. I try to picture your houses and your rooms. We are a tribe; a commune that rewrites the concept of family. I seem to have confidants in every corner of the world. It is a fresh prospect that reminds us of patience, to hope for the future.”Letter 1: Karin Karakaşlı
“There is no better way to escape reality than reading, there is also no better way to connect with it.Some books aren’t written to touch our souls, but for the writer to tell us something he knows. Those books I throw away to the recycling bin, even after reading just one page. I only read books that empower me and make me stronger, that touch my soul. Regrettably, I sometimes feel we are living in the past. The past that destroys us.”Letter 2: Rodaan Al Galidi
“He parks the car next to the tall grass, at the edge of the silhouette of the mountains. There he stands, an iPhone with a broken screen in his left hand, a Nokia with broken dreams in his right. Silver dots float through the twinkling air while a languorous voice speaks through the old device. Her husband has suspicions, she says. They have to end this.”Letter 3: Beri Shalmashi
“The genome is the blueprint of a cell and ninety percent of our human cells are filled with genomes of bacteria, fungi and other single cell species. Countless small, internal companions keep us upright. Our inner world is a teeming ecosystem, existing in many forms and far from lonely.”Letter 4: Marjolijn van Heemstra
“Humidity. Mosquitoes. Tropical traumas. Each morning, as part of a world slowly mending, I would hear birds quarrelling outside my window. One morning, I decided that they were actually beckoning. And so, for the first time in 20 years, I bought a pair of jogging shoes. I slapped on sunblock and marched to a nature trail 40 minutes from my house.”Letter 5: Alfian Sa'at