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Burying the Nakba

Burying the Nakba: How Israel Systematically Hides Evidence of 1948 Expulsion of Arabs

Since early last decade, Defense Ministry teams have scoured local archives and removed troves of historic documents to conceal proof of the Nakba

Four years ago, historian Tamar Novick was jolted by a document she found in the file of Yosef Vashitz, from the Arab Department of the left-wing Mapam Party, in the Yad Yaari archive at Givat Haviva. The document, which seemed to describe events that took place during the 1948 war, began:

“Safsaf [former Palestinian village near Safed] – 52 men were caught, tied them to one another, dug a pit and shot them. 10 were still twitching. Women came, begged for mercy. Found bodies of 6 elderly men. There were 61 bodies. 3 cases of rape, one east of from Safed, girl of 14, 4 men shot and killed. From one they cut off his fingers with a knife to take the ring.”

The writer goes on to describe additional massacres, looting and abuse perpetrated by Israeli forces in Israel’s War of Independence. “There’s no name on the document and it’s not clear who’s behind it,” Dr. Novick tells Haaretz. “It also breaks off in the middle. I found it very disturbing. I knew that finding a document like this made me responsible for clarifying what happened.”

The Upper Galilee village of Safsaf was captured by the Israel Defense Forces in Operation Hiram toward the end of 1948. Moshav Safsufa was established on its ruins. Allegations were made over the years that the Seventh Brigade committed war crimes in the village. Those charges are supported by the document Novick found, which was not previously known to scholars. It could also constitute additional evidence that the Israeli top brass knew about what was going on in real time.

The evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, in March, 1949. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

Novick decided to consult with other historians about the document. Benny Morris, whose books are basic texts in the study of the Nakba – the “calamity,” as the Palestinians refer to the mass emigration of Arabs from the country during the 1948 war – told her that he, too, had come across similar documentation in the past. He was referring to notes made by Mapam Central Committee member Aharon Cohen on the basis of a briefing given in November 1948 by Israel Galili, the former chief of staff of the Haganah militia, which became the IDF. Cohen’s notes in this instance, which Morris published, stated: “Safsaf 52 men tied with a rope. Dropped into a pit and shot. 10 were killed. Women pleaded for mercy. [There were] 3 cases of rape. Caught and released. A girl of 14 was raped. Another 4 were killed. Rings of knives.”

Morris’ footnote (in his seminal “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) states that this document was also found in the Yad Yaari Archive. But when Novick returned to examine the document, she was surprised to discover that it was no longer there.

“At first I thought that maybe Morris hadn’t been accurate in his footnote, that perhaps he had made a mistake,” Novick recalls. “It took me time to consider the possibility that the document had simply disappeared.” When she asked those in charge where the document was, she was told that it had been placed behind lock and key at Yad Yaari – by order of the Ministry of Defense.

Since the start of the last decade, Defense Ministry teams have been scouring Israel’s archives and removing historic documents. But it’s not just papers relating to Israel’s nuclear project or to the country’s foreign relations that are being transferred to vaults: Hundreds of documents have been concealed as part of a systematic effort to hide evidence of the Nakba.

The phenomenon was first detected by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research. According to a report drawn up by the institute, the operation is being spearheaded by Malmab, the Defense Ministry’s secretive security department (the name is a Hebrew acronym for “director of security of the defense establishment”), whose activities and budget are classified. The report asserts that Malmab removed historical documentation illegally and with no authority, and at least in some cases has sealed documents that had previously been cleared for publication by the military censor. Some of the documents that were placed in vaults had already been published.

An investigative report by Haaretz found that Malmab has concealed testimony from IDF generals about the killing of civilians and the demolition of villages, as well as documentation of the expulsion of Bedouin during the first decade of statehood. Conversations conducted by Haaretz with directors of public and private archives alike revealed that staff of the security department had treated the archives as their property, in some cases threatening the directors themselves.

Yehiel Horev, who headed Malmab for two decades, until 2007, acknowledged to Haaretz that he launched the project, which is still ongoing. He maintains that it makes sense to conceal the events of 1948, because uncovering them could generate unrest among the country’s Arab population. Asked what the point is of removing documents that have already been published, he explained that the objective is to undermine the credibility of studies about the history of the refugee problem. In Horev’s view, an allegation made by a researcher that’s backed up by an original document is not the same as an allegation that cannot be proved or refuted.

The document Novick was looking for might have reinforced Morris’ work. During the investigation, Haaretz was in fact able to find the Aharon Cohen memo, which sums up a meeting of Mapam’s Political Committee on the subject of massacres and expulsions in 1948. Participants in the meeting called for cooperation with a commission of inquiry that would investigate the events. One case the committee discussed concerned “grave actions” carried out in the village of Al-Dawayima, east of Kiryat Gat. One participant mentioned the then-disbanded Lehi underground militia in this connection. Acts of looting were also reported: “Lod and Ramle, Be’er Sheva, there isn’t [an Arab] store that hasn’t been broken into. 9th Brigade says 7, 7th Brigade says 8.”

Palestinian refugees leaving their village, unknown location, 1948. credit: UNRWA

“The party,” the document states near the end, “is against expulsion if there is no military necessity for it. There are different approaches concerning the evaluation of necessity. And further clarification is best. What happened in Galilee – those are Nazi acts! Every one of our members must report what he knows.”

The Israeli version

One of the most fascinating documents about the origin of the Palestinian refugee problem was written by an officer in Shai, the precursor to the Shin Bet security service. It discusses why the country was emptied of so many of its Arab inhabitants, dwelling on the circumstances of each village. Compiled in late June 1948, it was titled “The Emigration of the Arabs of Palestine.”

This document was the basis for an article that Benny Morris published in 1986. After the article appeared, the document was removed from the archive and rendered inaccessible to researchers. Years later, the Malmab team reexamined the document, and ordered that it remain classified. They could not have known that a few years later researchers from Akevot would find a copy of the text and run it past the military censors – who authorized its publication unconditionally. Now, after years of concealment, the gist of the document is being revealed here.

The 25-page document begins with an introduction that unabashedly approves of the evacuation of the Arab villages. According to the author, the month of April “excelled in an increase of emigration,” while May “was blessed with the evacuation of maximum places.” The report then addresses “the causes of the Arab emigration.” According to the Israeli narrative that was disseminated over the years, responsibility for the exodus from Israel rests with Arab politicians who encouraged the population to leave. However, according to the document, 70 percent of the Arabs left as a result of Jewish military operations.

The unnamed author of the text ranks the reasons for the Arabs’ departure in order of importance. The first reason: “Direct Jewish acts of hostility against Arab places of settlement.” The second reason was the impact of those actions on neighboring villages. Third in importance came “operations by the breakaways,” namely the Irgun and Lehi undergrounds. The fourth reason for the Arab exodus was orders issued by Arab institutions and “gangs” (as the document refers to all Arab fighting groups); fifth was “Jewish ‘whispering operations’ to induce the Arab inhabitants to flee”; and the sixth factor was “evacuation ultimatums.”

The author asserts that, “without a doubt, the hostile operations were the main cause of the movement of the population.” In addition, “Loudspeakers in the Arabic language proved their effectiveness on the occasions when they were utilized properly.” As for Irgun and Lehi operations, the report observes that “many in the villages of central Galilee started to flee following the abduction of the notables of Sheikh Muwannis [a village north of Tel Aviv]. The Arab learned that it is not enough to forge an agreement with the Haganah and that there are other Jews [i.e., the breakaway militias] to beware of.”

The author notes that ultimatums to leave were especially employed in central Galilee, less so in the Mount Gilboa region. “Naturally, the act of this ultimatum, like the effect of the ‘friendly advice,’ came after a certain preparing of the ground by means of hostile actions in the area.”

An appendix to the document describes the specific causes of the exodus from each of scores of Arab locales: Ein Zeitun – “our destruction of the village”; Qeitiya – “harassment, threat of action”; Almaniya – “our action, many killed”; Tira – “friendly Jewish advice”; Al’Amarir – “after robbery and murder carried out by the breakaways”; Sumsum – “our ultimatum”; Bir Salim – “attack on the orphanage”; and Zarnuga – “conquest and expulsion.”

Short fuse

In the early 2000s, the Yitzhak Rabin Center conducted a series of interviews with former public and military figures as part of a project to document their activity in the service of the state. The long arm of Malmab seized on these interviews, too. Haaretz, which obtained the original texts of several of the interviews, compared them to the versions that are now available to the public, after large swaths of them were declared classified.

These included, for example, sections of the testimony of Brig. Gen. (res.) Aryeh Shalev about the expulsion across the border of the residents of a village he called “Sabra.” Later in the interview, the following sentences were deleted: “There was a very serious problem in the valley. There were refugees who wanted to return to the valley, to the Triangle [a concentration of Arab towns and villages in eastern Israel]. We expelled them. I met with them to persuade them not to want that. I have papers about it.”

In another case, Malmab decided to conceal the following segment from an interview that historian Boaz Lev Tov conducted with Maj. Gen. (res.) Elad Peled:

Lev Tov: “We’re talking about a population – women and children?”

Peled: “All, all. Yes.”

Lev Tov: “Don’t you distinguish between them?”

Peled: “The problem is very simple. The war is between two populations. They come out of their home.”

Lev Tov: “If the home exists, they have somewhere to return to?”

Peled: “It’s not armies yet, it’s gangs. We’re also actually gangs. We come out of the house and return to the house. They come out of the house and return to the house. It’s either their house or our house.”

Lev Tov: “Qualms belong to the more recent generation?”

Peled: “Yes, today. When I sit in an armchair here and think about what happened, all kinds of thoughts come to mind.”

Lev Tov: “Wasn’t that the case then?”

Peled: “Look, let me tell you something even less nice and cruel, about the big raid in Sasa [Palestinian village in Upper Galilee]. The goal was actually to deter them, to tell them, ‘Dear friends, the Palmach [the Haganah “shock troops”] can reach every place, you are not immune.’ That was the heart of the Arab settlement. But what did we do? My platoon blew up 20 homes with everything that was there.”

Lev Tov: “While people were sleeping there?”

Peled: “I suppose so. What happened there, we came, we entered the village, planted a bomb next to every house, and afterward Homesh blew on a trumpet, because we didn’t have radios, and that was the signal [for our forces] to leave. We’re running in reverse, the sappers stay, they pull, it’s all primitive. They light the fuse or pull the detonator and all those houses are gone.”

Another passage that the Defense Ministry wanted to keep from the public came from Dr. Lev Tov’s conversation with Maj. Gen. Avraham Tamir:

Tamir: “I was under Chera [Maj. Gen. Tzvi Tzur, later IDF chief of staff], and I had excellent working relations with him. He gave me freedom of action – don’t ask – and I happened to be in charge of staff and operations work during two developments deriving from [Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion’s policy. One development was when reports arrived about marches of refugees from Jordan toward the abandoned villages [in Israel]. And then Ben-Gurion lays down as policy that we have to demolish [the villages] so they won’t have anywhere to return to. That is, all the Arab villages, most of which were in [the area covered by] Central Command, most of them.”

Lev Tov: “The ones that were still standing?”

Tamir: “The ones that weren’t yet inhabited by Israelis. There were places where we had already settled Israelis, like Zakariyya and others. But most of them were still abandoned villages.”

Lev Tov: “That were standing?”

Tamir: “Standing. It was necessary for there to be no place for them to return to, so I mobilized all the engineering battalions of Central Command, and within 48 hours I knocked all those villages to the ground. Period. There’s no place to return to.”

Lev Tov: “Without hesitation, I imagine.”

Tamir: “Without hesitation. That was the policy. I mobilized, I carried it out and I did it.”

Crates in vaults

The vault of the Yad Yaari Research and Documentation Center is one floor below ground level. In the vault, which is actually a small, well-secured room, are stacks of crates containing classified documents. The archive houses the materials of the Hashomer Hatzair movement, the Kibbutz Ha’artzi kibbutz movement, Mapam, Meretz and other bodies, such as Peace Now.

The archive’s director is Dudu Amitai, who is also chairman of the Association of Israel Archivists. According to Amitai, Malmab personnel visited the archive regularly between 2009 and 2011. Staff of the archive relate that security department teams – two Defense Ministry retirees with no archival training – would show up two or three times a week. They searched for documents according to such keywords as “nuclear,” “security” and “censorship,” and also devoted considerable time to the War of Independence and the fate of the pre-1948 Arab villages.

“In the end, they submitted a summary to us, saying that they had located a few dozen sensitive documents,” Amitai says. “We don’t usually take apart files, so dozens of files, in their entirety, found their way into our vault and were removed from the public catalog.” A file might contain more than 100 documents.

One of the files that was sealed deals with the military government that controlled the lives of Israel’s Arab citizens from 1948 until 1966. For years, the documents were stored in the same vault, inaccessible to scholars. Recently, in the wake of a request by Prof. Gadi Algazi, a historian from Tel Aviv University, Amitai examined the file himself and ruled that there was no reason not to unseal it, Malmab’s opinion notwithstanding.

According to Algazi, there could be several reasons for Malmab’s decision to keep the file classified. One of them has to do with a secret annex it contains to a report by a committee that examined the operation of the military government. The report deals almost entirely with land-ownership battles between the state and Arab citizens, and barely touches on security matters.

Another possibility is a 1958 report by the ministerial committee that oversaw the military government. In one of the report’s secret appendixes, Col. Mishael Shaham, a senior officer in the military government, explains that one reason for not dismantling the martial law apparatus is the need to restrict Arab citizens’ access to the labor market and to prevent the reestablishment of destroyed villages.

A third possible explanation for hiding the file concerns previously unpublished historical testimony about the expulsion of Bedouin. On the eve of Israel’s establishment, nearly 100,000 Bedouin lived in the Negev. Three years later, their number was down to 13,000. In the years during and after the independence war, a number of expulsion operations were carried out in the country’s south. In one case, United Nations observers reported that Israel had expelled 400 Bedouin from the Azazma tribe and cited testimonies of tents being burned. The letter that appears in the classified file describes a similar expulsion carried out as late as 1956, as related by geologist Avraham Parnes:

“A month ago we toured Ramon [crater]. The Bedouin in the Mohila area came to us with their flocks and their families and asked us to break bread with them. I replied that we had a great deal of work to do and didn’t have time. In our visit this week, we headed toward Mohila again. Instead of the Bedouin and their flocks, there was deathly silence. Scores of camel carcasses were scattered in the area. We learned that three days earlier the IDF had ‘screwed’ the Bedouin, and their flocks were destroyed – the camels by shooting, the sheep with grenades. One of the Bedouin, who started to complain, was killed, the rest fled.”

The testimony continued, “Two weeks earlier, they’d been ordered to stay where they were for the time being, afterward they were ordered to leave, and to speed things up 500 head were slaughtered…. The expulsion was executed ‘efficiently.’” The letter goes on to quote what one of the soldiers said to Parnes, according to his testimony: “They won’t go unless we’ve screwed their flocks. A young girl of about 16 approached us. She had a beaded necklace of brass snakes. We tore the necklace and each of us took a bead for a souvenir.”

The letter was originally sent to MK Yaakov Uri, from Mapai (forerunner of Labor), who passed it on to Development Minister Mordechai Bentov (Mapam). “His letter shocked me,” Uri wrote Bentov. The latter circulated the letter among all the cabinet ministers, writing, “It is my opinion that the government cannot simply ignore the facts related in the letter.” Bentov added that, in light of the appalling contents of the letter, he asked security experts to check its credibility. They had confirmed that the contents “do in fact generally conform to the truth.”

Nuclear excuse

It was during the tenure of historian Tuvia Friling as Israel’s chief archivist, from 2001 to 2004, that Malmab carried out its first archival incursions. What began as an operation to prevent the leakage of nuclear secrets, he says, became, in time, a large-scale censorship project.

“I resigned after three years, and that was one of the reasons,” Prof. Friling says. “The classification placed on the document about the Arabs’ emigration in 1948 is precisely an example of what I was apprehensive about. The storage and archival system is not an arm of the state’s public relations. If there’s something you don’t like – well, that’s life. A healthy society also learns from its mistakes.”

Why did Friling allow the Defense Ministry to have access the archives? The reason, he says, was the intention to give the public access to archival material via the internet. In discussions about the implications of digitizing the material, concern was expressed that references in the documents to a “certain topic” would be made public by mistake. The topic, of course, is Israel’s nuclear project. Friling insists that the only authorization Malmab received was to search for documents on that subject.

But Malmab’s activity is only one example of a broader problem, Friling notes: “In 1998, the confidentiality of the [oldest documents in the] Shin Bet and Mossad archives expired. For years those two institutions disdained the chief archivist. When I took over, they requested that the confidentiality of all the material be extended [from 50] to 70 years, which is ridiculous – most of the material can be opened.”

In 2010, the confidentiality period was extended to 70 years; last February it was extended again, to 90 years, despite the opposition of the Supreme Council of Archives. “The state may impose confidentiality on some of its documentation,” Friling says. “The question is whether the issue of security doesn’t act as a kind of cover. In many cases, it’s already become a joke.”

In the view of Yad Yaari’s Dudu Amitai, the confidentiality imposed by the Defense Ministry must be challenged. In his period at the helm, he says, one of the documents placed in the vault was an order issued by an IDF general, during a truce in the War of Independence, for his troops to refrain from rape and looting. Amitai now intends to go over the documents that were deposited in the vault, especially 1948 documents, and open whatever is possible. “We’ll do it cautiously and responsibly, but recognizing that the State of Israel has to learn how to cope with the less pleasant aspects of its history.”

In contrast to Yad Yaari, where ministry personnel no longer visit, they are continuing to peruse documents at Yad Tabenkin, the research and documentation center of the United Kibbutz Movement. The director, Aharon Azati, reached an agreement with the Malmab teams under which documents will be transferred to the vault only if he is convinced that this is justified. But in Yad Tabenkin, too, Malmab has broadened its searches beyond the realm of nuclear project to encompass interviews conducted by archival staff with former members of the Palmach, and has even perused material about the history of the settlements in the occupied territories.

Malmab has, for example, shown interest in the Hebrew-language book “A Decade of Discretion: Settlement Policy in the Territories 1967-1977,” published by Yad Tabenkin in 1992, and written by Yehiel Admoni, director of the Jewish Agency’s Settlement Department during the decade he writes about. The book mentions a plan to settle Palestinian refugees in the Jordan Valley and to the uprooting of 1,540 Bedouin families from the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip in 1972, including an operation that included the sealing of wells by the IDF. Ironically, in the case of the Bedouin, Admoni quotes former Justice Minister Yaakov Shimshon Shapira as saying, “It is not necessary to stretch the security rationale too far. The whole Bedouin episode is not a glorious chapter of the State of Israel.”

According to Azati, “We are moving increasingly to a tightening of the ranks. Although this is an era of openness and transparency, there are apparently forces that are pulling in the opposite direction.”

Unauthorized secrecy

About a year ago, the legal adviser to the State Archives, attorney Naomi Aldouby, wrote an opinion titled “Files Closed Without Authorization in Public Archives.” According to her, the accessibility policy of public archives is the exclusive purview of the director of each institution.

Despite Aldouby’s opinion, however, in the vast majority of cases, archivists who encountered unreasonable decisions by Malmab did not raise objections – that is, until 2014, when Defense Ministry personnel arrived at the archive of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To the visitors’ surprise, their request to examine the archive – which contains collections of former minister and diplomat Abba Eban and Maj. Gen. (res.) Shlomo Gazit – was turned down by its then director, Menahem Blondheim.

According to Blondheim, “I told them that the documents in question were decades old, and that I could not imagine that there was any security problem that would warrant restricting their access to researchers. In response, they said, ‘And let’s say there is testimony here that wells were poisoned in the War of Independence?’ I replied, ‘Fine, those people should be brought to trial.’”

Blondheim’s refusal led to a meeting with a more senior ministry official, only this time the attitude he encountered was different and explicit threats were made. Finally the two sides reached an accommodation.

Benny Morris is not surprised at Malmab’s activity. “I knew about it,” he says “Not officially, no one informed me, but I encountered it when I discovered that documents I had seen in the past are now sealed. There were documents from the IDF Archive that I used for an article about Deir Yassin, and which are now sealed. When I came to the archive, I was no longer allowed to see the original, so I pointed out in a footnote [in the article] that the State Archive had denied access to documents that I had published 15 years earlier.”

The Malmab case is only one example of the battle being waged for access to archives in Israel. According to the executive director of the Akevot Institute, Lior Yavne, “The IDF Archive, which is the largest archive in Israel, is sealed almost hermetically. About 1 percent of the material is open. The Shin Bet archive, which contains materials of immense importance [to scholars], is totally closed apart from a handful of documents.”

A report written by Yaacov Lozowick, the previous chief archivist at the State Archives, upon his retirement, refers to the defense establishment’s grip on the country’s archival materials. In it, he writes, “A democracy must not conceal information because it is liable to embarrass the state. In practice, the security establishment in Israel, and to a certain extent that of foreign relations as well, are interfering with the [public] discussion.”

Advocates of concealment put forward several arguments, Lozowick notes: “The uncovering of the facts could provide our enemies with a battering ram against us and weaken the determination of our friends; it’s liable to stir up the Arab population; it could enfeeble the state’s arguments in courts of law; and what is revealed could be interpreted as Israeli war crimes.” However, he says, “All these arguments must be rejected. This is an attempt to hide part of the historical truth in order to construct a more convenient version.”

What Malmab says

Yehiel Horev was the keeper of the security establishment’s secrets for more than two decades. He headed the Defense Ministry’s security department from 1986 until 2007 and naturally kept out of the limelight. To his credit, he now agreed to talk forthrightly to Haaretz about the archives project.

“I don’t remember when it began,” Horev says, “but I do know that I started it. If I’m not mistaken, it started when people wanted to publish documents from the archives. We had to set up teams to examine all outgoing material.”

From conversations with archive directors, it’s clear that a good deal of the documents on which confidentiality was imposed relate to the War of Independence. Is concealing the events of 1948 part of the purpose of Malmab?

“What does ‘part of the purpose’ mean? The subject is examined based on an approach of whether it could harm Israel’s foreign relations and the defense establishment. Those are the criteria. I think it’s still relevant. There has not been peace since 1948. I may be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been resolved. So yes, it could be that problematic subjects remain.”

Asked in what way such documents might be problematic, Horev speaks of the possibility of agitation among the country’s Arab citizens. From his point of view, every document must be perused and every case decided on its merits.

If the events of 1948 weren’t known, we could argue about whether this approach is the right one. That is not the case. Many testimonies and studies have appeared about the history of the refugee problem. What’s the point of hiding things?

“The question is whether it can do harm or not. It’s a very sensitive matter. Not everything has been published about the refugee issue, and there are all kinds of narratives. Some say there was no flight at all, only expulsion. Others say there was flight. It’s not black-and-white. There’s a difference between flight and those who say they were forcibly expelled. It’s a different picture. I can’t say now if it merits total confidentiality, but it’s a subject that definitely has to be discussed before a decision is made about what to publish.”

For years, the Defense Ministry has imposed confidentiality on a detailed document that describes the reasons for the departure of those who became refugees. Benny Morris has already written about the document, so what’s the logic of keeping it hidden?

“I don’t remember the document you’re referring to, but if he quoted from it and the document itself is not there [i.e., where Morris says it is], then his facts aren’t strong. If he says, ‘Yes, I have the document,’ I can’t argue with that. But if he says that it’s written there, that could be right and it could be wrong. If the document were already outside and were sealed in the archive, I would say that that’s folly. But if someone quoted from it – there’s a difference of day and night in terms of the validity of the evidence he cited.”

In this case, we’re talking about the most quoted scholar when it comes to the Palestinian refugees.

“The fact that you say ‘scholar’ makes no impression on me. I know people in academia who spout nonsense about subjects that I know from A to Z. When the state imposes confidentiality, the published work is weakened, because he doesn’t have the document.”

But isn’t concealing documents based on footnotes in books an attempt to lock the barn door after the horses have bolted?

“I gave you an example that this needn’t be the case. If someone writes that the horse is black, if the horse isn’t outside the barn, you can’t prove that it’s really black.”

There are legal opinions stating that Malmab’s activity in the archives is illegal and unauthorized.

“If I know that an archive contains classified material, I am empowered to tell the police to go there and confiscate the material. I can also utilize the courts. I don’t need the archivist’s authorization. If there is classified material, I have the authority to act. Look, there’s policy. Documents aren’t sealed for no reason. And despite it all, I won’t say to you that everything that’s sealed is 100 percent justified [in being sealed].”

The Defense Ministry refused to respond to specific questions regarding the findings of this investigative report and made do with the following response: “The director of security of the defense establishment operates by virtue of his responsibility to protect the state’s secrets and its security assets. The Malmab does not provide details about its mode of activity or its missions.”

Hagar Shezaf
Lee Rotbart assisted in providing visual research for this article.


সহস্রাধিক দাগ

শতক পূর্ণ করে দাগ বন্ধ করে দিলে ভাল হত না মনে হচ্ছে আজ যখন সহস্রাধিক দাগ দেখা যাচ্ছে এবং কে বলতে পারে যদি সেদিনও সমাগত হয় যখন দশ সহস্রাধিক দাগ সম্পন্নের খবর দিয়ে আমাকে দাগ-এর এই অর্জনের কথা এই প্রাত্যহিক পাঠ-এ জানাতে পোস্ট তৈরি করতে হবে না।

দাগ কী? এখনো বলা যাচ্ছে না। তবে দাগ দৃশ্যত সেই সংকট যার কোনো শুরুও নেই শেষও নেই। দাগ সেই তালগোল যা তালও নয় গোলও নয় মস্কো তো ঢাকায় এথেন্স তো কারাকাসে খোলা ছাতা বা পাখাঝাপটানো প্রজাপতির অবস্থানের মতো বিশৃঙ্খল অতল।

আর টুইটারে #দাগ [at]urumurum লিখে সার্চ দিলে কমবেশি ১০০ দাগ পড়া যাবে।

The greatest Kannadiga

Girish Karnad, the greatest Kannadiga of his age

His courage in standing up to fundamentalists has led some to celebrate Karnad as an exemplary ‘activist’ and ‘public intellectual’. This, to my mind, is a mischaracterisation. We should remember him rather as a great playwright and superb actor, and as a profoundly civilised human being.

Girish Karnad, who died in his sleep in his Bengaluru home last week, was a colossus. Karnad had four careers, and he excelled in each. He was arguably the most influential playwright produced by India since Independence, whose oeuvre was astonishingly wide in its thematic and temporal range. He wrote at least half a dozen great plays; these included the political parable, Tughlak, the social reformist, Taledanda, and the darkly comic satire, Odakalu Bimba. (All were written originally in Kannada, all performed in most of the languages of the Eighth Schedule). He was an outstanding actor — as witness his work in the early films in Hindi of Shyam Benegal, and also in Pattabhirama Reddy’s Kannada classic, Samskara. He was an accomplished director, making films of major novels by KV Puttappa and SL Bhyrappa. And he was an able administrator, of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune (where he mentored, among others, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, and Tom Alter), of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in New Delhi, and of the Nehru Centre in London.

I was once travelling from Bengaluru to Mumbai. Karnad was in the same flight, a few rows ahead of me. He had a pen poised over a sheaf of papers as I passed him. When I asked what he was doing, he said he was correcting the proofs of the Marathi translation of his new play. My admiration for Karnad, already very high, rocketed further skywards. A man whose mother tongue was Konkani and who wrote in Kannada and spoke flawless English was apparently entirely comfortable in Marathi too.

But it was not just his mastery of many languages that set Karnad apart from other writers and artists. No one I knew so nobly carried the richness and depth of Indian civilisation in his body, and in his soul — and so utterly unselfconsciously too. In his life and work, he seamlessly blended North and South, the folk and the classical, the demotic and the scholarly. He was equally at ease speaking of the music of Kesarbai Kerkar and of Mohammad Rafi, of the dance of Balasaraswati and of Farah Khan, of the moral philosophy of Basava and of BR Ambedkar. And he could talk with insight about Shakespeare and Philip Larkin as well.

After Gauri Lankesh was murdered in September 2017, it was rumoured that Girish Karnad was the next writer on the terrorist hitlist. So I called Girish one morning and asked if I could see him the same afternoon. He lived an hour’s drive away, and given his commitments, I would normally have mailed several days in advance to set up a meeting.

Girish welcomed my impulsive call, and asked me to come over. I drove across the desolate city to the Karnads’ house in JP Nagar. Outside, a man in uniform posted to ostensibly guard the writer was sitting on a chair, asleep. As my car screeched to a halt he woke up, and escorted me inside.

I came intending to talk for perhaps half an hour, but stayed for four hours. We spoke of Gauri Lankesh, of course, but also of other matters — including the trajectory of our own lives. I got Girish to talk of his early days in Dharwad, and he got me to talk of my boyhood in Dehradun. We had both moved from a small town to a great metropolis; he to Mumbai, me to Delhi, before both finding ourselves in Bengaluru, a town when we first knew it and a city when we came to live in it. We spoke of our siblings — he had a musician brother, I a doctor sister — and of other things that normally did not figure in our otherwise literary and intellectual conversations.

When, night having fallen, I got up to leave, Girish walked me outside to my car. The security guard was nowhere to be seen. Girish thanked me for the spontaneous visit which, he said, both his doctor wife, Saras, and he had welcomed. I answered: “I suppose it takes the murder of a fellow writer for two writers who live in the same city to seek out one another.”

At this stage Karnad himself was quite ill, with a degenerative respiratory disease. The next January he visited Dharwad, on what he knew would be his final visit to the town where he had been raised, studied, and written his first plays. He said I must come with him. I did. I thus had the rare, but also ineffably sad, privilege of being with Girish Karnad on his last trip to his home town, accompanying him up the stairs of the Laxmi Building for his last peep into the offices of his long-time publishers, Manohara Grantha Mala, in Subhas Road, Dharwad.

Karnad had a highly developed social conscience, and a deep love for his country. Yet he never paraded his patriotism. His dignity and his rectitude would not allow it. He had left instructions that, when he died, there would be no state funeral. He knew that sundry politicians would want to come and hover around his body, taking pictures, seeking to cleanse their sins by illegitimate association with someone who was not just the greatest Kannada writer, but the greatest Kannadiga, of his age.

His courage in standing up to fundamentalists has led some to celebrate Karnad as an exemplary “activist” and “public intellectual”. This, to my mind, is a mischaracterisation. India has a hundred (and more) writers and intellectuals who speak out and stand up in public. But there was only one Girish Karnad. We should remember him rather as a great playwright and superb actor, and as a profoundly civilised human being, who had forgotten more about Indian culture than the present-day defenders of Bharatiya Sanskriti ever knew.

অভিনেতা, নাট্যকার, চিত্রপরিচালক গিরিশ কারনাড রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুরকে ‘মেডিওকর’ নাট্যকার এবং রবীন্দ্রনাথের নাটককে ‘সেকেন্ড রেইট’ বলেছেন। হ্যাঁ, রবীন্দ্রনাথের লেখা নাটকগুলোর মধ্যে ‘সেকেন্ড রেইট’ নাটক আছে — কিন্তু রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর ‘রক্তকবরী’র মতো অনন্যসাধারণ আধুনিক নাটকও লিখেছেন। এবং তার সমগ্র নাট্যসৃষ্টির মধ্যে যদিও হাতে গোনা কয়েকটিই অনন্য নাটক আছে, কিন্তু যেহেতু কিছু মহান নাটক তিনি সৃষ্টি করেছেন, তাহলে তাকে কি আর ‘মেডিওকর’ নাট্যকার বলা যায়? অবশ্য রবীন্দ্রনাথের নাটক নিয়ে শুধু যে কারনাড এবারই প্রথম এমন কথা বলেছেন তা নয় — কারনাড আগেও এমন কথা বলেছেন এবং শুধু কারনাডের মতো কন্নড় ও ইংরেজি ভাষার নাট্যকার নয় বাংলা ভাষার অনেক নাট্যকারও রবীন্দ্রনাথের নাটক নিয়ে এমন মনোভাব পোষণ করেন। অবশ্য এতে রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুরের অমর নাটক ‘রক্তকবরী’, ‘মুক্তধারা’ বা ‘ডাকঘর’রের কিছুই আসবে যাবে না।

বিশুদ্ধতার ছুৎমার্গ থেকে মুক্ত নাচ

বিষয় যতই দুরূহ হোক না কেন, ঐশিকার লেখা সরস, প্রাঞ্জল, সুখপাঠ্য এবং বিশ্লেষণধর্মী। শুরুতেই উনিশ শতকীয় আর্থসামাজিক প্রেক্ষাপট এবং রাজনৈতিক পালাবদলের সময়কার শহুরে বিনোদনের যে রঙিন ছবি তিনি এঁকেছেন ইতিহাসকে আশ্রয় করে, তার তুলির আঁচড় এবং বিশ্লেষণের ভঙ্গী দুই-ই চমৎকার।

নৃত্যশৈলী নিয়ে কলকাতার দীর্ঘ পরীক্ষা-নিরীক্ষা। একটি সাম্প্রতিক বই। পড়লেন কথাকলি জানা

বাংলায় নাচ নিয়ে ঝকঝকে একখানা বই, যার নাম — ‘কলকাতার নাচ সমকালীন নগরনৃত্য’— থেকেই মালুম পড়ে তার আলোচ্য বিষয় কতটা প্রশস্ত। লেখিকা ঐশিকা চক্রবর্তী একাধারে ইতিহাসবিদ, গবেষক, নৃত্যশিল্পী এবং নৃত্য-তাত্ত্বিক। তা ছাড়া, কলকাতার নাচ বিষয়টাই যথেষ্ট কৌতূহলোদ্দীপক। কেন না, যদিও বাংলার নিজস্ব কোনও শাস্ত্রীয় নৃত্য কোনও কালেই নেই, তা’বলে নাচের ট্র্যাডিশন বা ইতিহাস যে ছিল না বা নেই তা কিন্তু নিন্দুকেও বলবে না। লোকনৃত্যের আবহমান ধারা যেমন বয়ে চলেছে অবিরত, তেমনই প্রসেনিউমে এবং অন্যান্য স্পেসে উপস্থাপিত শহুরে নৃত্যের চমকপ্রদ সব পরীক্ষা নিরীক্ষাও তো প্রত্যক্ষ করেছে এই জনপদ। জন্মও দিয়েছে অসাধারণ সব সৃষ্টির। তাই লেখিকা কোন কোন নাচকে নগরনৃত্য বলে অভিহিত করলেন, কী কী সেই নৃত্যের উপজীব্য হয়ে উঠল এবং সে নাচ কতখানি আদপে কলকাতার, আর সমকালীন শব্দের গোলমেলে ডাইনামিক্সকেই বা কী ভাবে উদ্দেশ করলেন, এইসব বিস্তারিত জানার জন্য ঔৎসুক্য হবারই কথা।

বিষয় যতই দুরূহ হোক না কেন, ঐশিকার লেখা সরস, প্রাঞ্জল, সুখপাঠ্য এবং বিশ্লেষণধর্মী। শুরুতেই উনিশ শতকীয় আর্থসামাজিক প্রেক্ষাপট এবং রাজনৈতিক পালাবদলের সময়কার শহুরে বিনোদনের যে রঙিন ছবি তিনি এঁকেছেন ইতিহাসকে আশ্রয় করে, তার তুলির আঁচড় এবং বিশ্লেষণের ভঙ্গী দুই-ই চমৎকার। ঔপনিবেশিক সাম্রাজ্যে কলকাতা যখন সবে মহানগর হয়ে উঠছে তখন সাহেবি উচ্চশ্রেণি এবং রুজিরোজগারের আশায় শহরে আসা গ্রাম্য শ্রমজীবির পাশাপাশি উঠে আসছে এক শক্তিশালী নীতিবাগীশ মধ্যবিত্ত সমাজ। স্বতঃস্ফূর্ত, প্রাণবন্ত এবং আপাদমস্তক দেশজ বাইনাচ ও খ্যামটা ভিক্টোরীয় নীতিজ্ঞানের নিরিখে অপাঙ্‌ক্তেয় হল। খাস কলকাত্তাইয়া বাবুদের এইসব ‘অসভ্য’ খেয়ালের পাশ কাটিয়ে শ্লীল সংস্কৃতির ধারক ও বাহক রুচিবান ভদ্রসমাজ তখন এক অল্টারনেতিভ এক্সপ্রেশানের সন্ধানে। বিংশ শতাব্দীর দোরগোড়ায় পৌঁছে রেনেসাসের যুগসন্ধিক্ষণে দেখা গেল বিনোদনের সব ক্ষেত্রেই শ্লীল ও নান্দনিকতার বিচারে পাশ-করা সম্ভ্রান্ত, পরিস্রুত ও ক্লাসিক্স-অনুসারী এক শিল্পভাষার জন্ম হচ্ছে।

এই পর্যায়ে পৌঁছে অবশ্যম্ভাবীভাবে রবীন্দ্রনাথ এসে পড়লেন আলোচনার কেন্দ্রে। কারণ, একের পর এক নৃত্যনাট্য লিখে, শান্তিনিকেতনে সেগুলি প্রযোজনার দায়িত্ব নিয়ে তিনি এক নতুন আঙ্গিকের জন্ম দিয়েছেন, যার শিকড় মণিপুরি, কথাকলি, রায়বেঁশে, শ্রীলঙ্কার ক্যান্ডি, ইন্দোনিশিয়ার জাভানীতে খুঁজে পাওয়া গেলেও প্রকাশভঙ্গিতে সে একেবারেই স্বতন্ত্র, স্ব-মহিমায় ভাস্বর। কলকাতার মঞ্চে এবং পরবর্তীতে সারা দেশে তার আত্মপ্রকাশ যুগান্তকারী। দেশি ও বিদেশি নানান নৃত্যের অনন্য এই ব্যতিক্রমী মিশেলকেই কলকাতা শহর তার প্রথম নিজস্ব নৃত্য বলে চিনল। রুচিশীল দর্শকমাত্রেই যে এই নতুন শৈলীকে সানন্দে গ্রহণ করেছিলেন, তা অবশ্য নয়। মহিলাদের মঞ্চে ‘নাচানো’ অনেকেই ভালো চোখে দেখেননি। এই নৃত্যভাষায় এক আপত্তিজনক দেহসর্বস্ব স্থূলত্ব দেখতে পেয়েছিলেন তাঁরা। ঐশিকার উদ্ধৃতিতে ধরা পড়ে সমালোচকদের প্রতিক্রিয়া, যা কি না ওই নৃত্য সম্পর্কে সমসাময়িক শিক্ষিত কলকাতাবাসীর বহুলাংশেরই মত।

সেই নাচ যেমনই লাগুক না কেন, শান্তিনিকেতনের এই নৃত্যশৈলী অনবরত মঞ্চায়নের ফলে কলকাতার ভদ্রশ্রেণি ক্রমশ নাচ দেখায় অভ্যস্ত হয়ে উঠেছিল। সবচেয়ে বড় কথা, নাচ দেখার হাতেখড়িটাই তাদের রবীন্দ্রনাথ-সৃষ্ট অ-শাস্ত্রীয় এক মিশ্র নৃত্যের সূত্রে হওয়ার ফলে ‘বিশুদ্ধ’ নাচ নিয়ে ছুৎমার্গ কলকাতাবাসীর সে ভাবে হয়নি। কোনও ধ্রুপদী নাচকে আঁকড়ে ধরতে চাইলে হয় উত্তরের কত্থক বা দক্ষিণের ভরতনাট্যমের উপর ভরসা করতে হত, কারণ প্রতিবেশী রাজ্যের ওডিশির দাপট তখনও তেমন ভাবে প্রতিষ্ঠিত হয়নি। কলকাতা সে পথে না গিয়ে সৃষ্টিশীল নৃত্যের প্রতি কৌতূহলটুকু বজায় রেখেছে বরাবর।

এর পরবর্তী পর্যায়ে বিশ্বজয় করে এসে যখন উদয়শঙ্কর এই শহরে থিতু হলেন, প্রাচ্য ও পাশ্চাত্যের নৃত্য সংস্কৃতির অপূর্ব সৃষ্টিশীল সমন্বয়ে এক উজ্জ্বল নতুন নৃত্যধারাকে গৌরবের সঙ্গে আবিষ্কার করল ঔপনিবেশিকোত্তর এই শহর। ততদিনে নাচের দর্শকও তৈরি হয়েছে। ইউরোপ থেকে আলমোড়া হয়ে চেন্নাই ঘুরে উদয়শঙ্কর যখন কলকাতা পৌঁছলেন, তাঁর তখন বিরাট নামডাক। রবীন্দ্রনাথের নাচ যদি গানের ভাবকে প্রকাশ করার আর একটি মাধ্যম হয়ে থাকে, উদয়শঙ্কর তাঁর নাচে গান বা সংলাপকে সম্পূর্ণ বর্জন করে তৈরি করলেন নিছকভাবেই বিমূর্ত এক জমকালো এবং রোমান্টিক শিল্পমাধ্যম। ঐশিকা অমলাশঙ্কর, পলি গুহ এবং মমতাশঙ্করের সঙ্গে সাক্ষাৎকারের মাধ্যমে খুবই সাবলীল ভাবে ফুটিয়ে তুলেছেন কিংবদন্তী নৃত্যশিল্পীর অসামান্য প্রতিভার বিভিন্ন দিক। নাচকে থিয়েটারের মতো এক কম্পোজিট আর্ট হিসেবে দেখার শিক্ষা এবং মিশ্রিত এক মৌলিক নৃত্যশৈলীতে ছাত্রছাত্রীদের শিক্ষাদানের সুচিন্তিত পদ্ধতি লেখিকার কলমে জীবন্ত হয়ে উঠেছে।

দীপ্ত টক শো : খোলামঞ্চ : ড. ঐশিকা চক্রবর্তী

এই বইয়ের সব থেকে ঋদ্ধ অংশ প্রশ্নাতীতভাবে মঞ্জুশ্রী-রঞ্জাবতী পর্ব। মঞ্জুশ্রীর ছাত্রী হওয়ার সুবাদে মা-মেয়ের মৌলিক উদ্ভাবনী শক্তির উৎস, তাঁদের অসামান্য প্রতিভা, শিক্ষাপদ্ধতি ও তার প্রসার নিয়ে ঐশিকার বিস্তারিত আলোচনা এই বইয়ের সম্পদ। যে ধ্রুপদী নৃত্য মঞ্জুশ্রীর শিক্ষার গোড়ার কথা, অভিবাসে আফ্রিকা ও আমেরিকার যে-সব নৃত্যধারার সঙ্গে তাঁর পরিচিতি এবং ঘনিষ্ঠ যোগাযোগ, এবং যে বৌদ্ধিক বিবেচনাশক্তি এবং আত্মোপলব্ধি থেকে মঞ্জুশ্রীর নিজস্ব এবং নতুন এক নৃত্য ভাষার খোঁজ, যে ভাবে সেই ভাষা হয়ে উঠছে শাস্ত্রীয় অচলায়তনের বিরুদ্ধে এক নারীর দৃপ্ত প্রতিস্পর্ধী ঘোষণা, যে পথে সেই সাহসী নৃত্যনির্মিতি লিঙ্গ রাজনীতির এক গর্বিত উচ্চারণ হয়ে উঠেছে, লেখিকা বহু যত্নে তার মুল্যায়ন করেছেন। কী ভাবে চণ্ডালিকা এবং তাসের দেশ বিনির্মাণ করে তাঁরা তৈরি করেন ‘তোমারি মাটির কন্যা’ এবং ‘কোন নূতনেরই ডাক’, তার বিবরণ দেন গভীর অন্তর্দৃষ্টি দিয়ে। মঞ্জুশ্রী-স্থাপিত নবনৃত্যের জরুরি টেকনিক্যাল আলোচনাও স্থান পায় বইয়ের শেষাংশে। যদিও মঞ্জুশ্রী নিজে বরাবর লেগাসি-বিমুখ, কারণ আজ যা সমকালীন কাল তা গতকালীন, তবু তাঁর প্রবর্তিত শক্তিশালী নৃত্যভাষা এই বিশদ আলোচনার দাবি রাখে। এই পর্ব প্রসঙ্গে একটি কথা বলতেই হয়। দেশের অন্যান্য ভাগে যাঁরা সমকালীন নৃত্যে ব্যতিক্রমী কাজ করছিলেন সেই সময়ে, তাঁদের প্রেরণা বা শৈলীর কোনও বিশ্লেষণ নেই। লেখিকা শ্রদ্ধার সঙ্গে চন্দ্রলেখা, মৃণালিনী সারাভাই এবং কুমুদিনী লাখিয়ার নাম উল্লেখ করলেও তাঁদের কাজ সম্পর্কে আলোচনা করেননি। এই পরিপ্রেক্ষিতটুকু কলকাতার নগরনৃত্যকে বোঝার ক্ষেত্রে অবশ্যই প্রয়োজন ছিল।

গাঙচিল প্রকাশিত বইটি পরিচ্ছন্ন, সুবিন্যস্ত, আরকাইভাল ছবিতে সমৃদ্ধ। কিছু মুদ্রণপ্রমাদ পরের সংস্করণে সংশোধন করে নিতে হবে। পরিশেষে ঐশিকার জন্য রইল একটি অনুরোধ। বাঙালিদের দোষ, তারা তাদের তাবত পথিকৃৎ শিল্পী-স্রষ্টাকে পরম যত্নে কুক্ষিগত করে রাখে। বাংলার বাইরে ভারতের বর্তমান প্রজন্ম উদয়শঙ্করকে চেনে না, মঞ্জুশ্রী-রঞ্জাবতীর অকালমৃত্যু তাঁদেরও অপরিচিত করে রেখেছে। তাঁর গবেষণার ফল যাতে অনেকের হাতে পৌঁছয়, সে জন্য ঐশিকা ইংরেজি ভাষায় এই বিষয়ে একখানি বই লেখায় উদ্যোগী হ’ন।

Les héros des statues grecques ont-ils un si petit pénis

Pourquoi les héros des statues grecques ont-ils un si petit pénis?

Ce n’est pas la taille qui compte, certes. Il n’empêche que le contraste entre les corps musclés des héros grecs et leurs attributs nous a intrigués. Enquête, parmi les feuilles de vignes, sur une question bien plus profonde qu’il n’y paraît.

Ne mentez pas, vous vous êtes forcément déjà posé cette question. Alors que tous ces magnifiques éphèbes sculptés dans le marbre affichent une musculature impressionnante et des abdominaux en béton, alors qu’ils sont l’image même du corps parfait et de la virilité dans toute sa splendeur, ils ont tous un petit sexe (en tout cas plus petit que la moyenne). Oui tous : que ce soit le Kouros de Kroisos, qui date de l’époque archaïque vers –540, ou le Diadumène du sculpteur Polyclète réalisé au Ve siècle, les statues grecques – et leurs cousines romaines qui les ont prises pour modèle – sont invariablement dotées d’un petit zizi qui semble bien ridicule en comparaison avec leur stature d’Apollon. Aucune n’échappe à la règle. Mais pourquoi diable cette particularité physique ? Les Grecs avaient-ils alors un plus petit sexe qu’aujourd’hui ? Non, évidemment.

La réponse à cet étrange phénomène est bien plus simple : ces statues ne font qu’exprimer sous une forme idéalisée les canons de beauté de leur époque. Dans la civilisation grecque, la nudité est célébrée. « Elle est à la fois héroïque et athlétique », résume Flavien Villard, doctorant en histoire grecque à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne et spécialiste des questions de sexualité dans la Grèce antique. Les Grecs font beaucoup de sport, s’entraînent nus, concourent nus. Le fait de se couvrir pour faire du sport est même vu comme une forme de barbarie. Les statues de nus, qui ne sont pas exposées dans les maisons mais en extérieur, ont vocation à célébrer ce culte du corps. « Elles montrent le corps masculin dans toute sa force et sa puissance », confirme Flavien Villard.

Le corps de ces statues est donc sublimé, idéalisé… quitte à tricher un peu ! « Si l’on observe attentivement ces sculptures, on voit par exemple qu’il y a plus d’abdominaux ou moins de côtes que dans l’anatomie réelle, poursuit Flavien Villard. C’est un corps idéal, pas réel qui est représenté. Pour le sexe, c’est la même chose, il est volontairement de plus petite taille que la moyenne et au repos. » Le petit zizi fait donc partie intégrante de l’idéal esthétique de l’époque.

Petit mais costaud

Ce goût pour les petits pénis s’explique par la vision qu’ont les Grecs de la virilité. Dans la civilisation grecque, l’homme doit être rationnel, intelligent, contrôlé, capable de dépasser son animalité. Il est la raison qui domine le désir. « Or, un pénis imposant est vu comme l’indice d’une sexualité exacerbée, d’une personnalité tournée vers le sexe, incapable de contrôler ses pulsions, raconte Flavien Villard. Pour les Grecs, cette frénésie sexuelle, cette dimension animale est un attribut féminin. L’homme, au contraire, doit être dans la maîtrise de soi. » Un sexe au repos, de petite taille, est donc le signe visible qu’on contrôle ses émotions et ses pulsions. Qu’on est un homme, un vrai, civilisé, rationnel, gouverné par son intelligence et sa sagesse et capable de s’investir pour la Cité.

À l’inverse, les gros pénis en érection – ceux-là même que notre société érigent en symbole de la puissance virile aujourd’hui – sont alors réservés aux satyres, aux créatures animales, aux barbares, aux esclaves… Bref, à tous ceux qui ne sont pas civilisés et sont gouvernés par la folie et la luxure.

Pour résumer, un petit pénis est un signe d’intelligence, de contrôle de soi et de virilité. Le dramaturge Aristophane le dit d’ailleurs sans ambages au Ve siècle avant J.-C. dans sa pièce Les Nuées : « Si tu fais ce que je te dis, et si tu y appliques ton intelligence, tu auras toujours la poitrine grasse, le teint clair, les épaules larges, la langue courte, les fesses charnues, le pénis petit. Mais si tu t’attaches à ceux du jour, tu auras tout de suite le teint pâle, les épaules petites, la poitrine resserrée, la langue longue, les fesses petites, les parties fortes, des décrets à n’en plus finir. »

Cet idéal du petit sexe va survivre aux Grecs. Exporté chez les Romains, on le retrouve ensuite à la Renaissance, quand les artistes remettent les canons de l’Antiquité au goût du jour et se réapproprient la nudité (qui avait quasiment disparue au Moyen Âge). Le célèbre David de Michel-Ange, réalisé au tout début du XVIe siècle, a lui aussi un tout petit zizi… Mais même riquiqui, pas question pour l’Église d’accepter de voir les sexes exposés. À partir de 1530, elle oblige à recouvrir d’un voile de pudeur – des feuilles de figuier ou de vigne, déjà utilisées au Moyen Âge dans certaines représentations d’Adam et Ève – les parties génitales des statues et des nus dans les tableaux. Cachez ce (petit) sexe que je ne saurais voir…

কবিতাপ্রথা : জল দাও

তো কে দুর্বোধ্য হবে যদি কবিতাই দুর্বোধ্য না হয়। শেষ কবে বিষ্ণু দে পড়েছি নিজেই ভুলে গেছি। তবে হঠাৎ আঘাত হানল যদি বলি নাগরিক কবি তাহলে প্রথম কে আমাদের বাংলার ভাষায় আর হাত চলে গেল বিষ্ণু দের কবিতার বইয়ে এবং কোনো অনাপত্তি ছাড়াই মন মজেছে যেন আমার কোনো এক রূপের ছাপে আবদ্ধ পৃষ্টারা কবিতার উৎসার ঘটাচ্ছে। এবং সেকবিতারা শিল্প সংলগ্নতার কথা বলছে সর্বাগ্রে। যদিও আরো বড় কথা রাজনীতি সমাজবিজ্ঞান ঢুকে পড়ছে সবকিছুতে বিশেষত সেই সময় যখন দেশভাগের আসন্নতায় চল্লিশের কাছাকাছি কবির মনোজগত প্রাজ্ঞতায় পরিবেষ্টিত প্রাপ্তবয়স্ক মস্তিষ্কের প্রসারতার প্রত্যয় অর্জন সম্পন্ন করেছে।

কখনো কখনো আমার মনে হয় কবিরা যেপৃথিবীতে বেঁচে থাকেন সেপৃথিবী খুঁজে পাওয়ার চেষ্টা করাটাও করুণ পণ্ডশ্রম। আমি কোনো কোনো বাক্যে কবিকে সবার কৃতকর্মের মধ্যে তার নিজের কাজের ঘরে অজ্ঞাতবাসের ভেতর দেখতে পাই।

অত্যাচারে অনাচারে উদভ্রান্ত উন্মাদ এই বর্তমান

পাশাপাশি দুটি শব্দ শব্দদুটি আবার ফিরেও আসে অন্য শব্দ হয়ে পাশাপাশি। মনে হল বিষ্ণু দে এটা করতে খুব অভ্যস্থ হয়ে পড়েছেন অনেক দিন থেকেই। বেঁচে থাকার এই প্রিয় প্রত্যয়ের ভেতর ফুল ফোটানোর প্রিয়তম এক কাজ কত ঘাট কত বাগান ব্যাপ্ত রাখে কার ফুল কে ফোটায় কবির শেকড়ের জল যেন নিঃশেষ না হয় এই পৃথিবীতে হোক সেপৃথিবী অনুকূল বা প্রতিকূল।

তোমাতেই বাঁচি প্রিয়া
তোমারই ঘাটের কাছে
ফোটাই তোমারই ফুল ঘাটে ঘাটে বাগানে বাগানে

তন্ময় শিখায় ত ও ট আর ই যেচর্তুভুজে প্রতিফলিত ব ও র আর ম অন্য কয়েক ত্রিভুজে প্রজ্বলিত সেখানে পফ চছ গন এর ব্যবধান ও বন্ধন সেই বয়নকৌশল যার জন্য বিষ্ণু দে ও তার শিল্প আয়োজন অবিসংবাদিত।

Agnès Varda

Mort d’Agnès Varda, grande cinéaste de la Nouvelle Vague

Cinéaste, mais aussi photographe, plasticienne… l’artiste polymorphe Agnès Varda, grande figure de la Nouvelle Vague, est décédée ce 29 mars. Elle avait 90 ans.

Elle est morte dans la nuit du 28 au 29 mars. Agnès Varda, pionnière du mouvement La Nouvelle Vague, était l’une des rares femmes, avec Nelly Kaplan, à tirer son épingle de ce cinéma novateur des années 1960. Parmi ses films marquants, citons Cléo de 5 à 7, sorti en 1962, qui relate en temps réel les angoisses de mort d’une jeune chanteuse en attente de résultats d’examens médicaux ; ou encore l’incontournable Sans toit ni loi (1985), Lion d’or à la Mostra de Venise, dans lequel Sandrine Bonnaire incarne une jeune femme vagabonde qui terminera sa vie dans un fossé.

Agnès Varda avait également reçu un César du meilleur documentaire pour son film Les Plages d’Agnès, sorti en 2009 : en même temps qu’elle rendait hommage aux plages ayant marqué son existence, la réalisatrice revenait sur sa relation avec Jacques Demy, ses voyages, ou encore ses engagements féministes.

En 1998, sur France Culture, Agnès Varda s’était longuement confiée, au fil de cinq épisodes, sur ses souvenirs d’enfance, son amour passionné et lyrique de la nature né de son expérience d'”éclaireuse”, ses débuts en tant que photographe de théâtre, sa vision du cinéma, son rapport au public… C’était dans l’émission À Voix nue, au micro de Gérard Lefort.

De la photographe de théâtre, à la cinéaste

Elle est née en 1928 en Belgique : sa famille habite Bruxelles “dans une rue au nom magnifique, la ‘rue de l’Aurore'” jusqu’en 1940, lorsqu’elle fuit pour s’établir à Sète. C’est là-bas qu’Agnès Varda grandit, dans cette “sorte de Venise loupée mais qui a une beauté particulière”.

C’est ensuite à Paris qu’Agnès Varda se rend pour étudier : “Je suis arrivée comme une provinciale humiliée. Je n’ai pas aimé Paris, alors je marchais des heures, je faisais tous les quartiers à pied ; Pantin, les Buttes-Chaumont… tout, tout ! Toutes les bordures de Paris, les portes, les débuts de banlieues…”. Elle fait des photographies, avec un appareil acheté sur les Grands Boulevards à un reporter-détective.

Agnès Varda passe un CAP, suit un apprentissage difficile, mais parallèlement, elle trouve à satisfaire sa curiosité en lisant, en se rendant aux expositions… Puis sa vie bascule:

L’autre exaltation de ma jeunesse a été de rencontrer Jean Vilar, – qui était de Sète, mais enfin… – de travailler avec lui. Quand il a commencé le Festival d’Avignon, l’année suivante en 1949, comme personne ne lui donnait de l’argent, il s’est entouré des copains, de la famille, des proches, et j’ai été autorisée à l’aider, à faire quelques photos, et à balayer, à remplir les seaux des comédiens dans les loges… J’ai connu la vie de théâtre, des troupes pauvres et itinérantes, et j’ai beaucoup aimé ça. Déjà dans cette situation pauvre, le talent de Vilar, son incroyable intelligence, sa réflexion sur l’acte de jouer, sur l’étude d’un texte, la pureté, le silence…

De fil en aiguille, Agnès Varda photographie aussi au TNP : “Jean Vilar, malgré son énorme talent, n’était pas très médiatique, jusqu’à ce qu’il s’adjoigne Gérard Philipe, grande star de cinéma, venu jouer Le Cid et Le Prince de Hombourg au festival d’Avignon de 1951. Et c’est là que mes photographies ont inondé la presse… et ces photos-là continuent à être montrées ! Jeanne Moreau dans ses débuts, Gérard Philipe, Jean Vilar… C’était surtout du noir et blanc. Et à chaque fois qu’on commémore les 40 ans, les 50 ans d’Avignon, la presse repasse toutes ces images que j’ai faites à 19-20 ans, à peine remerciée par Vilar, à peine payée…”

Jacques Demy, et la petite cabane du cinéma

Agnès Varda confiait dans cette émission ne pas très bien savoir pourquoi, à 25 ans, elle avait écrit son premier film : La Pointe courte, réalisé en 1954, pour lequel elle avait recruté deux acteurs qu’elle avait connus au TNP, Sylvia Montfort et Philippe Noiret, qui n’était pas encore un grand acteur : “Ils se sont prêtés tous les deux avec une formidable générosité à cette expérience, avec un texte quand même ardu…”. Cette série d’À Voix nue proposait une balade dans la filmographie d’Agnès Varda.

J’aime quand il y a très peu de distance entre le désir d’un film et le film lui même, j’aime quand cette distance est réduite entre l’inspiration de l’idée et l’inspiration du tournage.

Agnès Varda, c’était aussi bien sûr un couple de cinéma mythique, celui qu’elle formait avec le réalisateur Jacques Demy. Une histoire d’art et d’amour née de leur rencontre au festival du court-métrage de Tours : Agnès Varda a 30 ans, Jacques Demy en a 27, et très vite, le couple devient inséparable, aussi bien à la ville que sur les plateaux de tournage, où Demy écrit les dialogues et chansons des films de sa compagne. Interrogée en 2010 dans un Hors-champs sur la relation artistique qu’elle entretenait avec son mari, Agnès Varda explique:

J’ai toujours eu l’impression qu’on faisait un cinéma complètement différent. Mais certaines personnes m’ont dit qu’on retrouvait le goût de la couleur, une certaine façon de ne pas traiter certains sujets… et ça, je crois que c’est vrai.

Quand il meurt du sida en 1990, Agnès Varda entreprend de lui rendre hommage dans Jacquot de Nantes, sorti l’année suivante:

Quand Jacques a été malade, il a écrit non pas un nouveau scénario mais ses souvenirs d’enfance. Tous les soirs, il me les faisait lire. Je trouvais ça vraiment intéressant : au fond, je connaissais ses parents, je connaissais le garage à Nantes, mais je ne savais pas tout ce qu’il racontait. Un jour, j’ai dit “ça ferait un scénario formidable”. Il m’a répondu “fais-le”. Et Jacques m’a ouvert les portes de sa mémoire. C’était un pari : celui de rentrer dans l’enfance de l’autre. Car les gens qui s’aiment partagent beaucoup de souvenirs, mais c’est l’enfance qui reste la plus secrète. Sans sa maladie et son écriture, je n’aurais jamais su tout ça.

Agnès Varda, portrait d’une rebelle

Agnès Varda aimait se définir comme une punk, une féministe avant l’heure, une exploratrice et une artiste multifacette. Disparue le 29 mars 2019 à l’âge de 90 ans, la grande dame du cinéma français était une rebelle, une révoltée. Elle faisait ce qu’elle voulait, où elle voulait et quand elle voulait. Une liberté dans la vie que l’on retrouve dans son œuvre artistique. Au début des années 60, elle annonce le mouvement de la Nouvelle Vague avec le film « Cléo de 5 à 7 ». Elle signe alors le début d’une carrière qui durera 60 ans. Retour en images sur ses plus grands moments.