Of Caviar and Eggs

I was laughing at myself at an intellectual forum to which I was invited in my capacity as a young writer. To my right was a doctor and to my left a professor, and in front of me rows of academics and intellectuals, who also occupy the columns in Arabic newspapers and corner shelves in book shops. This is a crowd that’s quite at home in this atmosphere of insightful lectures and intellectual programmes. Where do I fit in?

 Throughout the event, I fidgeted around, restless in my seat and listened so intently that I could even hear the gut sounds of people sitting around me. I did not miss a single word nor did I utter one. Had I not been saying “hello” to people and exchanging contrived pleasantries during the breaks, people would really have wondered why a dumb person was sticking around in these august surroundings.

The reason I kept my mouth shut throughout the programme was that the language that I spoke differed totally from the one they spoke, almost as different as Arabic is from German.

 True, we’re all Arabs and spoke Arabic. But their speeches were replete with  firecracker terms like modernity, epistemology and value paradigms. They uttered complicated sentences with the ease of ordering a cup of tea. Take this one, for example: “We need to review the contractual structure itself in terms of its foundational and pivotal core”. I can never write a sentence like that, let alone say it without faltering. Even if you give me paper, pen, and an hour of time, I would not be able to even define modernity. I have no idea from where epistemology or the origins of postmodernism are plucked.

I came out of the meeting laughing. I felt that it would be futile for a journalist like me to even try and fathom the meaning of “the modernity of value paradigm in the epistemology of globalisation”. I belong to the tribe of those who write clearly and legibly, using words that make sense to the man on the street. We strive to find our readers, whereas these intellectually-gifted elite writers are their own readers. It’s like comparing caviar and the lowly egg on my breakfast table. Everybody dreams of caviar but only a few get to taste it.

Nobody dreams of a chicken egg but everyone eats it everyday. Of course, this may sound like sour grapes, but I can’t help wonder how many of these high-flung academics are known to ordinary people. Their books make their appearance at book fairs but leave no impact. Their views and comments are all over the Internet without anybody giving much attention. As for me, I read only the first few lines of their works and leave the book on the first table.

The easiest way to fill up newspaper columns is to get in touch with academics and intellectuals and the next day you’ll find your inbox filled with long articles. In most cases, they could well be chapters from the writer’s valuable books and most certainly  would be full of complex jargons and deformed words that hardly make any sense. Newspapers seldom seek out ordinary writers who are full of curiosity, even if what they say makes ample sense and use a language that awakens all the five senses.

Of course, there are the big “caviar guys” who can easily write long and boring talismans that would almost be like a declaration of severing ties with the readers. And then there are the “eggists” who devastate their readers by using phrases like the dialectics of globalisation, and unleash sentences that begin like “It goes without saying…”

A writer once recalled a friend describe his writing as frivolous and narrated the exchange: Writer: “Do you benefit in any sense or learn any new ideas or  form fresh opinions after you read me?” Friend: “Yes, but your language and style are too simple.” Writer: “Do you read those who you consider as great and profound?” Friend: “No, because I don’t understand them.” Writer: “Then, my friend, I am a success and they are the failures.” __________________________________________

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6/3/2010 01:33 AM
There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.
5/8/2009 11:41 AM
Hello Guru, what entice you to post an article. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.
23/7/2009 03:55 AM
Great post! I’ll subscribe right now wth my feedreader software!
أحمد أميري
14/2/2009 01:17 AM
* شكراً أختي لطيفة وعقبال الجميع، بس خلي العرب أول يقرون، لاحقين على غير العرب. * لا تجرب الكافيار أخوي فديتني غير، يقولون طعمه مر، خصوصا إذا ما كنت متزوج.
فديتني غير
12/2/2009 11:08 PM
الكافيار .. بس اسمع عنه ماقد جربته :) اتمنى كتاباتك تجذب اهتمام القراء من غير العرب تعطيهم فكره زينه عننا على عكمس اكثر ما يترجم ويقرأونه .. شي يفشل
لطيفة الحاج
11/2/2009 8:05 PM
Nice to read it in English =) عقبال ما نشوف مقالاتك تكتب وتترجم بلغات ثانية يقراها غير العرب.. أطيب التحايا أستاذ =)
أحمد أميري
11/2/2009 3:19 PM
تسأل عن البيض ولّا الكافيار ولّا المقال؟ إذا كان عن المقال فهو منشور في مجلة "ذ وولد" الشهرية، وهي الأخت الصغيرة الأجنبية لأسبوعية "العالم" العربية.
فديتني غير
11/2/2009 3:08 PM
ماقلت لنا وين حصلته هذا ؟؟؟؟ :)
حقوق نشر المقالات في الإنترنت وتداولها إلكترونياً غير محفوظة.. لكن يرجى الإشارة إلى المصدر
كل رأي منشور هنا يعبّر بالضرورة عني وقت كتابته
موقع الكاتب أحمد أميري
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