He can be very funny. Sometimes intentionally so, other times not. He once said, “I cannot recognize either the Palestinian state or the Israeli state. The Palestinians are idiots and the Israelis are idiots.” His sense of fashion is completely his own. He’ll wear a pure white suit one day and then robes and animal skins the next. His military outfits sometimes seem like an outright parody of the military, as if he may, even, be trying out for the Village People. But one can never be sure how to take Colonel Muammar Qaddafi when it comes to clothing, or anything else.

 

The laughter sticks in the throat though when one thinks of the suffering. Qaddafi has been a dictator for a long time — 42 years, ever since he led a coup against King Idris in 1969…. More…

“If you were going to be in the country another day I’d have arranged a press conference,” said the Information Minister. We were to depart the next morning — anyone not from Sudan was advised to leave by then. “After that,” an Australian minesweeper told us, “you are on your own.” Perhaps he was trying to scare me, but I had noticed that our hotel, full of drunken ex-pats only the night before, was steadily clearing out.

 

We sat side-by-side on leather couches in the VIP room of the Juba Airport, as Riek Machar, vice president of the government of South Sudan, confessed that translating Nuer poetry into English had been a dream of his. Now he was accepting a book of Nuer poetry given to him by my companion, the American poet and novelist Terese Svoboda. She had… More…

 

Say what you like about Israelis, they know how to play the game. I’m speaking of the humanity game. It’s a game with specific rules and expectations in Western civilization. Its centerpiece, the very core of the game, is self-reflection. Demonstrating your humanity (since the Enlightenment, at least, but the roots go back to the beginning) is less about doing and more about reflecting on what you’ve done. The basic formula is already there at the Delphic Oracle: Know thyself. The trick of it, the reason that the humanity game is hard to play, is that the quest for self-knowledge does not lead to clarity, but down ever deeper into the muck. Knowledge, in the Western tradition, is very much about its limits. Knowing ourselves is thus partly about knowing the infinity of an enigma.

Ari Folman’s Waltz… More…