Review of Blood is Blood
“This is not a sentimental plea for peace or brotherhood. Both tell their people's history as they see it, expressing suspicions and prejudices in accusatory tones. Ultimately, they see the error of each other's 'tribal bravado' and the cycle of retribution, or as they put it, 'an eye for an eye until everyone is blind.'...In addition to being gifted writers in an underappreciated literary form, they are both spellbinding performers. ”
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“Endre Farkas and Carolyn Marie Souaid have prepared a DVD and book that remind us that Arabs and Jews are both Semites, and that, as in the Yin and Yang symbol, each zone of interacting black or white has a dot of the opposite colour at the heart of it. Farkas is a Hungarian immigrant, the child of Holocaust survivors. Souaid has Lebanese Arab ancestry – Christian rather than Muslim. Their work juxtaposes a series of statements by “Jew” with statements by “Arab,” printed on facing pages and exploiting parallelism and contrast. The best pair of statements contrasts the Jew’s ideas for whimsical Passover games (use marshmallows to simulate the Plague of Hail!) with a long list of Wartime Emergency Provisions by the Arab. The horror of stockpiling for war reminds us of the emergency that Passover commemorates: how deeply conflict is embedded in the Middle East. Vituperation and recriminations eventually give way to statements of love (treasonous though they might be, ideologically) and to a celebration of Arab and Jew sitting on their balconies and enjoying the same evening, something like the Biblical image of Everyman sitting under his own fig tree.
The real impact of the work is in the “video-poem” on the DVD, which the reader should play before reading the book. Shot mostly in black and white by the talented videographer Martin Reisch, the film provides a backdrop of relevant images as the poets read the text. There is an informative website for the project at www.bloodisblood.com.
The poem ends ambiguously with en face lines that say, “Let us take an eye for an eye till everyone is blind,” which is perhaps a variation on the saying attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” Souaid and Farkas provide us with a grim reminder of vengeful elements in Mosaic and Sharia law, but they also imply that revenge might exhaust itself into tolerance, that survivors might become blind to differences.”
“Published as a poem and video-poem on CD, Blood is Blood speaks through two voices, each placed on opposing pages with the words "Jew" and "Arab" written above each voice. These words gradually fade until they have disappeared for the final line: "Let us take an eye for an eye until everyone is blind." In the video-poem, Souaid and Farkas speak this line in unison, powerfully conveying togetherness even though conflict persists. The authors met at the Trois-Rivières International Poetry Festival, where a shared interest in writing led to discussions of their differences: "One of us was Jewish and a child of Holocaust survivors; the other, a Lebanese Christian with family still living in the "old country."" For Farkas and Souaid, collaboration created a space through which to confront histories of violence, prejudices, and misunderstandings, just as the words in the poem intersect in dialogue both on the page and off.”
“The format of the presentation is precisely right. The video production, hearing the speakers and seeing them in context with each other, makes the poem live…An enclosed DVD presents the authors, Endre Farkas (Jew) and Carolyn Marie Souaid (Arab), reciting their work. The performances are strong, and the text gains from this presentation, the contrasting voices overlapping like a Glenn Gould vocal fugue as they speak sometimes to each other and sometimes to themselves. The black-and-white cinematography is understated, but effective…This is a poem, a performance, and as such it succeeds. The voices are worth hearing. And their dialogue is worth unpacking. ”