My writings are experiences of liberation: French author

December 27th, 2008 - 11:48 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) For French novelist Arno Bertina, writing is not about expressing a state of mind but about plotting stories on the freedom crusades of those in chains.Bertina, a poet and an author of repute, engages with the displaced and the homeless in his native country and worldwide.

“I write for the sake of writing and all my writings are somehow experiences of liberation and I try to make up stories with freedom as the main theme,” the 35-year novelist told IANS in the capital over coffee.

Bertina was here to read from his book at the Delhi International Arts Festival that ended Dec 20.

His trilogy - “Le Dehors ou la migration des truites” (2001), “Appoggio” (2003) and “Anima Motrix” (2006) - was an epic on refugees flocking at the doors of Europe.

“Anima Motrix” was a runaway success. It deals with atrocities on refugees based on a true incident in which a Macedonian minister was named in the massacre of Albanian refugees in 2001. “It was a nice anecdote. I built upon it,” Bertina said.

“A dishonest Macedonian minister wanted to become popular in the US and decided to kill some refugees to show the US government that he was a collaborator in the war against terrorism. He killed seven refugees and projected them as terrorists to the world,” Bertina narrated, summing up the plot.

In Macedonia, the government set up a probe into his complicity in the massacre and found the minister guilty. “The minister fled the country and now lives in The Netherlands waiting to be judged by the International Criminal Court. This is the point from where I took off,” Bertina explained.

The story, in Bertina’s novel, takes a few complex detours. The author uses “repentance and redemption” to carry the tale forward as the minister realises the nature of his offence.

“He comes to know the ways of the displaced people as he flees like a fugitive from Macedonia to (then) Yugoslavia and Italy. The minister transforms himself as he lives like a refugee,” he said.

Bertina, who along with three award-winning French novelists co-edits a magazine called “Inculte”, (pronounced Anclute) that writes about contemporary social realities, feels that Europe needs to have more people - but from outside.

“But it refuses to acknowledge it. Europe behaves like a person that is closed from all sides and is afraid of anything coming from outside. One of my objectives in writing this book is to make people account for refugees,” he said.

Bertina’s insight into the lives of the displaced is culled from his journeys across the world. “In 2005, I was in Italy for a year. I visited the south of Italy, which is dotted with refugee camps. Most of the displaced are from north Africa - Spanish settlements of Ceuta and Mellila in Morocco.

“I spent time with them - it was an incredible time of my life with music and bonfires. I found what worried them most were posers about their individual identities, specifics and egos,” he said.

According to a report by the Britain-based Christian Aid, the world is facing the largest ever population displacement in modern history. An estimated 163 million people were displaced worldwide by conflicts, natural calamities and development projects.

Bertina is working on his new book “Ghetto”, a collection of photographs and texts extracted from a reporter’s account of a squatter under a flyover in Paris, who sculpts funny shapes from litter collected from the streets.

He, according to the author, is one of the many nameless faces that crowd the underbellies of flyovers and sideways every night. “The man is under constant CCTV surveillance,” Bertina said.

The book is once again a work of fiction based on a true story.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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