Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Ayurzana, the young, handsome, and incredibly accomplished (like 20 books kind of accomplished) 40 year old guy with a face like an open stone who spent last semester at Iowa's international writer's program, is firmly in the camp of Chilaajav, my boss at the Writer's Union. He's the guy Larry Siems talked me up to in NYC in December before he returned. He was nominally in control of the nominal PEN club which, he admitted more that once, existed in name only and was never an approved branch of international PEN. Because you his modernity, his youth, his worldliness, he was the best bet for a non-old-guard feel to the meeting in December that he led, where he stated for all the reporters to write down that PEN would become open to the public for writers to apply. We got drunk in the cold January at Brauhaus and I handed over the list Mend-Oyoo had given me of people he'd like to see ivovled with PEN who were not part of Chilaa's and Ayur's particular interest group or clique. He did not say anything at the time except that they were all Mend-Oyoo's friends. He did say that he felt really stupid when he worked with Lisa Fink (Fulbrighter here last year) and then she went and worked with his enemies. I reminded him that mine and lisa's job is not to work with the literature in one interest group but with Mongolian literature as a whole, and it's sort of our job to like everyone. He called me a smart girl.

Just two weeks ago he wrote that he could not work with "them who are not real writers" and who "slandered" him; namely, the people on Mend-Oyoo's list. So, after heading up the nominal PEN club and heading up the meeting in December, he's out. He still has the Mongolian translation of the charter, and the signed charter itself. Have to get those at some point. I told him once again that there simply is no way to have a branch of International PEN approved without opening applications up to any writer--it's not a suggestion, it's a rule.

When I told this to Ariunaa (Arts Council head), specif. the part he said about other writers, she clucked and shook her head and said "terrible." But then she said what I felt: that with names ike Dashnyam's and Akim's tied to this effort to create a PEN center the movement was not dead in the water. I'm so glad that there's been enough buzz about it among enough people that it has its own momentum apart from one person or association.

Ayur's wife is lovely, another person from Lisa Fink's reading. She was the only person to read differently, instead of the drunken rhythmics of the men she whispered her poetry, and whispering in Mongolian sounds like the quietest breeze in winter cottonwood leave. The ones that remain. I didn't know they were married til January when I finally put two and two together. We had lunch, the three of us, in January, and she wore a sparkly purple skirt and he looked at her with adoration. She was afraid I didn't enjoy the ox tongue salad they ordered for me.

Dahsnyam and I went from the academy of traditions one block south to the Arts Council to talk about getting funding for him, Chilaajav, and me to go to WALTIC in Stockholm this June. (big literary translation conference) Dashyam wants to talk with other writers from other countries about their PEN centers and how they started, and he wanted me there because I came to Mongolia primarily to facilitate that conversation and could help greatly with it, just communication-wise since he does not understand accented English he'll be hearing from Swedes etc. Unfortunately the arts council offers the sorts of grants that would support passage to such a conference to citizens of Mongolia, so Dashnyam and Chilaajav with most probably get to go and I would have to find $1500 if I wanted to. At least that. And my attempts at finding funding for things like that here have been few and far between since the results are always so scarce.

Dashnyam chatted with Deggii, who works part time at the Arts Council. In the meeting room where the coat rack and hot water maker is. Deggii I met my first week here because Lisa fink, the poetess who was finishing up her stay as a fulbrighter translating poetry, did a reading jointly with her--Degii has black chains and spikes and lonk black hair and long earrings and eyeliner. She's also a well respected member of the community here and a magazine editor--this inclusion is one of my favorite things about Mongolian society.

1 comment:

samraat said...