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This report is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

The Forgotten Cultural History of the West David Kuhrt
Imagine: the past is not only still with us, it is also alive and well! Earlier this year, from the front page of the eminent German weekend newspaper Die Zeit (3 February), the beautiful head of Nefertiti, eight inches high, stares forth at the reader from a black background, the fingers of a judiciously superimposed right hand over her mouth expressing the Queen's astonishment. Under the headline 'Arabien steht auf' ('Arabia in Revolt') the caption reads: 'Nobody foresaw it: the peoples of the Middle East have had enough of despots. The most major change in the political status quo since the Fall of the Berlin Wall'. And the change has little to do with 'Islamism': as the reporting that follows informs us, 'rock bands performed in front of tanks, civilians were arm-in-arm with soldiers among the crowds and people danced, day and night'. Among other things, in common with the Tunisian crowds who so recently brought down the despotic régime of President Ben Ali, there were recitations of a circulating poem, 'To the Tyrants of This World', penned in 1933, the year of Hitler's Putsch, by the Tunisian poet Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi (died 1934):

You, tyrants without authority
you lovers of darkness
you enemies of the living
you have disfigured the wounds
of the innocent, your hands
bandaged with their blood -
and you did worse: prohibiting
the ecstasy of being alive
the saturation of despondency
became satiety.

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