Schirin Nowrousian: Live Against War

“I have a blue piano at home
But do not know a single tune.
It  stands in the dark of the basement door.
Since the world became brutalized once more.


 When Mohsen Emadi’s call for a text reached me, for a text which – together with other texts by poets and writers from all around the world – literally would arise and stand up against a militant conflict, or to even say: against war, which is present and threatening in January 2012, and more in particular, which would hit the people in Iran here and now, that’s when I suddenly remembered these words by Else Lasker-Schüler. I carry them with me since my youth, since my young days I can hear their enduring echoes, every now and again, but here they came to my mind ever so clearly, and all the more pressing. Following the call of Mohsen, I then inwardly sent the words “Live against War” on their way, and my mind started to work, to jump, to rotate, to dig. More than ever, after all it was about seeing whether it is possible to write, and if yes what is possible to write especially with it having to happen in such a short amount of time, because it was and is concerning the Now! It should happen quickly… And so the thoughts started running, feverish, they searched, and retrieved, and in particular they happened to take along on their search those lines which have been reverberating inside of me for so many years.

“It stands in the dark of the basement door, / Since the world became brutalized once more…”

As Mohsen wrote in his appeal, not our personal history is what he asked from us, but words, which have been and still are engraved, forged, injected by wars in our languages. So words, as I told myself, which have marked our individual languages, physically and mentally, and with which our languages have to talk – everlasting. The German language, as I then told myself, can, in the truest sense of the word, tell you a thing or two about it, yes, it can sing songs and even more songs about it… The French language as well. Or else, they can no longer sing about it, but only speak, or they can’t even speak anymore, but only remain silent… And all of this, on the other hand, sings, speaks, and remains silent only because of us, through us.

The brutalization of the world. This is a very fitting formulation, and a very dark one at once. Worlds become more refined and more brutalized, and they refine themselves and brutalize and brutalize and refine themselves, and all of this flows in a constant stream, tightly intertwined. Innumerable worlds, an endless amount of networks, layers, and threads. Nothing is isolated, everything is connected. The much cited words of Adorno “To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric” and the numerous as much cited conclusions for or against his words and the way how you have to interpret them, all of that speaks, in the truest sense of the word, volumes about scars, adhesions and the never-healing of people touched by war.

And war touches you: war finds everyone, in the darkest corners of houses. And from now on, the muted pianos stand in the darkest corners of the houses, and henceforth, people have unlearnt how to play on them… And we should be glad about every bond – like the words of Else Lasker-Schüler, and also the words of Adorno – every bond that is able to carry the delusion of war towards us as a constant warning and as a perpetual appeal for vigilance!

Just as Adorno’s sentence, there is, for example, also the sentence formulating that there is no friendship among states, only interests and alliances, which haunts us and our language realities which are equally our physical realities. Unfortunately one has to say that this is very true and all the more a reason to expand uncompromisingly beyond everything governmental and national, over and over again. That means that we, every single human!, must resist, must always resist all diversion from this – our – free path which reaches beyond any however conceived affiliations, exclusions or classifications of humans. And we have to seek the human, or rather, to abide by him, and his liveliness and creative power, and only by him and them.

In June 2009, the Green Revolution in Iran suffered a bloody defeat and ever since it makes only tedious progress, but it is making progress. And since that time, and in particular since the beginning of 2011, we have the continuing Arabian revolutions, which at times even took, and still take, bloody turns. And they let all of us humans stand there – in between (yes, in between and in a certain way also in the middle of it instead of only being a bystander, because who believes that this would not concern us, is wrong!). Irritated we humans stand there, astonished, afraid, helpless, aghast, admiring, sad, aggrieved, heated, awakened…in the face of so much struggle and agitation. Suddenly we are asked to express ourselves in Internet surveys with Yes or No to non-Libyan troops in Libya. That means to express ourselves about a NATO-military operation, what makes us downright tremble because how – for heaven’s sake! – can someone take the responsibility for such from a distance interposed Yes or No? There is this helplessness and the dull knowledge that „one“ should, may, must not interfere, and that bombs do not solve anything. And at the same time, there is this sense of responsibility that something has to happen in order to save lives. And all of those things somehow do not fit together, leaving behind especially one thing – big unease… And then we learn that the worst wrongdoings on humans take place almost simultaneously in Syria, and no one of the international community of states intervenes, and we learn, watching it in video clips made by witnesses, how in Egypt the army, which has been “celebrated” less than a year ago, beats and strikes down men and women in the most brutal way…

And there it is again, the speech about oil and money, and about nuclear weapons and power,  that is: about states’ interest; and it’s a speech that goes even far beyond: it’s the one about non-national but purely economically motivated and therefore even more ruthlessly seeking of hegemony. And ideologies of any colour witness their revival, religious as well as non-religious. They are blown up to immeasurable sizes, trying to engross everything, and to put down everything that lies outside them…

They had never vanished, those talks about oil and atom and gain (and loss) and about god and the profane, but now they flare up again, stronger than ever before. Exactly like the tightened tension which happens now between Iran and the USA, and all of our other states… Of course, there they are again, all these talks, as already said, they have never been really gone; we were able to see them come, see them return, as it seems to be the only thing that has ever been and always will be of concern, and with it the power-political exertion of influence, wherever you look.

It is as if the world of humans – this man-made world of development and downfall – brutalizes and refines itself in the same breath, but in diametrically opposing directions, and it is as if therefore you only sometimes get a glimpse of where it will all lead: On the one hand, so many people stand up in order to fight for their rights and they do it with fear for their lives! To all of those we have to give out highest admiration! On the other hand this calls all those atrocious energies up onto the field for which you can always find people, helping to expedite and to implement with brutish violence the brutalization of the world.

“I believe in the sun, even if it does not shine.” This sentence of Bonhoeffer, which without a doubt derived and grew out of an even darker moment, rings in my head as one of those voice bodies which the German language carries around with it as something that has been deeply burned-in since World War II. And with these words resonates within me the search for the always most current moment which is the complete un-moment which transilluminates and animates every existence…

… and then there is one of the probably most famous anti-war-songs that has ever been written which rings in my mind. It has been written by Boris Vian. It is among other things exactly about this: There are wars, because there are people who conduct them.

But now, is a revolution not also a war against a war that is already in motion and which is directed at the own people?! One thought regarding this: A revolution, for example, against a regime can indeed be seen as a militant struggle against a continuing war, which took and still takes place, in a subliminal way, inland (and at times out in the very open) against the own population. A revolution, seen in this way, is the escalation of a struggle against the ever lingering war between humans. Not all of those battles necessarily end in a revolution. But we are part of leading this fight as well, even maybe it hasn’t occurred to us (yet)… War, unfortunately, this has to be said, is always, also here and now, with us, even if the weapons seem to remain silent.

But a military advance of war, war by armed forces, especially between states, is always one step more advanced. If it occurs it is on an entirely different level, something worse indeed because it is absolutely devastating: An escalation of violence by humans on humans to such an extent always inevitably leads to the irrecoverable destructing and destructed, to the totally disastrous outcome for so many lives!  And Vian’s lines from World War II, which fortunately became very famous (this song: again one of those bonds and marks, which has to be fought for over and over anew, and which we so desperately need in order to live peacefully wherever possible: because yes, peace has to be fought for in a peaceful manner!), in Vian‘s lines, this is the main point: to lead wars, not to lead wars. A deserter, who in an already ongoing war refuses leading a war, a deserter who backs out, doesn’t join in, who refrains from the war:

Monsieur le Président
Je vous fais une lettre
Que vous lirez peut-être
Si vous avez le temps
Je viens de recevoir
Mes papiers militaires
Pour partir à la guerre
Avant mercredi soir
Monsieur le Président
Je ne veux pas la faire
Je ne suis pas sur terre
Pour tuer des pauvres gens
C’est pas pour vous fâcher
Il faut que je vous dise
Ma décision est prise
Je m’en vais deserter


Countless other thoughts come to my mind, and they want to become part of this short text but I tell them: My dear ones, thanks for coming, you are and won’t be forgotten, but for now we leave it at this. Because, yes, what else should we say to the world, should we shout into the world, what else than exactly this:

Fight for a non-violent world wherever possible! This fight starts everywhere (and always in oneself too, within us) and it ends: never. Yes, that is the certainty that we have. To avoid wars and to live peacefully with each other is the never-ending task of the entire mankind.

To avoid the dance of rats within the clangs of the Santur – this dazzling blue Santur –, to avoid broken lives and that the bodies and souls of  unknown and yet beloved ones on this globe are torn to pieces, to avoid that the blue song of life falls silent, here and there, from everyone’s look-out, to avoid at last that someone has to lament the blue dead, and that all of us are there in entire brutalization without any music or a single tune, therefore we should stand up, all of us, over and over again, in Iran, in the USA, in Israel, in Palestine, in the whole of Europe, all over the world. It is well worth to raise your voice for it – despite all deficiency of everything that has been said and despite everything else what has to be said beyond – and for this it is well worth to always start with these ever first words and to say nothing more than this:

Raise your voice for peace , which is to the flight through the night, through night and day, day and night, through the day, which you enter in a fast pace, and through the night, which you enter with an even faster pace and in which you tremble and float. Raise it, your voice, because nobody else will raise it for you, but all those nobody-elses are in need of it. Without intermission.


  Bremen, 18 January 2012

Schirin Nowrousian



The water stood
at the door like
your heel
thought lost.
The water sat on
the branch to which
you have to prove
the infinity of
the sky.
The water lay
leant down over
on the steps
to the theatre,
from where
it called out
for the tears.
It gathered around
itself whole mountains
of velvet, on which it
slept, the night, when
it became cold
on the square
of the forgotten wonders.

Sing, Ziryab! Sing!
And dance the infinite round.



The feasting of desire

Never will I stand up for your war.
And never will I speak for it nor dance for it
nor dream of it.
Never, never will I long for it nor ask for it.
Never will I give my flesh and bone and soul
and heart and name to it.
And whenever war tries to catch me (and that’s what it surely
does because it tries to capture everyone, in its blindness,
without remorse), and even worse:
if ever war catches me for the split of a second
to make me go wrong, yes, wrong, turning me away from these simple lines
and the yearning for a world where humans do not attack each other,
I will, indeed, have to fight against myself
and I will get back to the self of mine
which stands in silent in the peaceful stream.
You may give these lines a sneering laugh, call it
ridiculous or a profession of faith.
I’m gently smiling back at you:
call it a credo, a prayer,
or something to despise in your eyes,
all your gestures of war will remain unanswered.
War is running through mankind, through all of us.
Everywhere, ceaseless and taunting and haunting.
In word and deed, in creed and greed.
Have a look and see for yourself. And never forget:
I will always struggle back to the self of ours, yours and mine,
which is the unself  whispering nothing else
but blissful thoughts and happiness
and joy and care. Nothing but this!
I’m only speaking life, alive. I’m only loving.
Love and dream.
Inviting you to drink the cup of breathing too.
The feasting of desire.
I will not hate, neither for you nor you.
I am the dancing beyond your veil and mist.
I am – believe it or not, hear me or not – well inside you,
eating your ignorance of life:
I am the dwelling insistence of existence
and the never ending crystalline tune.

SN, Bremen, January 22nd 2012

Foto: Jonas Niederstadt

Schirin Nowrousian was born in Bochum, Germany, and lives now in Bremen. Before that she lived and studied for many years in Paris, Dublin, and Brussels. She works as author, translator, lecturer, and language teacher in dramaturgy and direction. Beside a number of poetry publications in literary magazines in Germany, Belgium and the USA, her debut book Ziryabs Gnu (Ziryab’s Gnu) was released in 2008 in an English-German publication with audio CD at farpoint recordings in Dublin. This year in June 2012, two volumes of poetry, Ast – است and Aus Paris heute…, are released by Sujet Verlag, Bremen.

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