Category Archives: Harold Jaffe

New Orleans Review Interview with Harold Jaffe on Goosestep: Fictions & Docufictions

INTERVIEW by TARA STILLIONS WHITEHEAD

INTERVIEWER

In 2015, you released Death Cafe with Anti-Oedipus Press. That collection constitutes, among other things, a discerning critique of global pain, political hypocrisy, and death itself, which are, of course, not new to your work. With Goosestep: Fictions and Docufictions (JEF, 2016), however, your social critiques are framed much more intimately; one might say Goosestep is more transparent in its autobiography and that this makes it different from your last few books. Do you feel that Goosestep is a departure from DC?

JAFFE

Asked how he is able to comment so widely on literature and culture, Keats, in his early twenties and untraveled, responds “I become the sparrows hopping on my windowsill.” I am Jaffe not Keats, but I too feel an affinity with sparrows, those still alive and hopping in our degraded landscape…

Read full interview at New Orleans Review

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Harold Jaffe’s Sacred Geography in NEW ORLEANS REVIEW

ganges-dawn-1

Ganges Dawn

Predawn, everyone’s awake, Kashi’s jumping.
Excluding the homeless thousands who are unawake.
I’m walking cautiously to the ghats in the semi-dark through littered streets, trying to distinguish trash from cardboard and newspaper humps of low-castes sleeping, groaning while sleeping.

Do they dream while they sleep?
Is it a collective dream?
Has their 2000 years of servitude infected their dreams?

Sacred Geography: Dispatches from India (continued)

Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 18, 2015

Caste Cannibal

A newlywed couple from Varanasi were arrested over claims they dined on the
Genitals of the woman’s alleged rapist after her husband murdered the alleged

rapist and excised his privates. The victim’s mutilated body was found in a
burnt-out tuk-tuk on a Varanasi sidestreet after the revenge attack, sparked by

claims the new wife, age 20, made that she was raped just three days before her
white wedding in cheery Varanasi. The husband, 26-year-old Hari Pippal,

an untouchable, or Dalit, who became prosperous via his latrine
supply business, has admitted murdering the man after discovering his wife,

also untouchable, was not a virgin on their wedding night in atmos-
pheric Darjeeling, the former British hill station, where they spent

their honeymoon. “I was outraged,” Pippal told the swarming Indian
media after his arrest, adding that his decision to eat the victim’s

genitals was made instantaneously “to cure my heartache.” Police
say that after murdering the man, Pippal transported the victim’s

severed genitals wrapped in butcher paper to his house, ordered his
20-year-old wife to cook the genitals, and the pair then ate them

together, along with rice masala and dahl. The mutilated victim, with
whom the wife formerly consorted, was an elephant handler in a

small dingy zoo four kilometers southwest of Varamasi. Sarasvati, a
local police spokesperson who goes by the one name, told the

swarming Indian media that “the case is still under investigation but
we strongly suspect that this is a premeditated murder.” The

husband is accused of carrying out the murder, with the wife acting
as a willing accomplice. The victim was found dead in a burnt-out

tuk-tuk in the Manikarnika Ghat sector of Kashi. Pippal had ordered
his wife to contact the victim and set up a liaison in a butcher shop

owned by the wife’s brother. When the victim arrived at the butcher
shop, he found only Pippal, who then allegedly hacked him to

death, hung him upside-down from a meat hook, severed his
genitals, removed the mutilated cadaver from the meat hook and put

it in the tuk-tuk which he set on fire. VV Subramanian, the
prosecutor, insists that the brutality of the crime is yet another

reason for maintaining, even “refining,” the much disputed caste
system in India.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 18, 2015

Saint Mother

Pope Francis has endorsed a second medical miracle attributed to
the late Mother Teresa, clearing the path for the beloved nun to be
elevated to sainthood next year, the online Roman Catholic
newspaper Avvenire reported Thursday.

Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II in a fast-tracked
ceremony in 2003, in the Vatican, attended by some 300,000
pilgrims.
Beatification is a first step towards sainthood.

Celebrated for her work with the “poorest of the poor” in Kolkata
(Calcutta), Mother Teresa is expected to be officially canonized in
Rome on September 4, 2016, as part of the Pope’s Jubilee Year of
Mercy, according to online Avvenire’s Vatican expert Stefania
Falasca.

The move comes after a panel of Roman Catholic experts (namely
cardinals, taking a break from pederasty) convening three days ago
in the Vatican, officially attributed the miraculous healing of a Muslim
man from Agra with multiple brain tumors to Mother Teresa,
Avvenire reported.

Mother Teresa, along with her posse of nuns, was touring northern
India and had just emerged from the Taj Mahal, in Agra, when a
sickly man pushed to the front of the crowd and petitioned her.
Mother Teresa saw at once that he was gravely ill and wiped his
perspiring brow with her own cotton head covering.
She then blessed him.
The man was instantly cured.
So the story goes.
This miracle occurred in April 1985, and the man is still alive and
cancer-free, living in Agra.
He is married to his fourth wife and has fathered at least nine
children.

India has been faulted for delaying the process of Mother Teresa’s
canonization because the man is Muslim, not Hindu.
India has vehemently denied the accusation, which it attributes to its
long-time enemy, Muslim-dominant Pakistan.

Teresa, born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje in
Macedonia, was known across the world for her charity work in the
name of Christ.
She died in 1997 at the age of 87.

Nicknamed the “Saint of the Gutters,” she dedicated her life to the
poor, the sick and the dying in the slums of Kolkata.
Tenderly, she touched the untouchables.
She succored them
She baptized them, but never against their will.
Allegedly.
She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 13, 2015

SuicideBomb

I am a female Untouchable.
You prefer Dalit to Untouchable.
You do not like the name Untouchable for public relations.
Even as you kill us and flog us without touching us
The munitions strapped across my body touch me.
West of Manikarnika, the burning ghat, is the Golden Temple
devoted to Lord Shiva.
Barefoot, I will enter the Golden Temple devoted to Lord Shiva.
Because I am a female Untouchable I am forbidden from worship to
Lord Shiva in the Golden Temple.
Upper caste Hindus will flog me if I enter the Golden Temple to
worship Lord Shiva.
I will enter the Golden Temple with munitions strapped across my
body.
You cannot hold me back.
You cannot fill my blackened head with pieties.
You cannot distract me with devotion.
With hatred for Muslims.
Like Lord Shiva, I will destroy to create.
Call me freedom fighter.
I will create the order that Mahatma Gandhi imagined when he
named the Untouchable Harijan, Child of God.
When Mahatma Gandhi scrubbed and cleaned the privvies of the
Harijans.
Whoever is worshpping in the Golden Temple will be destroyed and
recreated as all-loving, loving the Dalit, loving the cow that Hindus
have pledged to love, loving the dogs and donkeys and goats.
Loving the cunning monkey.
Loving the Untouchable female.
It is not just poor Muslims who are freedom fighters.
Who sacrifice themselves when there is nothing left.
Why should I despise the poor Muslim when I am despised by
Hindus, my own people.
I will sacrifice myself and sacrifice the higher castes in the Golden
Temple so they can be recreated in the heart of Lord Shiva.
I am thin, black, female, weakened from not eating, from scrubbing
your toilets, from false devotion, from being born Dalit.
Upper caste Hindu wives threw themselves on their husband’s
burning bier in sacfrifice and were celebrated.
Mine is the greater sacrifice.
Hear me.
I am blackened and burning with sacrfiice.
I am penetrated with Shiva.
You cannot hold me back.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 12, 2015

Sacred Geography

I give the beggar-sadhu in his tattered saffron dhoti with open sores
on his arms a 50-rupee note.
He is barefoot; he turns and pads away toward another tourist.
His is not a sacred begging performed in imitation of Lord Shiva.
The Varanasi sadhus who live in and around the burning ghats are
impoverished and neglected.
Nor are they impressive: broken down, sickly, sometimes plainly
–not divinely–mad.

Forty-five years ago, a blip sometimes called The Age of Aquarius,
–embedded in the cruel overarching Age of Kali–occurred.
It coincided with hallucinogens, which enabled many users to
witness different landscapes.
Interiority, dreamspace, what may be called sacred geography,
became intimately familiar.
Young people meditated, read visionary writings, traveled east to
Asia and south to Central and South America to inhabit the sacred
geography at its source.
East Indian sadhus and yogis were at a premium.

Forty-five years later, for intricate reasons, technology has replaced
dream.
Digital geography has replaced sacred geography.
Now young people tend to travel with their fingers.
What Paul Virilio calls “motility” instead of mobiliy.
We access the harshest, grandest catastrophes on our miniature
smart receptors, where they merge with professional football.

Can digital and sacred geography coexist?
With difficulty.
With Mother Earth perishing rapidly, digital and sacred
geography must find a way to coexist for the duration.
Cruelty will continue to dominate.
Death is our heart’s mother.
I envision the collective spirit regaining energy, even compassion, at
the end of the end.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 10, 2015

Chai Twins Monkey

Chai shop. 7:30 PM.
The dhobi’s workday which began at 6 AM is over.
He’s having his customary plastic glass of masala chai, sitting on
one of the stools at the large wooden table.
His name is Mohan, he is of the washerman caste.
His working day is limitless, but today it is merely long because the
upper-caste home-owner and his wife are travelling to Rajastan.

Usually Mohan is having chai and chatting with three or four other
dhobis he has known from childhood in Kashi, but not tonight
because Mohan is early.
Like other dhobis, Mohan is thin and dark with a black mustache.
He is wearing faded, colorless trousers his patron’s son wore then
disposed of, along with a old teflon short-sleeved shirt and flip-flops.

What is he thinking as he sips his chai?
He’s thinking about having a small dinner with his wife and four-
year-old son in their shanty in northeast Kashi, not far from the long
half-moon sandbar east of the ghats, left vacant so that devotional
Hindus can see the sunrise when they do puja.
So that tourists will pay to take a small rowboat on the Ganges at
dawn to see the sunrise.
Mohan’s old bicycle will weave him through the dense traffic for the
forty-five minute trip back and forth from his shanty to his work.

A man about Mohan’s age enters the shop and sits on a stool
alongside Mohan but three stools to the left.
They nod to each other though they do not know each other.
The man orders masala chai.

Though neither seems to notice, the men are about the same age
and look close to identical, except that Mohan is distinctly darker.
Moroeover, the man is well-dressed in well-fitting western clothes
with a white silk scarf tied elegantly at his neck.
He is wearing smart leather shoes; Mohan has never worn leather in
his 26 years.
The man carries a smart phone and is now talking into it in Hindi.
He talks in a way that makes him seem independent, a decision-
maker.

His chai comes and he sips it while talking on the phone.
Mohan scarcely notices; he is tired and sips his chai without
thinking, except remotely of bicycling home to his wife and child.
The man disconnects and immediately makes another call, this time
speaking in Engish with authority.
He disconnects again, has a final sip of tea, leave a fifty-note rupee
on the table, leaves.

Carrying his smart phone in his left hand, he is about to step into his
white Toyota Camry (nearly all the cars in Kashi are white) when a
male macaque monkey suddenly hops down in front of him and
seizes the phone from his hand.
The man utters an oath in Hindi and makes after the monkey into
the dense traffic where he is run over and killedß by a white
Mercedes.

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Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 10, 2015

Untouch

They are blackened. Barefoot. Thin as reeds.
Your untouchables.
–You are not Hindu. You know nothing.

I see them clean your privvies, quarry rocks, balance the burning
upper-caste corpse on the bier with long bamboo poles.
–You imagine seeing. You are not Hindu. You see nothing.

Near the burning ghat, the shrunken untouchable woman in rags
folded on the pocked stone, eyes closed, her blackened child’s arm
extended clasping the small tin pail for alms.
–You are a sentimentalist. You impose your imaginings.

Your devotion is an opiate.
The rupees you spend on festivals to Lord Shiva and to your
promiscuous boy-god Kishna should be distributed to the
untouchables.
The rupees you spend on savaging trees for your high-caste
cremations into the Ganges should be distributed to your
untouchables.
–You are perilously close to blasphemy. Step back.

You take refuge behind the alleged mysteries of Hinduism.
There is no mystery about untouchable chldren born tormented.
That cruelty cannot be obscured, relativized, buried in Hindu
sacrament.
–You are non-Hindu. You see with uncleansed eyes.

You conveniently confuse your religious laws, designed to promote
your own high-caste interests, with justice to the imposed, invisible
underclass.
–Not at all. You are not Gulliver among the Yahoos. You are a do-
gooder non-Hindu dabbler in a culture you cannot comprehend.

Liberation, nirvana, moksha.
How do you attain liberation from samsara in a culture predicated on
slavery?
–You make a privileged tourist’s observation. You are incapable of
seeing with the spirit-eye.

Your untouchable suffers silently.
He services you almost ceaselessly.
When he doesn’t service you he is invisible.
If he protests you efface him.
These are humans not vermin.
–You are blaspheming. You are a privileged caucasian do-gooder,
but you are not outside the law.

Apprehend me.
Put me in chains.
–You are an egotist with a martyr’s complex.
Your expressed willingness to sacrifice has nothing to do with the
so-called untouchables.
Joan of Arc is a western not a Hindu conceit.

ß

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