WATCHING TELEVISION FOOTAGE OF REFUGEES streaming west by their thousands, along the highways of Hungary toward the Austrian border, my first thoughts are about my mother. She made a similar trek, 69 years ago almost to the day, when she was only six. I see her in the girl raised by her father above the fray at the Bicske railway station in Budapest, or holding tight onto her mother’s hand in the throngs filling a nighttime road, led by men using their cellphone GPS to find the way. She too was fleeing war — or more exactly, walking through the heart of it, as what had been the Indian Raj was violently split into India and Pakistan.
It’s a rare event when a major new literary magazine comes out of India, and rarer still that one of such scope and deep seriousness as The Byword emerges. But here it is, and to me it is a real cause for celebration. If you’re in India, run out to your local bookstore and see if you can get a copy, and if they don’t have one, tell them to order it. I’m proud to say I’ve got a major new story, “Jerusalem”, in the debut issue, but there’s so much else besides, and much of it fantastic. Finally, in India, a print venue where not only new writing is published, but also celebrated.
I’m proud to have an essay up on VICE, all written in this last week in the heat of the fallout from the Greek referendum and the (perhaps) closing of a deal with the creditors. If you want to know what’s happening in one small part of Greece right now, please read. Click here for the article, or on the image below.
When I first arrived in Crete last year, despite the ongoing economic crisis, times felt better, much freer, and few people were talking about the crisis all the time. That’s changed since then, unfortunately, so here’s a glimpse back to those first months I spent here, courtesy of the wonderful people at Split Lip Magazine. Read it here, or click the image below.
This just up at The Margins, with photos, one last dispatch from Athens, this time with hookers, junkies, immigrants, and cops.
At night, the junkies take over the square. They are almost vaporously thin, like the dead even before they shoot up. They have ruined most of their veins and bend forward to stick the needle in the backs of their knees or other parts of their legs. The happy ones are curled up fetally, oblivious to everything. A tall South Asian man with a tense, fierce face asks me several nights in a row if I want anything. “Hash? Junk? Anything?”
Last night, the conservative, pro-bailout and pro-austerity New Democracy party won the elections, but not decisively enough to have an outright majority. To be able to form a government, they will need to form a coalition with one of their opponents. The second vote-getter, and close second in the elections, was the upstart, radical left party Syriza. It’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, has ruled out any coalition with any pro-bailout party, and so a coalition will likely be formed with PASOK, and one of the other, smaller, leftist parties.
While the election of New Democracy averts the immediate crisis of Greece leaving the euro, it in no way changes the long-term picture. The requirements of Europe’s bailout haven’t been fully implemented, and some of the most severe cuts are yet to come. These will be very difficult to get passed into law, and if they are passed, will likely cause a violent reaction on the streets in the coming months. But the larger picture is more disturbing. Even if the cuts are implemented, Greece will still ultimately be unable to live up to its commitments. It will not be able to pay back its debts in full, even at the current levels where much have been forgiven, and it will not be able to grow its economy effectively under the burden of such severe austerity measures.
The reaction of international markets to the Greek election struck me as quite rational. An initial sense of optimism because the immediate crisis was averted, followed by a pullback and a dose of reality, because even with the election of the conservatives, there is no obvious way forward for Greece within the euro. We’ll be exactly here again a year or so from now, if not sooner, and between now and that time, Greece will continue to suffer. The only chance that a deeper crisis can be averted is if Germany and the rest of Europe acts proactively with real stimulus measures designed to actually grow Greece’s (and Europe’s) economy. I’m not holding my breath.
From last week’s issue of Open Magazine, my take on the (then) imminent Greek elections:
The highway from the airport is eerily empty. It’s mid-afternoon in the middle of the week, and there are fewer cars than on highways in a California desert at the quietest daylight hour. Another unsettling sight are the billboards. From the airport to the city, except one, all are blank. Some of them drip with papery fragments of old ads. It looks like a set for a zombie movie where everyone has died except me. Office parks and foreign factories line the highway’s edge, but most appear closed. The Ikea parking lot is empty.