In cooperation with the German Historical Institute Moscow.
Part of the Workshop “Arab-Soviet Internationalism – Socialist Internationalism, International Organizations and the Politics of Revolution in the 20th and 21st Centuries”, 13-15 July, 2022, Berlin.
Can internationalist networks that run through Moscow ever leave their Soviet node behind? This talk explores the life, literary output, and astonishing family history of Palestinian writer, freethinker, and sometime communist Najati Sidqi (1905-79) and his family. A wry self-fashioner both energetic and unlucky enough to experience half a dozen of the twentieth century’s iconic upheavals, Sidqi has been studied either for his short stories or as part of the Palestinian Communist Party (he was perhaps the first Arab member). The biography of his Lviv-born Jewish wife, Lotka Lorberbaum Sidqi (1905-1995), is largely unknown. To flesh out their story I analyze Sidqi’s writings, his and Lotka’s Comintern files, a recent documentary film by Amal Ramsis, family correspondence and photos, and conversations with their surviving children and other relatives. This story illuminates the three institutions of Soviet internationalism that most profoundly shaped the Sidqis’ lives: the Communist University of the Toilers of the East (KUTV) in Moscow, where Najati studied from 1925 to 1928; the Comintern’s Luxe Hotel, where Lotka spent 19 miserable months from 1936 to 1939; and the International Children’s Home (Interdom) in Ivanovo, Russia, which educated their eldest daughter Dawlieh (1930-2018) and never gave her back.
Margaret Litvin is associate professor of Arabic & Comparative Literature at Boston University. Her work explores the transnational entanglements of Arabic literature and theatre. She is the author of Hamlet's Arab Journey: Shakespeare's Prince and Nasser's Ghost (Princeton, 2011), and the translator into English of Sonallah Ibrahim’s novel al-Jalid (Ice, 2019). She is currently finishing a book called Another East on the literary legacies of Arab-Russian and Arab-Soviet cultural ties and co-editing, with Masha Kirasirova and Eileen Kane, a documentary history book called Russian-Arab Worlds. She was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at EUME in Berlin in 2017-18.
Please register in advance via eume(at)trafo-berlin.de. Depending on approval by the speakers, the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available via Soundcloud.