Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 4, 2009
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Sylvain Richard
David Solway
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




The first time I saw the stonecutters
slice into Ramses’ legs in that light,
I flinched, as if I had almost expected the stone to bleed.
Anne Michaels

[There are always consequences. History is the practice of catching up with and documenting the especially unanticipated consequences. Consequent to the completion of Egypt’s famous Aswan Dam in 1970, 120,000 Nubians, who for thousands of years lived along the banks of the Nile in what is now Upper Egypt and Sudan, were displaced. The Egyptian government arranged for the relocation of their homes, shops, monuments, places of worship and cemeteries.

Anne Michaels makes this event the subject of her novel, The Winter Vault, published by McClelland & Stewart.

Each year, for thousands of years, swollen with the waters from Ethiopia, the Nile offered her intense fertility to the desert. But now this ancient cycle would abruptly end. And end, too, the centuries-old celebrations of that inundation, inseparable from gods and civilization and rebirth, an abundance that gave meaning to the very rotation of the earth.

There would be a massive reservoir reshaping the land – a lake “as large as England” – so large that the estimated rate of evaporation would prove a serious misjudgment. Enough water would disappear into the air to have made fertile for farming more than two million acres. The precious, nutrient-saturated silt that had given the soil of the floodplain such richness would be lost entirely, pinioned, useless behind the dam. Instead, international corporations would introduce chemical fertilizers, and the cost of these fertilizers – lacking all the trace elements of the silt – would soon escalate to billions of dollars every year. Without the sediment from the floods, farmland downriver would soon erode. The rice fields of the northern Delta would be parched by salt water. Throughout the Mediterranean basin, fish populations – dependent on silicates and phosphates from the annual flooding – would decrease, then die out completely. The exploding insect population would result in an exploding scorpion population. The new ecology would attract destructive micro-organisms that would thrive in the new moist environment, and introduce new pests – the cotton-leaf worm and the great moth and the cornstalk-borer – that would devastate the very crops the dam was meant to make possible. Insects would spread infectious – and excruciating – diseases in plague proportions, such as bilharzia, an illness caused by a parasite laying its eggs in almost any organ of the human body – including liver, lungs, and brain.

The silt, like the river water, also had its own unique intimacies, a chemical wisdom that had been refining itself for millennia . . . the Nile silt was like flesh, it held not only a history but a heredity. Like a species, it would never again be known on this earth.

. . . The very staples that the Nubians had so expertly cultivated would now have to be bought at market -- lentils, beans, chickpeas, lupins and peas . . . The Nubians, who had given up everything for the hydro-electric power provided by the new dam, were themselves without electricty . . . had to wait seven years to turn on a light.

from The Winter Vault, Anne Michaels, pages 33-34, 113-114.

Related articles:
Noise and Effects
Oceans Drowning in Plastic
Bottomfeeder = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
Film Ratings Page of Sylvain Richard, film critic at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
Montreal World Film Festival
CINEMANIA(Montreal) - festival de films francophone 1-11 novembre, Cinema Imperial info@514-878-0082: featuring Bernard Tavernier
Montreal Jazz Festival
Festivalissimo Film Festival - Montreal
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis