To imagine, to hope, to transcend, to transform

Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:

Jacob-lawrence-library-1I gave a talk at the launch at London’s Institut Français of Libraries without Borders, the charity inspired by Patrick Weil that aims to increase global access to books and libraries. Also speaking were Ian McEwan, Lisa Appignanesi, Barbara Band and Patrick Weil himself. Here is a transcript of my talk:

Let me begin with a story not of a library or a book but of a grand piano. The one grand piano in Gaza, that was discovered still intact in a theatre destroyed by an Israeli missile during last year’s war. A piano that has been restored string by string, hammer by hammer, by Claire Bertrand, a young French music technician who travelled to Gaza specially to bring the piano back to life, in a project financed by Daniel Barenboim.

Last week, the piano formed the centerpiece of a concert, in which 15-year old Sara Aqel, the star pupil in Gaza’s only music school, performed Beethoven’s 19th sonata. Why in a land so devastated by war, in which tens of thousands are homeless, in which hospitals can barely function, in which food is often scarce, and which for many feels like a vast prison, should so much fuss be made of one piano?

Because to be human is more than simply to survive, or to seek food and shelter. It is also to imagine, to hope, to dream, to transcend, to transform.

Music in a place like Gaza, in the words of Lukas Pairon, from Music Fund, the charity that helped restore the grand piano, ‘is a form of rebellion against being narrowly defined as living beings who only want the basic things – food, protection, security – who are only in survival mode.’ Or as Sara Aqel put it, ‘Music might not build you a house or give you your loved-ones back. But it gives you joy.’

More here.