The Nuremburg rallies and the Israeli raid on the flotilla

I’m not suggesting a moral equivalency. I’m just saying that today before the reading I’m doing tonight, I wanted to see the stadiums where the Nazi party held their notorious rallies, and that it was the same day I learned of the Israeli raid on a flotilla of boats intending to bring humanitarian aid to blockaded Gaza. The Israelis killed, as far as we know, 9 people. I wonder at the persistence of terror, the intransigence of fear and how it leads to more terror, more fear, and on and on.

These images speak to a bleakness I feel.





All that is left of the platform where Hitler stood addressing the throngs

Berlin Synagogue Restoration

Berlin Synagogue

German plaque describing its fate on Kristallnacht

Berlin Synagogue exterior

Dedicated in 1866, its facade has Moorish qualities.

Berlin Synagogue facade

You can see the writing in Hebrew

Berlin Synagogue detail of door

Detail of one of the doors

Berlin Synagogue Timeline

A timeline of the synagogue

Berlin Synagogue Before and After

How the synagogue looked during reconstruction (top) and after Allied bombing destroyed its dome (below)

Berlin Synagogue hand washing fragments

These are the fragments of the basin where hands were washed before touching the Torah

Berlin Synagogue Torah

The Torah, and behind it a photograph of the synagogue in its glory.

Berlin Synagogue no longer exists

Here is what the photograph depicts looks like today. You can see the back of the synagogue in black far back across the empty courtyard.

Berlin Synagogue Pulpit pieces

These are the piece of the pulpit they found in the rubble

Berlin Synagogue Window

One of the windows, with some of its fragments restored, others are missing.


The Reichstag after the Battle for Berlin that ended World War II in Europe

I gave a reading last night at Cafe Hilde in Berlin. Jessa Crispin, founder of, hosted and asked questions, as did members of the audience. One of them was a young woman from Lahore, where my third novel, the one I’m writing right now is set. Another was Freie University Professor Manan Ahmed, who blogs at Chipati Mystery about South Asia. He’s from Lahore also.

Today I walked around Berlin, which has always been, for me, a place of ghosts. I have trouble here. I see the wreckage instead of the new orderliness that has transplanted it. The bombings that killed 80 at two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore yesterday were with me. I felt, as Manan did on his blog, that we are all Ahmadis. In Berlin it’s easy to remember that man’s inhumanity to man knows no national or religious boundary. It is everywhere with us, and has always been with us.


I’m in London today promoting The Room and the Chair, which is newly available in the UK from Portobello Books. This morning I did a live radio interview on BBC 4’s Today show. It’s Radio 4’s most popular radio show with 6 million viewers. I arose at 7 a.m. (2 a.m. New York time) and attempted to speak with wit and aplomb, neither of which I possessed. My interviewer was a terrifically awake Sarah Montague. She was joined, via phone from Bristol, by a well-caffienated Nick Davies, a reporter who has written a book called Flat Earth News saying that journalism is in dire straits. Sarah and Nick had all kinds of brilliant objections to my premise that the truth can be gotten at better by fiction than by journalism. By the end of my six minutes and 19 seconds, they’d both convinced me I was rather daft. More interviews this afternoon…

Women Without Men

The Iranian video and photography artist Shirin Neshat has always impressed and moved me. When it comes to visual artists, for me, she’s the bomb, the ultimate genius. ¬†She’s been working on the feature film Women Without Men–her first–for seven years. I saw it last night at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street.

The review in the New York Times, which I’m glad I didn’t read beforehand because it gave away so much of the movie, honored the work. Yet the review doesn’t do justice to the film’s power or its bravery. As Neshat said in her introduction last night to the film, so much of Iranian art and literature that reaches the West concerns the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979. That makes Iran seem a static nightmare. Here, Neshat turns to a more dynamic historical turning point that has been relatively ignored: the British and American supported overthrow of the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh and the reinstallation of the Shah to power.

Neshat’s portrayal of this politically rich time comes from an adaptation of Shahmush Parsipur’s magical realist novel set in 1953 Tehran during the days leading to the military coup. The novel, regarded by many as a masterpiece, allows Neshat’s visual acumen and imagination to shine. Some of the images from the film are stunningly effective. I just hope people see the film.