Aminatta Forna in Conversation with Sharon Gelman

September 25, 2018 

Reading 7:00 PM | Copley Formal Lounge

Please note there will not be a seminar for this event.

From Happiness

—Aminatta Forna

On the way back to the hotel Attila remembered a poster he had once seen in a spinal injuries unit intended to demonstrate the damage done by certain kinds of poorly designed chairs. It showed a seated crash dummy, the caption read: ‘Major trauma at 0 mph.’ What if the damage was not contingent on suffering? What then? He walked down the Strand, past the Savoy. On the other side of the river, the lights of the South Bank theatre and concert halls were up. The actors would be preparing to perform emotions for those who had never felt those kinds of emotions in their lives and perhaps never would. Suffering had become a spectacle that served not to warn of the vagaries of misfortune but to remind the audience, sitting in warmth and comfort, of their own good fortune.

A society went numb, Attila thought as he waited for the lights to change, as often from being battered by fate as from never being touched. The untouched, who were raised raised under glass, who had never felt the rain or the wind, had never been caught in a storm, or run from the thunder and lightning, could not bear to be reminded of their own mortality. They lived in terror of what they could not control and in their terror they tried to control everything, to harness the wind. The women for whom Adama sewed clothes, upon whose bodies she fitted dresses, so afraid of their own mortality they would cross the road rather than confront a reminder of it. No shadow could be allowed to darken their lives as they imagined them. They were terrified of the slightest hurt, afraid of fear itself.

The glass dwellers were terrified of the cloche being lifted. They treated the suffering of others as something exceptional, something that required treatment, when what was exceptional was all this.

‘All this!’ he said aloud. In the cold and dark nobody turned to look at him.

All of this.

Read more about Aminatta Forna

About Sharon Gelman

Sharon Gelman is a writer, editor, media producer, and human rights advocate who believes in the combined power of art and activism.  She was the US editor of the nonfiction book 200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World, which afforded her the opportunity to meet and interview Aminatta Forna among other remarkable women including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Margaret Atwood, Isabel Allende, Alicia Garza, Linda Sarsour, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, and Roxane Gay.

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