4/22/2013

Time for heroes: Jonas Hassen Khemiri

 (picture taken from here)

Since my last two heroes here were women, I thought it might be time for a male hero of mine to be introduced. I first came across Jonas Hassen Khemiri, when I had to read his first novel "Ett öga rött" in a seminar I took. A few months later, I decided to write my bachelor thesis about contemporary immigrant literature in Sweden and so I read all of his other stuff, too.

He is - hands down - brilliant! There is actually nothing to add to that, but I will add some, just to be safe. Not only is this man obviously so smart, he scares me slightly (like all crazy intelligent people do...), he also makes me want to applaud every time he verbalises a thought, because he does it in a way that will impress even the snottiest academic and at the same time, the simplest of school kids will be able to understand it as well. The things he writes are not comfortable, these are no books you read before falling asleep at night. Because they force you to think. They force you to contemplate and reflect on your own prejudices or views, simply by telling you a story. Call me easily impressed, but I think, that is quite amazing.
What impressed me most with Khemiri though, are a few articles he published in Sweden's largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, about xenopobia in his every day life. Khemiri, who has a Swedish mother and a Tunisian father, has been confronted with racism on a daily basis and has a first-hand insight into the problem. Earlier this year, he wrote an open letter to Beatrice Ask, the Swedish minister of justice, concerning a draft law that will make it possible for the Swedish government to deport refugees and illegal immigrants more easily.
I actually planned to translate the article for those of you who don't speak Swedish, but since I am no professional translator, I feared I might destroy the beauty of Khemiri's writing style. Also, it is about 2000 words long, so it would have taken a while and I am a lazy bastard. But just a few days ago, a slightly different version of Khemiri's article was published in the New York Times, and you can read it here. For those of you who do speak Swedish, the original article is here.
I can only recommend reading these articles and Khemiri's novels. He taught me a lot. And he helped me achieve my academic degree. So, thank you very much, Mr. Khemiri! If I ever meet you in person, the first round of beer is on me...

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