Tuesday, June 10, 2008

John Biguenet at Center for Art of Translation

In this case "translation" was from short story to play. John Biguenet, journalist, novelist, playwright, and an editor, along with poet Sidney Wade, of the Center's 2008 collection of translations, STRANGE HARBORS, is still living with anger and grief over the Katrina disaster. The first floor of his home, with his library and manuscripts, was flooded. With great difficulty he sent out news bulletins from the disaster zone. The home of the director of his new play, RISING WATER, Ryan Rilette, was also flooded. Angrily, Biguenet asked repeatedly, "Why were 1,000 American citizens killed and a great city destroyed?"

[Best to click on VIEW ALL IMAGES]:

Biguenet stated that it was the fault of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who did not want to lose the job of reinforcing the levees, and they kept secret that Congress had failed to give them sufficient funding to do the job properly. Biguenet described the tragedy of a destroyed city, followed by chaos in the city and in the psyches of everyone touched by the disaster. Much more than a city was destroyed.

Telling some of the horror stories about the ways people died, Mr. Buguenet came close to breaking down, and sometimes he cannot witness his own play.

He described how one couple went for a walk after the hurricane passed, as there is often pleasant weather just after the storm passes. They were walking down the street with their dog and were puzzled by the wall of fog they saw in the distance, rolling toward them, then realized it was a wall of water. They tried to make it back to their house, but soon they were up to their waist in water. Their house was elevated but by the time they were in the house, the water was up to their necks. They went up into their attic, and the water still rose so the husband broke out a vent and they climbed up onto the roof. They were there for a day with their dog, then a man came by in a boat and said he would give them a ride to a highway overpass above the water, but he would not take their dog. In the argument that followed, the man in the boat fell out of the boat, and the husband had to dive down in the deep water and save the man, who then was willing to take the dog along with the couple.

Some people who took refuge in their attics and were trapped there in the terrible August heat in New Orleans and died of dehydration.

Ryan Rilette, managing director of the Marin Theater Company, brought two actors, David and Sarah (didn't catch their last names) to read a portion of Mr. Biguenet's play. In RISING WATER, the first of three plays connected with Katrina, a couple is trapped in their attic, able to see the water below the grave-shaped door in the floor.

The Katrina disaster was destructive of relationships, said Mr. Biguenet, describing how one person left their partner saying: " I could love you any place in the world but not now in New Orleans."

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