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October 2012

Smoke billows from oil wells on fire
Per-Anders Pettersson, "Fighting Oil Fires In Kuwait," 1991. Courtesy of the artist and Getty Images.

Image: Per-Anders Pettersson, “Fighting Oil Fires In Kuwait,” 1991. Courtesy of the artist and Getty Images.

This month we explore the role of oil in the international landscape. Oil transforms nations, links disparate political and social ideologies, breeds conflict, and drives governmental and corporate policy; our writers show how this force, both blessing and curse, shapes lives and literature around the world. We begin with an essay by political scientist Michael L. Ross connecting oil wealth and national development. Russian Booker nominee and award-winning short-story writer Alexander Snegiryov presents the (show) business of oil in Russia. In two graphic pieces, Lebanon’s Mazen Kerbaj mourns what’s left of his pillaged country, and Italy’s Davide Reviati grows up in the shadow of Ravenna’s ominous petrochemical plant. Translator Peter Theroux shows how Abdelrahman Munif’s great Cities of Salt runs on oil. Afrikaans star Etienne van Heerden’s solitary South African experiences hydrofracking firsthand, while science fiction writer Andreas Eschbach’s stolid loner taps a sixth sense for oil. In two tales of oil workers, Argentina’s María Sonia Cristoff and Germany’s Anja Kampmann explore solitude, madness, and other occupational hazards. And poet Stephen E. Kekeghe protests the draining of Nigeria.

The Beginning and End of the Oil Curse?
By Michael L. Ross
For the last thirty years, good geology has led to bad politics.
Petroleum Venus
By Alexander Snegiryov
From the heavens black gold pours down.
Translated from Russian by Arch Tait
We Have
By Mazen Kerbaj
We have nations that we don’t want.
Translated from French by the author
from “Morti di Sonno”
By Davide Reviati
“If one of those things explodes, the city’ll blow up too.”
Translated from Italian by Jamie Richards
Abdelrahman Munif and the Uses of Oil
By Peter Theroux
“Cities of Salt” was no more about oil than “The Godfather” was about olive oil.
Landscape image of Karoo, Beaufort West, South Africa
Photo by Juanita Swart on Unsplash
Poison Karoo
By Etienne van Heerden
Perhaps I will poison a petrol engineer’s coffee.
Translated from Afrikaans by Isobel Dixon
By Andreas Eschbach
No one seriously considered the idea that the world’s oil deposits might be limited.
Translated from German by Anne Posten
State of Hypnosis
By María Sonia Cristoff
After a while you reach a dazed state, a stupor in the face of nothing in particular.
Translated from Spanish by Sarah Ann Wells
Pulse beyond the Horizon
By Anja Kampmann
For six years Arabian Drilling has clocked my time.
Translated from German by Annie Janusch
When Can We Be Sane?
By Stephen E. Kekeghe
A precious oil meadow that churns out / Bent and Sweet Crude
Translated from Urhobo by the author