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October 2012

Oil

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. 

In our second feature, Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze, introduces three pieces connecting Ethiopia and Italy. Italo-Ethiopian novelist Gabriella Ghermandi returns to her homeland to honor her father, graphic novelist Paolo Castaldi tracks a tragic emigration, and poet Surafel Wondimu curses the gods.

Abdelrahman Munif and the Uses of Oil
By Peter Theroux
“The most fabulous geological event since the explosion of Krakatoa surely was the discovery of oceans of petroleum beneath the dark and backward Muslim realms of the Persian Gulf.” …
The Beginning and End of the Oil Curse?
By Michael L. Ross
Why does oil wealth so often become a curse for developing states?  In the developing world, oil-producing states are fifty percent more likely to be ruled by autocrats, and more than twice as likely…
Petroleum Venus
By Alexander Snegiryov
From the heavens black gold pours down.
Translated from Russian by Arch Tait
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Landscape image of Karoo, Beaufort West, South Africa
Photo by Juanita Swart on Unsplash
Poison Karoo
By Etienne van Heerden
Horrified by plans for hydrofracking in his native Karoo region of South Africa, an old man returns to investigate in this excerpt from Etienne van Heerden’s novel.
Translated from Afrikaans by Isobel Dixon
Block
By Andreas Eschbach
No one seriously considered the idea that the world’s oil deposits might be limited.
Translated from German by Anne Posten
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