Friday, 15 January 2010

Red Letter Day

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

ONE THREE NINE THREE, my darlings, one three nine three.  After yesterday's dispiriting loss, I sternly sat at my desk today until I had bashed out 1393 words.  I managed to remember about the people of Bhutan, and threw in the nomads of Mongolia for good measure.  Then I tore off on a quite unexpected tangent which led to a small discursive moment on the origins of ambergris (the intestine of the sperm whale, if you must know). The theory of this chapter is starting to cohere, although it is still prone to contradiction, diversion, and, I must be frank, occasional waffle.  Still, dammit, I shall follow the muse where she leads, as long as there is life in my fingers.

One of the things I like about writing non-fiction is that I have to look a great many things up. In a slightly Rumsfeldian way, this is not just because of the things I know I do not know, but also because of the things I think I know I know, but in fact, do not. And one of the things I love about looking things up on the internet is that, although it can be more fruitless and time-consuming than consulting a book, it does lead me to unexpected destinations.  I follow random links and make new and delightful discoveries.

My discovery today was the great photographer Emilio Morenatti. I should really know about him; he has been in Afghanistan and Pakistan for years, and his work is so arresting and ravishing that it has won him awards.  First I found his photographs, which are heartbreaking and acute and utterly beautiful. Then I looked him up. I discovered that he is Spanish, and that he was blown up in Afghanistan. This rocked me back. His foot was amputated, and the last I can find is that he was being fitted for a prosthetic device in America.  This was from last year, and I can find no news since. I do not know if he is back to work, or has learnt to walk again. I fervently hope so, because he has one of the most brilliant eyes I have ever seen in a photographer.

The picture of the day is his. This was the first one I found, the one that made me want to see more.  It is not his most famous, but it the one that speaks most to me. It is of Afghan girls watching a UN drop of ballot papers for the election of 2004:

Afghan children by Emilio Morenatti AP

By Emilio Morenatti/AP.

And this is of the photographer himself, being wheeled into hospital, still working:

Emilio Morenatti photographed by Enric Marti AP

By Enric Marit/AP.

I hope that he is recovering well.


  1. According to the New York Times he is back at work.

  2. Mystica - how brilliant you are to know that. And it's such good news. Thank you.


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