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Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Nelson Algren Committee hosted the 22nd annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party last night at the Wicker Park Arts Center, 2215 W. North Avenue in Chicago’s Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood, the center of Algren’s fictional world. The Party is an entertaining and edifying tribute to the National Book Award-winning author of The Man with the Golden ArmThe Neon WildernessChicago: City on the Make and other works that reveal Chicago from the bottom up.

The event also celebrates community artists and activists whose work reflects Algren’s own feisty compassion. This year’s recipients of the Nelson Algren Committee Award include artist, organizer and free speech crusader Chris Drew, neighborhood writer, performer and educator Maritza Nazario, media reformer Scott Sanders, and humane animal husbandry and food safety advocate Richard Wood.

As always, the party featured a wide range of poetry and performance. This year’s edition included (among others) Algren scholar Mike Jones from the University of Connecticut; noted local poets Michael C. WatsonGregorio Gomez and Paul Friedrich; musician/memoirist/screenwriter Josh Friedman, who talked about Algren’s friendship with his father, humorist Bruce Jay Friedman; hobo scholar and historic re-enactor Paul Durica; legendary blues and stride pianist Erwin Helfer; activist and writer Maureen Murphy, a victim (as was Algren) of FBI harassment; Franco-American novelist Delphine Pontvieux, who read from the letters of feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir to her beloved Nelson; music from the band Friends of Chloe (and others), and performance by veteran Chicago actors Gary Houston and Richard Henzel. In addition, the group celebrated Algren’s induction into the first “class” of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame and, as always, saluted his entry into the world (or at least Detroit, where he was born 102 years ago) with treats and a rousing rendition of Sto Lat, the Polish birthday song.

Committee members Warren Leming and Hugh Iglarsh MC’ed this year’s event, ably assisted by members Nina GaspichAlice Prus, Charlie Newman and Kurt Jacobsen. When the Committee started in the late 1980s, just a few years after Algren’s death, his work was out of print. In 2011, his books are available (even in the Chicago Public Library, which once took Never Come Morning off the shelves), he’s commemorated with a plaque and a fountain, City on the Make has recently been dramatized, and a movie starring Johnny Depp is reportedly in the works. But he is still under-read, under-appreciated and under the radar – as illustrated by the fact that he has never been included in the city’s “One Book, One Chicago” program – and the Committee’s work goes on. For updates and more information, visit the Web site at or call the Algren Hotline at (773) 235-4267.  (text written by H.Iglarsh)

Here’s the article that came out in the Reader:

from the Red Eye blog:

Chicago tribune:


RTT news

New Basque Separatist Party Banned

(RTTNews) – Spain’s Supreme Court has turned down an appeal by a recently formed Basque separatist political party that supports the armed militant group ETA, which is fighting for autonomy, to legalize it.

The Supreme Court ruled on late Wednesday that it was “opposed to the inscription of Sortu as a political party,” because it had not sufficiently distanced itself from the violence of ETA.

The court heard argument from the federal government that Sortu is just an “extension” of the banned Batasuna party, and that it should not be allowed to contest municipal elections to be held in the Northern Basque country on May 22. Sortu can now appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Announcing the launch of the party in the Basque city of Bilbao in early February, Basque nationalist Left-wing representative Rufi Etxebarria vowed that Sortu “will neither justify nor defend the use of violence, including by ETA.”

Etxebarria said it had already rejected violence as a political strategy, and pledged its “firm and unwavering commitment to pursuing a purely political and democratic course, with no turning back.”

Spain has not granted permission to any of the parties emerged as the alternatives of ETA’s political wing Batasuna, which was banned in 2003, to operate in the country.

Formation of the new party is seen as a purely tactical move by the radicals to participate in municipal elections.

Mediator Brian Currin warns of ‘prolonged conflict’ and explains how the ban of

SORTU sets back the peace process in the Basque country

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Brian Currin says dialogue is key in conflict resolution. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK
Brian Currin says dialogue is key in conflict resolution. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

The Turkish government’s refusal to open dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, “only prolongs the conflict,” according to a lawyer experienced in mediating between state officials and armed groups.

“If the South African government had refused to sit at the same table with the people it saw as terrorists, there would not have been a big peace process in the 1990s, Nelson Mandela would not have been released in 1990 and South Africa would probably be in a state of civil war today,” said Brian Currin, a South African lawyer who played a mediator role both in his own country and also between the Spanish government and the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

“The only way to achieve peace is through dialogue and negotiation. To use security resolutions only prolongs the conflict,” Currin, an expert on conflict resolution, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview Tuesday.

The situation was similar in Northern Ireland’s conflict with the IRA, he said. “It is the same for Northern Ireland, where we have worked for the last 14 years. If the British government had said it would never speak to terrorists, there would not be peace in Northern Ireland,” Currin said.

In order to achieve an end to the conflict in Turkey, the PKK also needs to stop the violence, he added. “You cannot expect negotiation when there is violence,” Currin said. “In order to resolve a conflict, you have to place yourself in the shoes of the other side. I would say the same thing for the PKK.”

The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, declared a unilateral cease-fire Aug. 13 that it then extended in November until the general elections, expected to be held in June. The pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency reported Feb. 28, however, that the outlawed group had ended the cease-fire.

Addressing the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, Currin said the focus in chaos-ridden countries needed to be on ensuring that government institutions do not collapse. “Irrespective of who is in power, the government institutions should not collapse in these countries. If the administration collapses, the country moves into chaos,” he said.

Currin added that the most important thing in carrying out the U.N.-authorized decision to intervene in Libya is to avoid causing any civilian deaths.

ETA had to get legalized

Similar to the situation in Turkey, where various pro-Kurdish political groups have been banned for links to the outlawed PKK, Spain banned the Basque separatist group Batasuna in 2003 because of its links to ETA. The group now says it has launched a new party that explicitly rejects the use of violence.

“If they want to participate openly and freely in any peace process negotiations, the only way in which they can play a meaningful role in trying to resolve the Basque conflict would be to get legalized,” said Currin, who has been working as a facilitator between Batasuna and the Spanish government for the last three years. “They can only do that if they are legal as a political party. That has really been the conversation I have been having with Batasuna for the last three years.”

Following internal conversations with the leadership, as a consequence of its own consultation process, Batasuna has come to the conclusion that it needs to form a party that complies fully with the party political law of Spain, Currin said. The group created a new party, SORTU, last month.

“This new party is not declared unlawful in the country. It published its manifesto and there is general consensus about the party in the Basque country, including among the Basque nationalist party PNV, as well as the socialist party [there],” he said. “All acknowledged that the manifesto of SORTU complies fully with the party political law and the party should be legalized.”

Currin drew attention to the fact that the Spanish government has brought the legalization process to court and challenged the registration of the new party.

“They are of the position that this new party is a strategy of ETA and therefore should not be legalized. I think this is most unfortunate,” he said.

“The Batasuna left has done everything the Spanish government said they should do for the last three years. They rejected violence with exclusively peaceful means and have disassociated themselves from any organization involved in violence, including ETA,” Currin said. “I cannot see how there can be a connection between ETA’s continued existence and this new party now.”

The lawyer said he was confident that if this court did not oppose the banning of SORTU, the Constitutional Court of Spain would oppose the ban. The court decision on SORTU’s registration is expected to come out within two weeks.

Back from my book tour in Florida, which was a great success, I want to thank everyone who made it possible, i.e. Coco for the AC/BC book club in Wellington, Michelle and the amazing team at Saks for the Saks Fifth avenue book signing in Palm Beach, Francis at la Cigale for the book signing in Delray Beach, and of course everyone who came to the book signings, and all the AC/BC book club members. Please find below photos of the different events.

AC/BC book club in Wellington, FL:

17 members of the book club were in attendance to discuss ETA-Estimated Time of Arrest with author Delphine Pontvieux.

The house was decorated for the occasion, and Kathy, owner of People Will Talk catering, prepared a special menu for the event. Many of the recipes for the Basque tapas came from the book PINTXATU (available at a special price of 25$ on the Miss Nyet website only,) and the cd compilation that comes with the book provided an energetic soundtrack for the evening.

click here for photos :

Book signing at Saks Fifth Avenue:

This was a repeat visit from November 2010. Everything was top notch again, from the gorgeous location of the signing table by the entrance doors, to the sweet treats served with champagne.

As if this were not enough, every person who bought a copy of ETA or Pintxatu (or both!) was given a large Saks Fifth Avenue tote bag (in a choice of turquoise or coral) filled with perfume, beauty creams, make up and haircare samples.

Please click here to view the photos of the event:

Book signing at La Cigale in Delray Beach, FL

Not only La Cigale is a great spot to enjoy a cocktail on any given evening, the French food, with a Mediterranean flair, is absolutely phenomenal and the people who work there are wonderful.

Francis, the owner, and his team had reserved a whole  room to set up the tables for the book signing, and there was a 2-for-1 drink special offered for the duration of the event.

Please click here to view the photos of the event:

Again, thank you, Florida, for a wonderful time.

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Here are a few photos of last “Apero du mardi”, organized by the French in Chicago association, where Delphine Pontvieux was invited to sign copies of her book “ETA-Estimated Time of Arrest” last Tuesday.

For everyone who lives in the Chicago area, you are most welcome to join the rest of the group every month and mingle. The formula is 12$ with 2 glasses of wine and food, and fun, informal conversation with francophones and francophiles alike who want to have a good time and socialize. The locations vary, (French restaurants, bakeries, etc) so the best way to know about their schedule is to join their facebook page to find out where the next event is taking place at in Chicago.

The pictures may be a little dark, but it’ll tell you what this is all about. Last event was held at Paris in Chicago, a great little restaurant/creperie in the heart of Boystown. We hope you check it out, they are wonderful people.

For all who speak/read French, please check out my latest article published in France Amerique magazine:

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