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World! World! World! is a novel that focuses on the question: in what way is the world remaking itself in the 21st century, as its political, economic, and cultural gravitational centre moves away from the "West" to the "Rest"? Set in Dubai, just as the global financial crisis erupts to the sound of Chinese-made fireworks, the story follows the travels and travails of a historian called Far Luis Sabah. He is on a double quest: to find the woman whom he loved and lost a decade before, as well as what he calls "the idea of the future." Dubai is to Far what the Underworld was to Orpheus.
The back-story to this story is that between 9/11 and the financial crisis, Dubai exhibited symptoms as the post-modern city in post-colonial entropy (Parag Khanna's term). You could probably tell every (geo-political) story that mattered at the start of the 21st century - in both the West and the East - through some symptom that Dubai exhibited during that era. All the world was there, for the first time, once. My own Graham Foundation supported travels through the Gulf, and the broader Middle East investigate the vertical provenance of Dubai through history and through its Arab (and also non Arab) precursors: at some point or another, various cities have held the accolade of progressive, modern state of exception: Manama, Beirut, Baghdad, Kuwait City. It is usually war that thwarts their reign - and now, with the "Arab Uprisings", new and new-old power relations loom over the region, repressing and returning things from the repressed. There are also more distant hauntings: Shenzhen, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Celebration and Aramco. All these referents are encoded into the experience of the visitor to Dubai, and to the reader of the novel, something Basar calls "Approximate Deja-vu."
In a place where reality operated as a spectacle of fiction, then here, fiction is the most truthful way to portray "truths".
Shumon Basar has (co)edited the books Cities from Zero, With/Without, Did Someone Say Participate?, Hans Ulrich Obrist Interviews Volume 2, and he is a contributing editor at Bidoun and Tank magazines. He also cofounded the print-event collective sexymachinery. He collaborated with Eyal Weizman and Jane & Louise Wilson on a film entitled Face Scripting which debuted at the 2011 Sharjah Biennial. At the AA School, London, he directs the Cultural Programme, where he co-curated the Graham Foundation supported exhibition The World of Madelon Vriesendorp.
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