The genteel French film Monsieur Ibrahim, directed by François Dupeyron, is based on the book Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, who also coscripted the movie. It is a tender story about a Turkish Muslim and a French Jew. The setting is 1960s Paris, in the gritty but colorful Rue Bleue district, once infamous for its assortment of streetwalkers.
First there was the twitch of the olive leaf lipping its stem, then the sigh of silt, settling, and the surrender of crickets, their legs, like fans, folding, when the trill of a brook, intoxicating, irresistible, like the grace of his Lord, carried him away that evening— no chariot for Enoch at the age of 365 who walked with God and simply like the last day in a year was no more.
This time of year, what with bulbs bursting through to light, crashing headlong into color, puff balls of sudden pink, cloud clumps of eager violet and white crowding, clustering, clambering up and along each naked stem and branch, what with the gray lawn’s sweet, impulsive greening, the chill creek’s snow-melt speedy surface coat of foam and flashing ripples, what with these birdsong brimming dawns, these chirping, marsh-born, peeper chants that hymn the day to rest, what with such hastening, glad abandon rushing, coursing, flooding, charging toward life, tales of a vacant tomb, of bindings cast like scattered husks and the rumbling of a cold, dead rock to clear the way for all that is to come, such tales seem almost natural. What else should we have expected, after all?
They warned us, like innocents, not to name our goat, to exercise good sense, refuse to see him as a pet or even, oops, as him. Just do whatever all it takes to tame the thing toward that appointed time when goat and fate should meet, when the dull drawn blade would withdraw blood from funny, fuzzy throat.
For days or weeks, we avoided eyes, made it a point to see the animal as meat. Through open window, so relieved, I heard you say to our neighbor, “No, you do it.”
And kindly, our neighbor did—spared you, and me too. But I will never forgive myself the rare deliciousness of the stew.
A professor of the theory and practice of social media, Clay Shirky, doesn’t let his students use electronic devices in his classes. It’s not just that he can’t compete with the hardware or the software. Studies show that multitasking is bad for the kind of cognitive work required in a classroom. It has a negative effect on memory and recall. One study showed that students who multitasked in class scored lower than those who didn’t. The presence of electronic devices also distracts those who aren’t using them. “I’m coming to see student focus as a collaborative process,” Shirky said (Washington Post, September 25).