Sunday, September 28, 2008

Short Story: Weddings and Beheadings by Hanif Kureishi

Weddings and Beheadings by Hanif Kureishi is an interesting title. I found it online in a back issue of Zoetrope: All-Story.

"You don't know me personally. My existence has never crossed your mind. But I would bet you've seen my work: it has been broadcast everywhere, on most of the news channels worldwide. Or at least parts of it have. You could find it on the Internet, right now, if you really wanted to. If you could bear to look. "

The narrator seems to be a film-maker who is made to video tape beheadings by some people who seem to be terrorists. Although the place is not mentioned, it might have been set in Afghanistan or Iraq or any such place. At least thats what I presumed. It is a short story but makes one sit up and notice. Here the narrator, the place and the terrorists, all remain nameless.

It is dark, deeply sad for the victims as well as their families yet it has that black humour. To quote a few lines of conversation between friends who take such shots:

"Don't bury your head in the sand, my friend. Don't go losing your head now. Chin up!"

"It's too dark, it's not going to come out and you can't do another take."

"You'll get a prize for the next one. Don't you guys love prizes and statuettes and stuff?"

At one point you do feel he is enjoying his work in a macabre way.

"To make the shot work, it helps to get a clear view of the victim's eyes just before they're covered. At the end the guys hold up the head streaming with blood, and you might need to use some handheld here, to catch everything. The shot must be framed carefully. It wouldn't be good if you missed something. Ideally you should have a quick-release tripod head, something I have and would never lend to anyone."

Maybe it his way of being clinical. After all it can affect the mind. This line of work. How did the title come about? It is explained by the narrator in the story:

"Until recently, my closest friend filmed beheadings, however he's not a director, only a writer, really. I wouldn't trust him with a camera. He isn't too sure about the technical stuff, how to set up the equipment, and then how to get the material through the computer and onto the Internet. It's a skill, obviously. He was the one who had the idea of getting calling cards inscribed with WEDDINGS AND BEHEADINGS."