13 October 2010

In the garden of the yellow villa of Alfred de Zayas and Carolina Edelenbos at Crêts de Pregny, some 30 members and friends of the United Nations Society of Writers/Société des Ecrivains des Nations Unies (UNSW/SENU), a UN club dedicated to the promotion of cultural diversity through literature, assembled for a fun afternoon and evening of multi-lingual poetry, to celebrate 20 years since the founding of this literary journal on 14 August 1989. Some participants recited, others sung their poetry, e.g. Antony Hequet, who also introduced his project Flux, un geste poétique collectif, focusing on the mystical dimension of water and its life-giving significance throughout the existence of the planet. Subsequently members of Ex Tempore participated in a “happening” on lake Geneva celebrating the Rhone River and its journey from the Alps to the Mediterranean.

Anthony Hequet
Many other participants listened to their delight until late evening. A worthy celebration of 20 years of producing literature in all UN languages . UNSW/SENU was launched on 14 August 1989 by Sergio Chaves (Argentina), Leonor Sampaio (Brazil) and Alfred de Zayas (USA). Over a capuccino at the Bar de la Presse of the Palais des Nations, the founders argued that there was plenty of literary talent in the house and that it was time to tap it. Over the past twenty years the Club has held many salons with poetry readings in all UN official languages (and in several non-official, including Berber, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Quechua and Vietnamese), combined music and poetry events, theatre presentations with Aline Dedeyan and other UN colleagues, guest readings by UN New York and Vienna staffers, and multimedia events.

Jacqueline Simon, Irina Gerassimova, Aline Dedeyan at the garden party of 14 August 2009
During his introduction de Zayas recalled the early days of the Society and the decision in 1989 that the Club’s journal had to be crisp, uncomplicated, impromptu — and as far removed as possible from the UN jargon of resolutions and reports — thus the name Ex Tempore was born. Twenty volumes of this journal (with up to 164 pages!), favourably reviewed in the Geneva and international press, demonstrate that UN staffers can and do write first-rate literature:
“We wanted to prove that we could write not just bureaucratic, pseudo-intellectual stuff, but valid, enjoyable, enthusiastic, entertaining, melancholic or soul-searching stories – the stuff of literature. The most boring part of our adventure was drafting and amending the statutes and getting our own ISSN number.”
At the last UNSW/SENU general assembly held in September 2009 at the Palais des Nations, the Club elected David Winch as President; Carla Edelenbos as Vice-President; Ngozi Ibekwe as Secretary; Janet Weiler as Treasurer. Alfred de Zayas was confirmed in his function as Editor-in-chief . UNSW/SENU entertains synergies with other literary clubs, including P.E.N. international, the Société genevoise des écrivains and the Société vaudoise des écrivains.

President UNSW David Winch and Vice-President Carla Edelenbos
De Zayas, retired Chief of Petitions at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and currently Professor of International Law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy, hosted the commemorative event and liberally read out from previous volumes of “Ex Tempore”, the UN literary journal, volume XX was recently published. He paid tribute to the enormous contribution of former UNSW/SENU Presidents Leonor Sampaio and Karin Kaminker and read out from Sergio Chaves’ Anthology:
“He elegido las estrellas que me guían.
He soplado el humo que adormece.
Tengo fe.
Feliz me lanzo al firmamento”.
“No debe el ritual sacralizar lo que es ya sagrado por su inmovilidad y su silencio, eso no quere decir que no tenga que humanizarse el frío de las piedras.”
David Lewis, formerly of WHO, read some of his classical sonnets on Greece:

I Ancient and modern

See how the sky is wide, the water clear,
How dust gives birth to olives, fruit of peace;
Know now why men and beauty flourished here,
Why wisdom’s culture first took root in Greece.
The ancient sun still bright, I breathe the air
And see the working earth, the water’s flow,
And then at night in softer, shady glare
I glimpse the light that day can never show.
Though sturdy stocks must have a clouded view
(In clarity and fire they cannot last)
Like Icarus, Greeks gazed beyond their due,
So jealous time now melts their marble past.
Still, without clouds as islands in the sky
I’ll try to swim the stars where comets die.

II Mycenae

Mycenae’s walls preserve the guilty queen,
The headless lions are dumb to say the way,
The beehive tombs ignore his death unclean,
But Agamemnon’s song can sound today.
For I have trod in Agamemnon’s cave,
And I have seen the glory of his race,
So I can hear the music of his grave
And still can look on Agamemnon’s face.
But if one day a shining mask is found
By modern men who poke and peer and pry,
Three thousand years protected by the ground,
Defaced and stilled the mythic man will die.
And deaf they’ll call corrupted ashes King,
Though dust nor old and beaten gold can sing.
Alfred de Zayas read his translation of Hermann Hesse’s Stufen:

Ex Tempore Salon of 22 January 2010
As every blossom fades and youth must pass,
so every stage in life will only flower
in its time, all wisdom, virtue has its hour
and should not overreach, its prime surpass.
Alert to every call from life, the heart
must welcome new beginnings — learn to part
from all without regret, embracing new
engagements bravely, open to what may ensue.
In all commencement dwells a magic power
that protects us, guiding us through life anew.

Content to stride from space to space, we should
not cling to any as our own. The Life Force would
not bind us nor restrain, but broaden our
horizons, step by step enhancing us.
No sooner are we settled, that our impetus
declines. Impending slumber comes upon us,
habit weighs us down. Thus only those prepared
to part and wander prosper unimpaired.

Perhaps the hour of death will yet afford us
newer spaces, younger hopes. Life summons us
at every stage, recalling its true worth...
Bid farewell, Heart: In parting is rebirth!

Ex Tempore Salon of 22 January 2010

The Board of Ex Tempore is pleased to report that copies of volume XIX (2008 – International Year of languages) and volume XX are still available, and that volume XXI is in progress and shall be devoted to “music as international language”. Indeed, 2010 is a splendid year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederic Chopin and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler.
For the journal’s forthcoming issue, the Editorial Board invites literary efforts of general interest, short stories, science fiction, humour, poems or aphorisms in any of the UN official languages, or in other languages, together with a translation. These may be sent electronically to Alfred de Zayas: zayas@bluewin.ch, David Winch dwinch@unog.ch, or Carla Edelenbos cedelenbos@ohchr.org.
Membership in UNSW/SENU is open to active and retired staff of the United Nations, specialized agencies, CERN, Permanent Missions and Observer Missions, and the UN-accredited press corps, as well as fellows and interns. The membership fee is 35 fr. per year, which can be paid directly into Ex Tempore’s account with the Union de Banque Suisse (UBS), branch office at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, account No. 279-CA 100.855.0.
For more information see

A new Ex Tempore website is under construction and shall be operational in the fall of 2010. www.extempore.ch