From Page to Stage: What Emerges ‘In Between’ Politics and Art in George Packer’s Betrayed
George Packer, ‘Betrayed: the Iraqis who trusted America the most’, New Yorker, 26 March 2007.
George Packer, Betrayed: A Play, New York: Faber & Faber, 2008.
George Packer, Betrayed, directed by Robin Stanton, Berkeley: The Aurora Theatre Company, 23 January – 8 March, 2009. The West Coast Premiere (following on from the world premiere staged at New York City’s Culture Project during 2008).
The gulf that separates politics and art can haunt us. Bounded by the strict parameters of pragmatism and rationalism, political endeavours can and often do disclose the textures of life that belie the thrust of history and the grand narratives of the day. But having done so, rarely do they embed us in and emancipate us from the very real and often absurd human emotions, desires and urgencies that propel political actions. Something more is needed: something at once personal, emotional and rational that communicates what is often lost in translation. The purpose of this essay is to chart the gulf that typically separates politics and art. To do this, it will analyse the process and impetus that pressed George Packer, an American political analyst, to transcend and translate his New Yorker article, ‘Betrayed: the Iraqis who trusted America the most,’ into Betrayed, a political play. Tormented by the findings and inadequacies of his own political analysis, Packer quickly found himself ‘haunted’ by the ‘inadvertent bluntness’ and ‘accidental poetry’ that is often at the heart of politics but which politics cannot always adequately express. As an article and play inspired by the lives of Iraqi translators employed by U.S. forces in the current war in Iraq, it raises some of the most pressing legal, political and moral concerns in U.S. foreign policy and international relations more broadly. In so doing, Packer also captured the inadequacy intrinsic to legal, political and moral discourses.
The full article is available as a PDF document: click here.
© borderlands ejournal 2009