Lee Gillette

Lee Gillette lives in Brussels.

Diary: In Brussels

Lee Gillette, 7 January 2016

It seems​ long ago. The city on lockdown, the raids, the cat tweets. Vestiges remain, some of them new. A green army lorry was parked at the weekly market across the street. It hadn’t been there the Monday before, and the Monday before that was the lockdown and the market was cancelled. The Saint-Gilles town hall overshadows the market. One of the mayor’s eight deputies told me...

From The Blog
22 March 2016

Fifteen years ago I woke in my flat at the northern end of Manhattan, unemployed and hungover. I munched on a stale bagel while gazing out the kitchen window at the Palisades. A friend who’d recently moved out of the city called on my landline, the only line I had: ‘I got through – Lee! The towers are gone!’ I turned the radio on and heard the chaos, then ran downstairs to the bar I’d left a few hours earlier. On the way I watched a white man accost an Arab cab driver, yelling: ‘I’m gonna call the cops on you!’ The bar’s television showed the towers fall countless times over the next three hours. I took the subway as far south as it went, then walked as close to Ground Zero as I could, close enough anyway to leave footprints in the dust. This morning I woke in the Brussels commune of Saint-Gilles, not much more employed and hungover from last night’s weekly outdoor market and apéro in front of one of the city’s nineteen town halls. I had two text messages: ‘We just heard the news, are you OK?’ I knew instantly what had happened. Those two messages asking if I was all right were enough to tell me there’d been an attack in Brussels and people had died while I slept.

Michael Wood writes that Dieng, the hero of Ousmane Sembène’s film Mandabi, likes to walk the streets of Dakar ‘in his best outfit, a shirt-dress called a boubou, about ten sizes too large, more like a tent than anything else, and he has to keep flopping the folds over his shoulders, and nipping them in at the back as he walks’ (LRB, 17 June). Judging from the cut of boubous all over West...

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