On Memory: An Evening with Palestinian Writers at the Arab British Centre

On October 29th, the Arab British Centre hosted Selma Dabbagh, Jehan Bseiso, Farah Chamma and Ahmed Masoud, who came together to talk about what memory means to them as Palestinian writers. Behind the headlines and milestones and tweets, there are people and stories and morning rituals. There are memories and details so resilient they pass from … Continue reading On Memory: An Evening with Palestinian Writers at the Arab British Centre

Ruqaya Izzidien’s The Watermelon Boys

The Watermelon Boys is the debut novel of Iraqi-Welsh journalist Ruqaya Izzidien. Set between 1915 and 1920, the novel tells a first world war story with a difference: in this novel, the main protagonists, Ahmad and Carwyn, are Iraqi and Welsh. The novel focuses most on the story of Ahmad and his family, though it … Continue reading Ruqaya Izzidien’s The Watermelon Boys

Leila Aboulela’s Short Story Collection Elsewhere, Home

Leila Aboulela has been on a book tour recently with her short story collection  Elsewhere, Home which includes some of her earliest stories, like "Coloured Lights," as well as stories written more recently such as "Circle Line." Aboulela read from her new book at a book launch at the Migration Museum on July 4th. She was … Continue reading Leila Aboulela’s Short Story Collection Elsewhere, Home

MFest 2018

This weekend was MFest, "UK's first festival of culture and ideas dedicated to Muslim communities," which took place at the British Library between the 28th-29th April. The programme included several panels relevant to this blog. I was particularly interested by the panel "Spicing Up Sci-fi: The Dunes Strike Back" featuring Emirati writer Noura Al-Noman, author … Continue reading MFest 2018

Banipal Book Club discusses Frankenstein in Baghdad

Yesterday The Banipal Book Club met at the Rosetta Stone Bookshop to discuss Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. There was quite a crowd at the store, reflecting the book's popularity both in the original Arabic and -- perhaps even more -- in translation. The unprecedented success of this particular book in translation did come … Continue reading Banipal Book Club discusses Frankenstein in Baghdad

Speaking in Tongues, Night Terrors in Arabic

"Night Terror," the first story in the short story collection Double Dutch by Laura Trunkey begins with the following passage: "He was speaking Arabic in his sleep. Her son -- who could barely manage three words in a row in English -- had an incredible fluency in a language she recognised only from television news clips." … Continue reading Speaking in Tongues, Night Terrors in Arabic

Hisham Bustani’s The Crossing

Hisham Bustani's short story "The Crossing"  has been translated into English by Maia Tabet and appears in the current issue of Newfound.  The short story was originally published in Arabic in Bustani's The Monotonous Chaos of Existence (2010). In Newfound, it appears in both Arabic and English, as in Bustani's previous work, The Perception of Meaning, … Continue reading Hisham Bustani’s The Crossing

World Literature and the Vernacular

  While doing some research on writing in Egyptian 'ammiya recently,  I came across a satirical cartoon from the 20s featuring a peasant woman (or literally, bint-el-balad, daughter of the land),  and what might be called the Egyptian New Woman, described in the cartoon as al-fata al mustarjila sa'iqat al-automobile -- the "mannish" girl who drives … Continue reading World Literature and the Vernacular

Egyptian Arts Festival D-Caf (March 31- April 22)

D-Caf (Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival)  returns for its fifth edition on March 31 running until April 22. "Egypt’s only international multi-disciplinary contemporary arts festival," D-CAF has everything from literature readings to concerts, to film and theatre, comedy stand up and a puppet show. Dina El Wedidi and Khansa Batma open the show with a concert at Horreya Garden. … Continue reading Egyptian Arts Festival D-Caf (March 31- April 22)

Native: Dispatches From an Israeli-Palestinian Life

Sayed Kashua's new book Native: Dispatches From an Israeli-Palestinian Life is a collection of reflections written between 2006 and the summer of 2014, when Kashua left Israel and moved to the US to teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Native was originally published in Hebrew as Ben Ha’aretz. As Adam Kirsch writes, this "title that contains an untranslatable pun. Literally, it … Continue reading Native: Dispatches From an Israeli-Palestinian Life

Leila Aboulela’s The Kindness of Enemies

Leila Aboulela’s The Kindness of Enemies, her fifth novel, explores the complexities of loyalty, religion and  nationalism, and the human yearning for belonging. The story is structured as two parallel narratives, a third person historical narrative set during the 19th century Caucasian war, and a contemporary narrative narrated in first person by Natasha Wilson, a … Continue reading Leila Aboulela’s The Kindness of Enemies

International Prize for Arabic fiction shortlist

This year, the shortlist for the IPAF (International Prize for Arabic fiction) includes "a Syrian novel about Islamic State’s occupation of Raqqa to an Egyptian dystopian thriller" among other novels that “address the tragedy of the present-day Middle East.” The Syrian novel is A Sky Close to Our House by Shahla Ujayli,  although since we … Continue reading International Prize for Arabic fiction shortlist

Hisham Bustani’s The Perception of Meaning

Hisham Bustani’s The Perception of Meaning is an eclectic collection of texts, ranging from one sentence flash fiction to poetic passages to retellings of fairytales and longer works, including "History will not be made on this couch". Throughout, the original Arabic is mirrored on the opposing page by the translation into English by Thoraya El-Rayyes. As … Continue reading Hisham Bustani’s The Perception of Meaning

“It’s Much More Than A Pause”: The State of the Arts in Libya Today

Today in The National, Nick Leech writes about the Fergianis, the Libyan family whose name has become synonymous with books. He talks to Ghassan Fergiani, the managing director of Darf Publishers, about the history of the Fergiani bookstores, and how the current situation is impacting their new publishing ventures. As with Rim Taher's article from … Continue reading “It’s Much More Than A Pause”: The State of the Arts in Libya Today

Ghada Karmi’s Return: A Palestinian Memoir

In Return: A Palestinian Memoir, Ghada Karmi frames her reflections on being a Palestinian in exile with an account of her "return" during a 2005 UN assignment as a consultant to the Palestinian National Authority, during which she travelled to "places she hasn’t seen since her childhood; places that now have to live with the grim reality … Continue reading Ghada Karmi’s Return: A Palestinian Memoir

Dia Batal and Selma Dabbagh: “I Am From There”

Dia Batal's work, currently on display in the exhibition Tracing Landscapes, "uses Arabic calligraphy as a vehicle to explore notions of identity, memory and migration." In her unique script, Batal brings words to life in various forms, including writing on silk screens, and creating the words out of powder coated metal. I am from there, for example, takes a … Continue reading Dia Batal and Selma Dabbagh: “I Am From There”

Suheil Badi Bushrui Passes Away, 1929-2015

Palestinian poet, translator and scholar Suheil Badi Bushrui has passed away in Yellow Springs, Ohio, at the age of 85. Professor Bushrui was the founder and current Director of UM's Kahlil Gibran Research and Studies Project and the first holder of the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace. He published and edited many works, including the first annotated edition of Gibran's The Prophet (1995); The … Continue reading Suheil Badi Bushrui Passes Away, 1929-2015