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Articles tagged "Arab Spring"

“Limbo Beirut” by Hilal Chouman

Limbo Beirut is a novel in short stories that most definitely requires rereading. Each of its five constituent stories unfolds over different spans of time and is centered around a different character. What unites them is that they are anchored by a specific time and place—Beirut, May 2008, when the ostensibly dormant embers of Lebanon’s civil war briefly came to life again. Lebanon had been stable after fifteen years of war from 1975 to 1990, and the country’s young...

The Dump

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"Did you remember what I asked for?"

I Will Leave, without Lying Down on the Dewy Grass Even Once

“So does this mean I’ll leave this world without lying down on the dewy grass even once?” “There are more important things than that to think about, actually, but if that’s what’s on your mind, you could still do it. You’ve got at least three weeks left.” “But there’d be no point now. I’m not going to.” I didn’t let him say anything else, and I left before he could start with the trite words of consolation. In...

Awaiting a Poem

They await you: The new poem They await your downpour through my soul My hands shaping your features I stand with my heart agape To observe this desolate world As it falls into ruin Blood covers everything Prayers no longer know Where to go I await you I listen for your cautious footfall Yes The world has become a graveyard But the sun rises The breeze caresses a girl’s cheek The sea does not forsake its blue The swallows tell me of my childhood Hidden beneath their wings And...

The City and the Writer: In Cairo with Mohamed Farag

October 2015 Special Series: Egypt   If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.                —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities   Can you describe the mood of Cairo as you feel or see it? Can we describe the mood of Cairo in one word? I doubt it....

The Liberated Voice: Three Writers from Syria

Clearly the most important duty for the outsider looking to read new Syrian literature at the moment is not to expect a consistent voice or search for a monolithic take on the current period of Syrian history—or on anything else, for that matter. As a translator of Arabic literature and a sometime resident of Damascus with many Syrian friends, perhaps the most depressing question one gets asked is “What do Syrians / Syrian women / Arabs / young Arabs / ordinary Arabs think about...

Magdy El Shafee Arrested and Held at Tora Prison

Magdy El Shafee, author of Egypt’s first graphic novel, Metro, was arrested by security forces on Friday in downtown Cairo. According to fellow author Muhammad Aladdin, El Shafee was detained near Abdel Moneim Riyad Square, where clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and protesters had raged throughout the day. According to legal activist Dr. Negad El Borai and multiple other sources, El Shafee had gone down to try to stop the clashes and was arrested at random along with...

Magdy El Shafee Publishes “Metro” in English

It's Metro Day at WWB. We're celebrating the publication of Magdy El Shafee's graphic novel, available today from Metropolitan Books in Chip Rossetti's translation. Readers will recall that WWB published an extract in February 2008, and that the book was seized on publication in Egypt and Magdy and his publisher put on trial. You can hear Magdy talk about his book in this interview. The book has appeared in Italy but is still not available in the original Arabic, in Egypt or...

Tahrir Square, One Year Ago

As the events of the Arab Spring unfolded last year, WWB published a number of dispatches from and about the affected countries.  One of our favorites came from Egyptian graphic novelist Magdy El Shafee. With his fellow artists, Magdy was creating and distributing a graphic journal on the abuses of the Mubarak regime. When we invited him to report from Tahrir Square, Magdy documented the uprising exclusively for WWB. One of the challenges of recording demonstrations is capturing the...

Homeless Rats: A Parable for Postrevolution Libya

Libyan writer and diplomat Ahmed Ibrahim Fagih’s Homeless Rats is a quasi-fantastic historical novel that offers considerable insight into Libyan culture and geography, in particular that of the Western Jebel Nafusa, which played a key role in Gaddafi’s ouster. The plot revolves around the efforts of members of a displaced tribe from the town of Mizda (Fagih’s birthplace) to cope with severe drought in the late 1940s, just before Libya’s Independence in 1951,...

Declining Freedom

Translator’s Note:  In Wajdi al-Ahdal’s novel Donkey in the Choir, Tha’ira, the rebellious wife of a Yemeni politician, has neglected work on her master’s degree since her marriage to Ali Jibran.  Morning excursions through Sanaa provide her some relief from the boredom of her sequestered life. Meanwhile a serial killer has moved into the Hulqum neighborhood of Sanaa. Once the killing spree begins, the subsequent police investigation quickly identifies a...

A Conversation with Rafik Schami

Rafik Schami was born in Damascus in 1946, came to Germany in 1971, and studied chemistry in Heidelberg. Today he is the most successful German-speaking Arabic writer. His novels have been translated into twenty-three languages and received numerous international awards. His bestselling books include The Dark Side of Love, The Calligrapher's Secret, and Damascus Nights. Syrian journalist Nadia Midani spoke with Rafik Schami earlier this year. The following is an edited transcript of...

The Fountain

When the inscrutable embraces sluggish time spreading its invisible light between two suspended shores rags of screams, a flight of black cloth spread a hollow vertigo down the native alley Sanctuaries in ruins, fathomless crypts, sepulchres with no remains merge above a beaded sheet wrapped around the earth’s flank The eye of silence peers and sinks into the snowed-up scene tears it up like a lightning-blade digs the earth to the bone a grave for the wandering...

A Scream Has No Alphabet: An Interview with Aïcha Arnaout

Born in Damascus, the poet and novelist Aïcha Arnaout has lived in Paris since 1978. We have had quite a few conversations over the past few years, often at the Marché de la Poésie, an annual event that takes place in early summer on the Place Saint-Sulpice, in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Last March, she became totally engaged in the Syrian revolt, working day and night to send news updates and attend meetings in support of her people. We no longer meet at readings,...

Mukhtar

When my mother asked me to spend the summer in her brothers’ house in the south, I employed every sophistry of my sixteen years—an age when only a mother pays attention to your budding philosophy of life—to explain to her that life forces surge northward, that the south, from which she and my father came, was becoming obsolete, that Ibn Khaldun (who had inspired this claim) was a great man, that the money could be better spent on a vacation, and that her brothers were...

Hanzala

It’s August 2000, and I’m overwhelmed by this emotional leavetaking. It’s the first time you’ve ever dreaded visiting your grandfather al-Atawi, but it’s because you’re saying good-bye—before you depart for Baghdad. We never thought you would travel overseas and leave us. Sanaa is twenty-seven kilometers west of your grandfather’s village, Hisn Arfata. You have persuaded me that you can say good-bye to your grandfather without telling...

God After Ten O’Clock

The State Security Building: The First Arrest of the Seagull It was maybe three or four o'clock, or maybe sometime in between. Why am I trying to establish an exact time? Curses on the clock that forces me to define my movements, my sleep, my mealtimes... The time was __________. I think it's better that way, isn't it? I jumped up, rubbing my eyes, at the sound of violent banging on the door of the house, and looked down at the courtyard from the window of my room. My...

Dolls and Angels

Hannan didn’t realize how late it was or even that it was late. Today was different. It was an extraordinary moment in every respect. Her mother was no longer the woman she knew, and the neighborhood wasn’t the same one that she had always found outside her doorway. At dawn, before foot traffic picked up or the rusty metal barriers of the shops were raised, her mother had quit her bed, which was located to the left of the door. Hannan remembers that this was after the dawn...

August 2011

An Open Letter to Mohamed Bouazizi

Dear Brother: I write these few lines to let you know we’re doing well, on the whole, though it varies from day to day: sometimes the wind changes, it rains lead, life bleeds from every pore. To tell the truth, I’m not quite sure where we stand; when you’re up to your neck in war, you can’t tell till the end whether to celebrate or mourn. And there it is, the crucial question: whether to follow or precede the others. The consequences aren’t the same. Some...

Path of Light

Where have you come from? From the other world. And where are you going? Towards the other world. Rabi’a al-’Adawiyya “Song of the Hermit”   I slept for three centuries on a bed of stones I saw things men had forgotten I measured the distance that separated heaven from earth I read the palm’s lines I delivered the augury a voice not my own spoke from my mouth I disappeared into a city that had disappeared armed horsemen invaded our plains...

The Mothers

From now on the mothers will sleep alone among the portraits of the dead only the mothers know where they’ve gone and how the long labour of dying had distanced them already from the living alone from now on the mothers wander among the graves of the departed reciting down those avenues of death prayers in unknown languages telling the heavy beads of dispersed time they no longer measure time by nights that fall across the earth nor by mornings rising on the world...

Founding Fathers

Author’s note: The Iraq in the novel is an imaginary Iraq, and I tried to use it as a symbol for all the Arab countries. Most of the characteristics of the four dictators in the novel are derived from different Arab dictators. The one who wants to modify the axis of the earth and organizes a world conference for that is clearly related to Gadhafi. Each one of them represents a certain type of dictator. “That’s really them! Who would have believed it?” Adil...

Publishing in Tunisia: An Interview with Elisabeth Daldoul of Elyzad

Elisabeth Daldoul founded her publishing house, Elyzad, in Tunisia almost six years ago. My first experience with her was with A cinq mains, a book in which she published five short stories written by five different women writers either from the Maghreb or related to the Maghreb. She had asked each of us to write about the hand, drawing our inspiration from this powerful image in Maghrebi culture or simply approaching the theme in its more universal associations.  We were totally...

I Call You Tunisia

I I heard your voice at daybreak Like a scarlet dawn Giving birth in darkness The years’ turning back On themselves Rocking the ebb and flow On the shore of a sea At once full and empty I caught your light Lost a thousand times in the distance A thousand times recovered Beyond fog Beyond dreams Against the drowned reefs Your calling saved me from shipwreck II I mended the nets of your dreams Gnawed down with use Days without sails Masts and oars confounded On...

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