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Articles tagged "Middle East"

Exiled in Europe: An Interview with Three Women Writers

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has often examined the question of exile in essays and articles. Exile is indeed a place, he has written, a desolate space where one must confront the question: “Is there a moment when you know intuitively and accept that you have now truly arrived in exile?” He also suggests that a writer’s temperament is that of “a creature in a permanent state of exile,” since his or her real vocation is the eradication of the barriers of reality....

From the Archives: Graphic History

With this seventh edition of our annual graphic novel issue, we've now published close to eighty graphic works. Despite the "comics" label, many of these pieces are anything but playful, as artists and writers turn to the graphic form to document painful histories both political and personal. Some of our most powerful pieces present memoirs grounded in world events, such as Zeina Abirached's autobiographical graphic novel "Game for Swallows," translated from French by star...

The Beginning and End of the Oil Curse?

Why does oil wealth so often become a curse for developing states?  In the developing world, oil-producing states are fifty percent more likely to be ruled by autocrats, and more than twice as likely to have civil wars, as non-oil states. They are also more secretive, more financially volatile, and provide women with fewer economic and political opportunities.  For the last thirty years, good geology has led to bad politics. Not all states with oil are susceptible to the...

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...

July 2011

On Etgar Keret

Phillip Lopate's essay was included in the accompanying booklet to WWB's March 5th event at the Idlewild bookstore in New York City. It is also part of our ongoing discussion of Etgar Keret's Girl on the Fridge, all this March, moderated by Adam Rovner.—Editors Like any magician worth his salt, Etgar Keret starts with mundane objects and familiar scenarios, then transforms them into utterly unpredictable shapes. Sometimes the magic is white, sometimes black: if the...

This Animated Life: An Interview with David Polonsky

An interview with David Polonsky, the artist behind the Oscar-nominated film and graphic novel Waltz with Bashir. A few simple descriptions would suffice to understand just how rich and strange an artwork Waltz with Bashir truly is: an animated documentary film. A war movie that is primarily about the machinations of memory. A historical narrative that feels painfully relevant. Now, after winning the Golden Globe for best foreign film and receiving an Academy Award nomination in the...

“BE HERE NOW”: An Introduction to “Yalo”

"How can I describe to you what happened to Yalo…the truth, sir, the truth that only God knows, is that my memory is distorted and I don't know." Yalo takes place during Beirut's 1975 Civil War, as well as its prologue and its aftermath. After years of occupation by the Ottoman Turks and the French, ending during WWII, and a series of governments through the 50s and the 60s, the civil war of the 70s was a bloodbath crush; a larger war filled with volatile, small...

on Translating “Yalo”

Drake Stutesman: Yalo is interesting for the various different voices that it employs, and the ways in which it combines vernaculars, languages and perspectives into a single narrative. What do you think this multitude of elements points to, and how did you work to incorporate them into the English text? Peter Theroux: Yalo is remarkable among Arabic novels for the way Khoury lets his characters speak naturally. He definitely belongs to a new wave of Arab novelists who treat Arabic as...

from “Seven Moral Failings”

Now was the time to ask for a recommendation from David. In fact, he had already intended to raise the subject at their morning meeting, but then that student had appeared, whose name, he discovered, he had forgotten again, and the whole matter had dissolved. He really had to find supplementary sources of income, now that he'd retired. He couldn't depend only on his pension. That was especially true in New York, where the cost of living had become intolerable. Fisher planned to...

The 2007 Book Clubs are Here!

2007 Words Without Borders/Reading the World BOOK CLUBS ARE HERE ALL ARE INVITED TO READ, COMMENT, AND PARTICIPATE RTW BOOK CLUBS 2007 LINEUP: JANUARY and FEBRUARY James Marcus and Cynthia Haven, Collected Poems by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Alissa Valles) James Marcus introduces Zbigniew Herbert Cynthia Haven interviews Peter Dale Scott Peter Dale Scott talks about translating Herbert's "Pebble" with Czesław Miłosz Anna Frajlich discusses human...

St. Mesrop Cycle

EULOGISTIC Most holy grave of Oshakan, Soil of intellect today, from whence An illustrious history of fifteen stormy centuries, From East to West--two Armenias entire, Moves freely, praying, toward You . . . Endless dead one of Oshakan, You with thousands of branches, Golden-tongued river of knowledge, Redeemer of the mind, Titan of hope, Center of life, You, reduced to eternal dust, You, vault of inextinguishable torches, To whom I came, like a beggar, In my days of...

Encounter

I have a feeling that it is a mistake to go to the party at Mr. M.'s, especially under the circumstances. Things have tightened up once more. Again scarves have to be pulled down all the way to the eyebrows and legs covered in thick, black stockings. Again the loose-fitting, ankle-length smocks have to be worn. They are once again slashing women's bare legs with razors and shaving the heads of young boys or publicly flogging them in city squares. And yet no one is really scared or...

from The Assembly of Secrets

This is how the story began. On that day, which was the sixth of January, 1976, Madame Sarah Nassar died, aged eighty-odd years. The death was expected. The only one to be taken by surprise was Ibrahim Nassar. Fifty-four years old, he stood like an imbecile before his paternal aunt's body and rocked with tears. He walked behind the bier tottering and almost falling over. He tied the white cloth around his head and walked behind his aunt's body, his red face at the point of...

Who Is an Israeli Writer?

Who is an Israeli writer? Israel's dominant language is Hebrew. Its twentieth-century renovation was central to the Zionist project, it is the language of the common culture, and the equation of Israeli=Hebrew is everywhere evident. But for some twenty percent of the country's citizens, their first language is Arabic. Another twenty percent arrived relatively recently from the former Soviet Union. So for a very big part of the population, languages other than Hebrew are preferred...

The Stranger in His Own Icon

The one whom you found by chance in the mirror, whom you found, by chance, in the mirror in its dark side to be exact was there, alone, thinking of you and trying to ingratiate himself with your isolation He is the one whom you called out of his darkness and fed with your hands because you were in need of company-nothing more You called out to him and he came you beckoned to him and he jumped to his feet You would hardly turn your back when he would stare at you...

A Lady Who Does Not Resemble Me

A lady who does not resemble me emerges now from her dream, still warm She opens the window to the friendly morning and tempts its birds to perch on her brocaded shawl. She then finds time to preen herself in front of the mirrors and is discomfited by a wrinkle of age incising a line across her cheeks and by a certain instability in the price of gold And I am here in a land of wind with many problems waiting for his funeral and for fatigue. A lady who does not resemble...

The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret

Almost all of the thirty (very) short stories in Etgar Keret's wonderfully vivid collection, The Nimrod Flipout, take place against backdrops that are deceptively banal. Each site, though, eventually reveals a rupture, a tear in its seeming ordinariness through which the perverse, bizarre or fantastic is oozing in. Tremendously popular in his native Israel, Keret has consistently voiced a desire for his stories to explore and engender ambiguity and to challenge aspects of life that...

I Loved You for Your Voice by Sélim Nassib

Modern Egypt is a dream unfulfilled. Independence from Britain was supposed to usher in a glorious era in which Egypt would unite the Middle East under the banner of pan-Arabism. That dream died in 1967, when Egyptian forces suffered a catastrophic defeat in the Six Day War against Israel. Egypt's charismatic president Gamal Abdel Nasser resigned soon after, and in recent years Egyptians have lived under a notably corrupt and incompetent dictatorship propped up by billions of dollars in...

The Rooster’s Egg: A Fable of Ancient Thebes

It is hard not to read this story as a lesson about the arbitrary nature of power and attendant reversals of fortune. Some historical background: Akhenaten, originally Amenhotep IV (1353-1335 B.C.), was the "heretic" pharaoh who officially rejected the traditional Egyptian pantheon, and instituted a new, monotheistic religion, centering on the worship of the sun disk, Aten. However, as modern Egyptians reading this would know, the priests of Amun in fact got the last laugh: after...

Egyptian Literature Today

As the largest Arabic-speaking country (at 70+ million inhabitants and counting), Egypt, with its teeming capital of Cairo, plays a disproportionately large role in the intellectual and cultural life of the Arab world. From the pan-Arab nationalism of the 1950s and 1960s to the Islamist movement of today, Egypt has always been at the forefront of new ideas in the region. But while Egypt is very much part of a greater Arabic-speaking literary and cultural milieu, Egyptians are also keenly...

The Dark and The Daylight

NOTE: Mahmoud El-Wardani (born Cairo, 1950) has published six novels and several collections of short stories. Typically his works are dispassionate and discontinuous depictions of ambiguous, disturbing situations. Imprisoned for student activism in the 1970s, el-Wardani was also one of those who transported the bodies of deceased soldiers during the 1973 war. For several years now, el-Wardani has worked as a senior editor of Cairo's weekly literary magazine Akhbar al-Adab. In his...

The Veiler of All Deeds

NOTE: Born in 1968, Hamdy Abu Golayyel is of Bedouin origin and lives in Cairo. In keeping with a growing trend in Egyptian fiction, Thieves in Retirement-the novel from which this excerpt is taken-is set in a crowded Cairo apartment building, the various inhabitants of which offer a cross-section of Egyptian society, while highlighting a modern sense of displacement and urban alienation. Thieves in Retirement will be published by Syracuse University Press in 2006. People are...

Happiness

I believe the stretcher whisked by two as the patient's coma is interrupted on it. I doubt the sympathy in the eyes that follow the scene. I respect the fisherman because he is the only one who understands the fish. Then I peel its scales spitefully. I have no patience to contemplate the sea while my fingers are stained with the palette's colors. At the moment of waking my spirit is dark. I do not remember any of last night's dreams except the urge...

When Clothes Were Small

NOTE: This poem is taken from a debut collection published in 2005, entitled Yesterday I Lost A Button. All of the poems in the book revolved around clothes-their personalities, their memories, and their desires. Only 24 years old at the time of the book's well-received publication, Fathy is a promising new name in Egyptian poetry. Neither thread had a desire to couple but they were forced and out of that union fabrics were born to a traditional, arranged marriage the...

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