This month and next, we're documenting the Arab Spring with literature from the countries of the uprisings. Following the sequence of events, we begin in North Africa with writing from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Tunisia. In fiction and polemic, poetry and reporting, writers offer insights both on the insurrections and the contexts in which they occurred, providing an invaluable perspective from which to consider this ongoing revolution.

We open with German Trade Prize winner Boualem Sansal’s tribute to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian whose self-immolation set the events of the Arab Spring in motion. Activist Nawal El Saadawi provides a snapshot of the first days of the Egyptian uprising, and Miral Al-Tahawy tells of a peasant girl carried off by the Chief of Bedouins. Laila Marouane, author of The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris, contributes a harrowing portrait of Algerian misogyny and oppression. Laila Neihoum presents a manifesto for Libya, while her countryman Fadhil Al-Azzawi opens a theme park for deceased dictators. From Sudan, poet Tarek Eltayeb considers recent history, and Amir Tag Elsir’s novice writer courts a pompous novelist. And from Tunisia, Cecile Oumhani interviews the publisher Elisabeth Daldoul, while poets Amina Said and Tahar Bekri speak of a country under siege. Next month we'll turn to Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.

Elsewhere, our Man in Madrid series wraps up with Doménico Chiappe’s tale of an author turned ghostwriter, and Jonathan Blitzer's illuminating interview with the author. And in poetry from three Latin Americans, Nicaragua's Ernesto Mejía Sánchez keeps watch in a translation by William Carlos Williams, Mexico's Olvido García Valdés reflects on the moon, and Argentina's Horacio Castillo considers the Arctic.

Our Man in Madrid

The Writer of Memories

I felt the arrogance with which one regards the dispossessed.

Three Poets Writing in Spanish


I no longer know / whether I live / or swoon.

With March’s Moon the Photo

Slow, the moon / returns month by month

The Rook, the Crow, the Magpie

In order to walk lost in thought each could /become a talker.


Three times I’ve offered my heart as bait.


The blind have been chosen to see it all.

The City of the Sun

How could they suffer us to name the bird magnolia?

The White Breast, the Black Breast

My mother had a white breast and a black breast.

Book Reviews

Antonio Lobo Antunes’s “The Land at the End of the World

There’s a feral quality to this particular novel’s narration, with sentences that furiously push forward for entire paragraphs.

Is This How Women Grow Up?

When the massacres began in 1990 we had our doors bullet-proofed.

Path of Light

I crawled to your lips across a bed of thorns

The Mothers

Our second home is built / in the avenue of death, say the mothers

Founding Fathers

Some visitors responded to the waves of the leaders of yesteryear by giving them the finger.

I Call You Tunisia

How the dream had lost its plumage / In the skies of your nest.

The Egyptian Revolution Won’t be Fooled

The battle continues and the revolution continues.

from “The Grub Hunter”

Some texts I compose naked in a closed room with the drapes drawn and not a breath of air.

O My Libya

When Nowhere’s left for you we’ll take your place.

Certain Suspicions

The glass in the windows will burst.