Image: Mounir Fatmi, "The Lost Springs," 2011 2 brooms of 3 meters, 22 flags of the Arab League. Image note: Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hussenot
This month we continue our exploration of the Arab Spring with literature from the countries of the uprisings. Moving from North Africa to the Middle East, we present writing from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. In prison memoirs and comic fiction, from the distance of exile and the immediacy of the barricades, writers interpret both the insurrections and the contexts in which they occurred, providing an invaluable perspective from which to consider this ongoing revolution.
We open with an interview with Rafik Schami, whose work has been banned in his native Syria for forty years, discussing the tortured history and uncertain future of his country. Cécile Oumhani and Syrian poet Aïcha Arnaout discuss writing the revolt. Jordan's Elias Farkouh finds a child's dream day ends in a nightmare, while Beirut39 honoree Mohammed Hasan Alwan observes a young man's musical (and sentimental) education. Bahraini poet-activist Ali Al Jallawi recalls his brutal arrest and imprisonment. On the brink of his departure from Yemen, Mohammed Algharbi Amran's young medical student confronts the past, and the father, he's never known. And Arab Booker nominee Wajdi Muhammad Abduh al-Ahdal tests the grammar of freedom.
Elsewhere, in a gathering of Scandinavian poets, Rune Christiansen ponders memory and death, Thomas Boberg feels dejection, Frederik Bjerre Andersen invents a character, and Gunnar Harding looks back fifty-five years.
A Conversation with Rafik Schami
Syria was the first Arab republic to pass on power by inheritance.
You won’t believe me when I tell you that I am meeting my son for the first time.
The assailant had pulled the niqab from her face during the struggle.
God After Ten O’Clock
I could kill you and throw your corpse in the garbage.
I spent all the funds my mother sent and returned to Riyadh at the end of vacation having slept with the woman fifteen times.
Dolls and Angels
When Hannan was within a few steps of her house, she saw everything.
A Scream Has No Alphabet: An Interview with Aïcha Arnaout
Can we write a revolt when it is still under way?
Rags of screams, a flight of black cloth.
Reviewed by Emma Garman
Reviewed by Jean Harris
"Animalinside" is a cultural event in itself.
Reviewed by Mythili G. Rao
Monzó is a master of the open-ended conclusion; his characters are often left hovering either on the brink of breakthrough, or of a perfect replay of their previous errors