Image: Doaa Eladl, "Global Warming Effect." Courtesy of Cartoon Movement.
This month we present humor writing translated from the Arabic. Arabic literature has a rich tradition of the comic, grounded in human folly and a keen sense of the absurd in both the personal and the political. From pompous generals to toiling laborers, in nuptial chambers and crowded graveyards, the characters in this issue offer comedy both specific and universal. Libyan author Najwa Bin Shatwan’s hapless ghost risks his (after)life as he seeks a final resting place. In two pieces from Egypt, Muhammed Mustajab looks on as quarry workers literally roast on the job, while the great poet and songwriter Ahmed Fouad Negm’s satirical lyrics skewer the powerful. Classic Iraqi writer Ibn al-Jawzi's twelfth-century taxonomy of morons proves that stupidity has always been a current event. And in two romantic farces, Lebanon’s Sahar Mandour faithfully records a young TV star’s serial infidelity, and Yemeni playwright Wajdi Al-Ahdal’s wedding scene is upstaged by an assassination attempt. We thank our guest editor, M. Lynx Qualey, for her contributions and sharp introduction to the issue. Also this month we bring you writing from the Himalayas via oral tales on the theme of migration, committed to paper and translated into English by Noor Zaheer.
Warning: Arabic Humor, Makes Frequent Stops
Humor has that paradoxical quality of being absolutely universal while also being deeply embedded in linguistic wordplay and sociocultural zeitgeist.
“There is hope. There is joy. Come on, George, let’s grab a slice of some of that fun and happiness for ourselves!”
Blood in Flames
Men can be angels when joy is in the air.
The Book of Stupid People
I shall tell you about one of the nitwits.
After I fell for him, I never cheated on him again, except that time in Paris. And that other time.
The Colonel’s Wedding
“Did my bodyguard not explain to you that I asked him to stand in for me during the wedding ceremony . . . ?"
Reviewed by Deborah Bragan-Turner
A Stockholm apartment where two children live with their mother is the main setting for this book, an intimate portrait of a family in crisis that won the prestigious Swedish August Prize and has been described as a chamber play.
Reviewed by M. Lynx Qualey
Distinguished with the 2017 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, this multi-generational novel confronts traditional taboos to tell a late-in-life love story between two Palestinian refugees living in Jordan’s Baqa’a camp.