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Kafa al-Zou'bi : The Bag of Wheatthe youngest of our foursome won scholarships to attend college, books started making their way into our house. These books were like guests from a realm far removed from the world of the village, its scorching heat, and its soporific noon hours dominated by the drone of flies that served as still another manifestation of boredom and stagnation. It was a realm alien to people who praised God morning and evening for every tragedy that afflicted them, and who constantly asked forgiveness for sins they were helpless to stop committing. Books of literature, poetry and philosophical inquiry, they were guests from a world where words were laden with meanings we had never encountered before, a world of words that brought cherished hopes of justice, equality, and change for the better.
Bothayna Al-Essa Lost in Mecca excerpt from a Novel translated by Nancy RobertsIn the meantime, Sumayya had completed seventeen rounds of her tawaf, and she’d started to feel as though her legs were about to detach from her body and go on orbiting the Kaaba forever. She was walking in circles with no beginning and no end, in search of a Mashari who had melted into the crowd. She hoped against hope that she would find him in the spot where she had lost him, loyally circling around the same point that she was. Her face drenched in tears and perspiration, she lifted her hands heavenward and cried: “Lord, I take back all the prayers I’ve ever prayed. Just bring my son back to me!” Health, wealth, the promotion she’d hoped for, for Faisal, a second child after four miscarriages. She didn’t want any of it any more. Every few seconds she would check the phone in her hand, hoping it would ring, hoping to hear his voice saying “Mama?” and telling her where he was waiting for her so that all this terror could come to an end.
Fatena Alghorra: Three poems Translated by Jonathan WrightTake this body/ Cover it/ carefully/ It doesn’t call for blankets/ You just need to wrap your arms around it/ for things to start/ You’ll find gaps and big holes/ Don’t let this worry you/ or scare you away/ They are small embers that have fallen/ and no one has picked them up/ It might seem rather cold to you, and dark,/ it’s no more than the fallout from a continual autumn
Ahmed Morsi : Poems - Photos from the New York Album translated by Raphael CohenOne of the neighbours said,/ while I was trying to throw out last week’s newspapers/ for recycling:/ “Would you believe it/ ?Larry’s dead./ ”It seems my face did not reflectthe/ expected expressions of grief/ and she started talking about Larry/ and his wife Linda:/ “They were on the West Coast/ escaping the perishing cold of New York./ On the way back,/ before reaching the gate/ he dropped dead on the terminal floor/ holding the boarding cards.”
Banipal 65 Special Feature on Iraqi writer Fadhil al-AzzawiThe main feature of this Summer issue is on Iraqi poet and novelist Fadhil al-Azzawi and his “Beautiful Creatures”. He has been a contributing editor of Banipal since it started and during these years we have been thrilled to see some of his works translated into English, including in Banipal issues, as well as, below, the excellent translations of poetry and fiction. His works are so innovative and original, so full of compassion and heartache, of conceptual leaps, rich references and linguistic surprises that we did not hesitate to include on the front cover a note by Arial Dorfman striking the very same note – the first time we have ever done that for any author.When we look at the volumes of remarkable poetry and fiction Fadhil has written over more than half a century, without receiving any prize or award, this make us wonder what this often-used phrase “award-winning writer” means other than to make us smile.
Banipal 64 Spring issue features Hanan al-ShaykhWe present works by two poets, opening the issue with the late Lebanese poet and translator Bassam Hajjar ten years after his untimely passing. “His poems are circulating among young Arab poets today who find them pioneering and inspirational,” wrote Abbas Beydoun in a 10th anniversary feature on the poet. Iraqi poet Adnan Mohsen, settled in Paris since 1981, writes poems of “the ordinary, the familiar and the quotidian in lyrical form”. Earlier poems in Banipal 8, Summer 2000, were translated from their original French by James Kirkup, who wrote of Mohsen’s “spare, muscular style”.
The 100 best Arabic NovelsThe title feature The 100 best Arabic novels is a new up-to-date list in response to the greatly increased popularity of novels in the Arab world. The introduction explains how it was prepared and nominations ranked. To whet your appetite, here are the first five: Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, the Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, For Bread Alone by Mohamed Choukri, The Secret Life of Saeed The Pessoptimist by Emile Habiby and Children of the Alley, also by Naguib Mahfouz.
The Wedding a short story by Omani writer Jokha AlharthiOn this night, on this chair made especially for her, Saloma shines. Her eyes are sultrily loose, either spontaneously or deliberately, and fixed on the bride. Her bejewelled ikfa2 hairstyle shows the size of her braids under the embroidered veil. Her gold nose-stud, shaped like a flower, is an inseparable part of her nose. And her confidence . . . Aah, her confidence. There is no doubt that her nine chickens are asleep now
Alaa al-Deeb : Excerpts from his novel Lemon BlossomWhen he had come to Suez four years earlier to work in the cultural centre, he had had a vague dream that he would find himself in this isolation and that he would sort out the chaos into which his life had descended. He hadn’t dreamed of any major change or great deeds, but he had said that cutting off his ties to Cairo would help him see things differently and that he would at least be able to adapt to the new reality and, most importantly, he would be able to put in order his relationship with the past.
Stefan Weidner: Ein Marschländer geht von unsDie weitaus meisten Autoren, welche Sprachwechsler sind, nicht in ihrer Muttersprache schreiben und mehrere Herkünfte und Identitäten für sich reklamieren, entscheiden sich am Ende für eine der beiden Seiten. Dass Hussain al-Mozany sich nicht entscheiden konnte oder wollte, dürfte zwar dazu beigetragen haben, dass ihm größerer Ruhm versagt blieb. Es macht ihn auch unter den Autoren, die den Chamisso-Preis bekamen, zu einem Sonderfall
One Sky A short story by Palestinian writer Liana BadrI named him Robin, based on the assurances of our bird-loving neighbour. When I expressed my doubt about the name due to the incomplete red ruff on his neck feathers, he told me: “This is a young bird. The full red has not yet appeared on his feathers.”
Adonis: Banipal is a unique cultural projectBanipal has been realizing a unique and twofold project within the sphere of cultural productions of the Arab world. For, on the one hand, it provides a space in which Arabic literary texts are set in motion, in a direct dialogue with literary texts in the English language, in terms of both content and form. And, on the other hand, it offers an historic opportunity that allows for the language of the self to be reflected in the language of the Other, through a continuous, diverse and profuse flux.

"A Bottle of Honey", a short story by Mahmoud Saeed translated by William M Hutchins
For the first time I was conscious of the pain in my leg. I had been on my feet since I left my residence. I hadn’t dared ask if I might sit down, for fear of angering the furious detective and to avoid precipitating the flow of more insults from his mouth. I stretched out my hand to accept the case file, but the officer looked alertly toward the door, which opened then.
Ahmad Al-Qarmalawi: Summer Rains, A Chapter from the novel, translated by Sophia Vasalou
“You mean, all those dervishes don’t convince you? What about the engravings on the ceiling? And what about the prayer beads dangling from the lamps – you don’t like them?”He contemplated these points for a moment and then said: “I like them, but not because they have a Sufi style. In fact, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a ‘Sufi style’. Sufism is a way of being, which can be taken anywhere in the world and to all kinds of people.”“So you’re not just a virtuoso musician . . .” she broke off as the waiter came up to them
Please Do Not Bomb, A short story by Yemeni writer Lutf al-Sarary, translated by Samira Kawar
For five days, he had heard Saudi aircraft bombing a camp in a neighbouring area. And two days ago, a truck carrying wheat had been bombed just a hundred and fifty metres from his house. He sensed that danger was approaching, and increasingly felt that the colour green spelt trouble, particularly after he heard on television that the aircraft were targeting homes whose owners were thought to be Houthi activists. The day after the wheat truck was bombed, he went to the market and bought three cans of white paint.
Becky Harrison reviews, The Book of Collateral Damage by Sinan Antoon, Translated by Jonathan Wright
Loosely based on his own experiences of revisiting Baghdad in 2003 to make a documentary, it is his first set in the United States, where he has lived on leaving Iraq in 1991 after the beginning of the Gulf War. It is easy to see much of Antoon’s life in the US in that of the main protagonist Nameer, who is a PhD candidate and literary translator also living in the States for over a decade. This blurring of fiction and reality is an important theme of the novel, and makes for an interesting negotiation between the reader and the author.
Editorial Banipal 66 Autumn/Winter 2019
In this issue we publish poems by two outstanding poets, who are considered the most important voices in Arabic poetry today, the Emirati Abdel Aziz Jassim and the Palestinian Samer Abu Hawwash. Then there are excerpts from two excellent novels, Autumn of Innocence by Abbas Beydoun, so well known for his poetry, who in recent years has turned to writing novels, and the critically acclaimed Elias by the talented Egyptian author Ahmad Abdulatif, who promises the reader ’a fresh vision of history’. The main feature, TRAVELS, presents works by five innovative and established authors
Aldo Nicosia reviews Al-Digla fi ‘Arajiniha by Béchir Khraief
Mekki organizes evening classes to educate his fellow workers, and then a general strike. All that happens in November 1928 – the French army intervenes heavily and many are killed or jailed in the capital. Thwarted by the failure of his nationalist dreams, Mekki is not even able to find consolation with prostitutes. Infected with a venereal disease, he decides to go back to his village.

Margaret Obank reviews: The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda Edited by Tarek El-Ariss
To the ordinary reader, reading Arabic literature in translation today, the title The Arab Renaissance might be a little perplexing. What Renaissance? and when? The Nahda period covers roughly a hundred years, ending almost 100 years ago. The Nahda, or “awakening”, was a time of burgeoning Arab cultural and political modernity with projects that flowed through all parts of society and politics, literature, culture, press and journals, publishing, education, with an ideal of knowledge, secularism, and reform of language, based on the western Enlightenment.
Susannah Tarbush reviews The Fetishists: The Tuareg Epic by Ibrahim al-Koni Translated by William M Hutchins
In The Fetishists it is the love of two rivals for the Sultan of Timbuktu’s daughter Princess Tenere that leads to a wager. She has been unable to choose between the two suitors: “Her freedom led to her falling in love with Okha’s nobility, grandeur, and dedication to ceremony at the same time that she loved Udad’s heart and fondness for singing and the mountains.”An intermediary conveys the wager from Okha to Udad: “If you can climb up Idinen and stand on its top vertical slab, he will relinquish the princess.” Udad accepts the bet. His name means Barbary ram, and he is known for his climbing skills.
Shadi Rohana reviews Palestine +100 edited by Basma Ghalayini
Some of the stories that include Israelis as their protagonists (with the exception of Dabbagh’s “Sleep it Off, Dr Schott”), for example, rather than attempting to engage with the nuances of the Israeli state from within wind up with trivializing Israeli society, and consequently trivializing Palestinians and the nature of the conflict
Sheikh Zayed Book Award Unveils Shortlisted Titles for its Literature, Young Author and Children’s Literature Categories
The Children’s Literature shortlist comprises Nuzhati Al Ajeeba Ma’ Al Am Salem (My Wondrous Picnic with Uncle Salem) by Emirati writer Nadia AlNajjar, published by Dar Al Saqi Publishing, 2019; Al Fatat Al Lialakia (The Lilac Girl) by the Palestinian writer Ibtisam Barakat, published by Tamer Institute for Community Education in 2019; and Saqi Almaa (The Water Provider) by Emirati writer Maryam Saqer Al Qasimi, published by Al Hudhud Publishing and Distribution in 2019.
"Wandering the Cities While Dead" a short story by Sargon Boulus
She said: “No! He is a lost boy, a boy without parents – stolen, I suspect. We are gypsies, as you know, thieves, and travellers in all remote parts of the earth. We go after the spring clouds and we run away from the rain and the heat. We can only live between seasons. Then my husband became frail and absorbed the customs and practices of the cities. I am talking to you about the man who is dying here behind me now.”

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