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Things are not in their Place, excerpt from a novel by Omani writer Huda HamadMy mother and father took a more relaxed view and would always tell me that it was what God had decreed for us and we could not defy our God-given lot. But I was never able to believe them, nor could I accept that my fate should be so very bleak.
Banipal Magazine 68 - Arabic Short StoriesIn the feature we introduce, for the first time in Banipal, and in the main in English too, four of the finalists, including the winner, and three further great short story writers, with 21 very diverse, engaging and thoughtful stories, which comment on the uneven vagaries of life today and on the pulls of human emotions and desires
Secrets, a short story by Mohammed Al Sharekh, translated by Jonathan WrightGypsies! I first heard the word from Sheikh Jasim al-Ahmadi, the religious scholar. When I was ten years old, my family sent me and my cousin Saleh, who was nine months older than me, to spend our summer holidays at the sheikh’s home, for us to have fun and improve our Arabic. The sheikh had a kindly face and spoke as clearly as a BBC announcer.
"A Bottle of Honey", a short story by Mahmoud Saeed translated by William M HutchinsFor 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.
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.
Susannah Tarbush reviews The Fetishists: The Tuareg Epic by Ibrahim al-Koni Translated by William M HutchinsIn 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.
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.
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.

Stephanie Petit reviews, The Mariner by Taleb Alrefai
This two-fold unravelling – the old captain’s solemn grief over what was lost, the sudden, perilous storm – make up an engaging novel which, in Russell Harris’s faultless translation, reads effortlessly and sustains the reader’s attention throughout. Because it runs in parallel with, and reflects back on, Villiers’s famous record it is an undoubtedly interesting story, but as a standalone work of fiction too it is a worthy addition to an already substantial body of literary references to Kuwait’s maritime past.
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.

Days in Heaven, excerpt from a novel by Omani writer Ghalya Al Said
London. Four in the morning. It was cold but rainless. A typical winter’s night. Darkness had crept into every corner and the pale light of the streetlamps did little to dispel it. Everything was still, frozen in a deep coma. At this inhuman hour, all activity had ceased. Shops and restaurants had shut their doors, and even the swift, tireless motion of buses and trains had ground to a halt. In the deserted aftermath, the streets appeared longer and wider than usual. London was a city of ghosts.
Naima El Bezaz: chapter from The Happiness Syndrome
We are shocked to learn of the passing of the novelist and short story writer Naima El Bezaz, at the age of 46, by her own hand. At first we could not believe it, though we knew of the debilitating depression she had battled with for years. The depression finally won. What a terrible and abrupt silencing of a courageous and talented literary voice. What suffering she went through as she struggled for years and years to stay true to her right to be critical, to break down social taboos that enforced a conservative environment for Muslim women, to write freely about her life, and her community, without self-censorship.
Stephanie Petit reviews, The Slave Yards, a novel by Najwa Bin Shatwan

Banipal Magazine 67 Special feature on Lebanese writer Elias Khoury
The feature, “Elias Khoury, The Novelist”, opens with three excerpts from his latest novel Stella Maris, the second part of the trilogy, translated by the inimitable Humphrey Davies. It is followed by essays, articles on the corpus of novels, and reviews. The excerpts from Stella Maris pinpoint the endless contradiction that Adam lives, so he must “divide Adam into two halves, one for presence and one for absence”, and though victims are enveloped in silence and “stripped of language” in the face of humanity’s barbarity, the essence of civilisation is that language is “the only tool the dead can use to speak”.

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