Banipal Spring issue features Hanan al-Shaykh, the Lebanese, London-based author of many novels and a collection of short stories, with seven in English translation and at least 27 other languages. Entitled A Rebel named Hanan al-Shaykh, the feature reveals her as a natural rebel who discovered as a teenager that a writer should “not be held back or embarrassed about writing about anything” and whose spirit of rebellion has stayed with her, enriching the Arab literary scene since her first works. The feature includes testimonies, an in-depth interview, reviews of four novels, and the one-act play Dark Afternoon Tea.
We 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”.
Three fiction writers, from Syria, Morocco and Tunisia explore their respective country’s dilemmas. Damascus-based Syrian author Khalil Sweileh is no stranger to Banipal, with his fiction and articles appearing in earlier issues. Here, a chapter from his novel Remorse Test that was winner of the 2018 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature, in which he takes a long look at how being engulfed in a “moveable feast of killings, massacres, mass graves, famines and lethal violence” upends not only the present, but memories, ideas and the way the past is remembered. Moroccan poet Nassima Raoui’s debut novel Teatro Cervantes, creates an unusual window into memories of Tangier and its ancient, long-neglected Cervantes Theatre. An excerpt is published along with a review by the well-known Moroccan author and critic Mohamed Berrada. From Tunisia also a new voice, with an excerpt from Lavazza, debut novel of author (and poet) Chafik Targui, that won the 2015 Dubai Al-Thaqafa Prize. Sitting in a coffee shop, the novel’s hero Ahmad relives the events of the recent Tunisian Revolution from 2011 until today, but after coffee upon coffee he discovers it is all a dream.
The Gingko Library celebrates the 200th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan this year with international poetic dialogue in A New Divan, a multi-lingual translation project to unite West and East, inspired by the culture of the Other. Banipal presents a pre-publication taster of two of the poets, Amjad Nasser and Reza Mohammadi, translated from Arabic and Farsi respectively.
Every Spring we have a date with the International Prize for Arabic Fiction to present excerpts from their six shortlisted novels – this year’s are by authors Hoda Barakat, Kafa al-Zou’bi, Shahla Ujayli, Adel Esmat, Inaam Kachachi and Mohammed al-Maazuz. The winner of the 2019 prize will be announced on 23 April in Abu Dhabi.
Among the books reviewed we draw attention to the two works by Arab authors longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf and translated by Jonathan Wright, reviewed here by Chip Rossetti, and a brief review of Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth. We were especially pleased to see the latter book’s achievement as we published a chapter from it in Banipal 40 (Spring 2011).