Samir Naqqash's stirring novel Tenants and Cobwebs nostalgically commemorates the lost culture of an ancient Iraqi Jewish minority living amidst a majority Muslim population in 1940s Baghdad. The plot unfolds during a time of great turmoil: the rise of Iraqi nationalism and anti-Jewish sentiment fueled by Nazi propaganda; the Farûd, a bloody pogrom carried out against Jewish residents of Baghdad in 1941; and the founding of Israel in 1948. These pivotal events profoundly affected Muslim-Jewish relationships, forever changing the nature of the Jewish experience in Iraq and eventually leading to a mass exodus of Iraqi Jews to Israel in 1951.
Then a pile of banknotes fell out – a little surprise I wasn’t expecting. It looked like a lot, maybe one thousand guinay, given each note was worth ten, and there must have been a hundred of them. The officer slammed the palms of both hands down on the table, stunned to see such a huge amount of cash, though not as stunned as I was. That old man had been carrying all that money
'It's wonderful that an august specialist magazine such as Banipal has been active for all these years, providing an outstanding service that essentially has nothing to do with commerce or profit-making, but aims to build bridges between the Arab world and Europe through the English language. "I’m proud that the first creative writings of mine to be translated into English appeared in the pages of Banipal magazine, and the magazine continues to offer texts by Iraqi creative artists who are my colleagues, and by a large group of other Arab writers from a variety of countries
On 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
Sudanese writers have been crowding onto the Arab literary scene in increasing numbers, making headway in several pan-Arab literary projects and prizes. With the majority of them living out of the country in the Arab Gulf or in Europe, they are creating almost a virtual Sudanese literary scene, one that cannot be silenced or censored.
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.
Time has its own rhythm in Kuwait city, and two years later, Kawthar, in her late twenties approaches her father once again and tells him she would like to buy an apartment of her own. “This had the effect of an electric shock on him . . . I would have liked to tell him that the world had changed, that I had the right to live my life in peace, as I saw fit to.”
Soon after finishing the pizza, he turned on the TV to a porn channel to kill time. The only thing available in this country was porn channels, and there was a store just around the corner that would give you access to any channel for a little bit of money. Most of the owner’s customers were among the Islamists who had issued a fatwa that looking at non-Muslim women was OK
The company where he would work consisted of a number of different Arab nationalities. The interviewer, an engineer, asked him a number of questions, about his previous jobs and his experience. He was so pleasant that Nagi became suspicious, but in the end, he joined the team and learned in the first few weeks that the company was managing huge tourist projects on the coast of the Red Sea
Their fathers had had a special friendship. They had both fled the village of Samaria for Acre after the ’48 Nakba. Mufid’s father had got himself one of the shops offered to refugees and had opened a grocery, while Saber’s father had worked as a building labourer on the new Jewish settlements.
This view is by no means exclusive to Aslan: in a cultural community characterised by its flattery and narrow interests, Alaa al-Deeb is widely regarded as a saint. Litterateurs of various generations view his writings on them as both an endorsement and a recognition of their talent. Indeed, what earned the late novelist his well-deserved stature was his objectivity and keenness to encourage the new voices in which he saw potential.
When 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.
But suddenly, something happened that saved my life. As a young writer, I had been publishing poems, short stories and articles for years, in the local newspapers and magazines, under the pseudonym “Shakespeare of Baghdad”. The name caught the attention of military commanders, who were looking for writers and journalists to work in their propaganda wing, and began looking into my whereabouts, until in the end they found me and pulled me out of the hole where I had been buried
The identity crisis so keenly experienced by some of the characters in the novel is as personal as it is political. For example, “Darwish’s book” in the first chapter is Albert Hourani’s History of the Arab Peoples. Now dying of lung cancer, Professor Darwish begins to ponder the figurative cancer in all of his failed relationships. Hourani’s book opens a window into this dark world.
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.
My mother ran out of the house after putting on shoes that didn’t match. Her curly hair was tied back with a black band. The fear on her face was patent and her blue eyes seemed bigger. The edge of her white shirt hung over her grey skirt. I followed her out. She looked like a mad woman, roaming the streets of Ajami. She was searching for my grandmother. In a hurry, as if trying to catch up with herself. Hearing my footsteps she turned back and gestured with her broom-thin arm – go back!
“Everything needs prostitutes,” Abu Shindi tells you. He’s sitting on one side of his table in a secluded corner, directly under a picture of the President. He sees you, but you don’t see him. The seat may have changed, but the years haven’t, and neither has the President’s picture.
Because of the extraordinary state of emergency declared in America and Europe immediately after the terrorist incidents, I head directly from the coffeehouse to my Paris home. I am welcomed rather anxiously by my beloved house robot, Bahlul. His artificial intelligence programs system, which is linked to the internet, learned that danger threatens the entire inhabited world. The moment I arrive his eye’s cameras direct their electronic sensors
I remember the grave, the darkness, the two angels and the hammer of repudiation and I hear muttering. I hastened and so did my pursuer: there was a dead woman in the alley, her chest bore sharp marks and blue flies were feasting around the clogged blood. Mother Rahma, the kind, bent woman pushing children into life, was found dead.
The selected works in “Literature” include four narrative works: ‘yakfi annana ma’an’ (At Least We are Together) by Egyptian writer Ezzat el-kamhawi, published by Al Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah, Cairo (2017); in addition to two more titles published by Nofal- Hachette Antoine, Beirut, namely ‘ikhtibar al-nadam’ (Remorse Test) by Syrian novelist Khalil Sweileh (2017); and ‘al -shaytan yoheb ahyanan’ (The Devil May Love Sometimes) by Saudi author Zainab Hifni, published in 2017; and “anaqeed al-ratheelah’ (Grapes of Vice) by Mauritanian novelist Ahmad Hafid, published by Arab Scientific Publishers Inc., Beirut, 2016.