Welcome to a World of Literature

Everything you need to know about the world's great writers and emerging voices is being collected and shared on the English PEN Online World Atlas. Head over to the Atlas to create (or edit) a profile for your favourite author or book, leave a comment or contact another user, and discover your next great read. We believe that great writing has the power to change your life and change the world, one book at a time.

The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Arabic Literature & the Internet: Debate opens Dubai festival

Writing in Gulf News, Abbas al Lawati reports from the Dubai literary festival on two sides to a debate about how the internet has affected Arabic literature:
It is often argued that the advent of the internet led to an evolution in Arabic literature that is unprecedented.

While some argue that the internet weakens the Arabic language, others say that it has enabled Arabic literature to reach an audience much larger and farther than ever.
The panel members at the debate included Samuel Shimon, who commented that:
"Arabic writing was isolated and geographically restricted until the internet came along. Now an Arabic writer in Abu Dhabi can have an audience from Casablanca to Australia," said Shimon, who is also the founder of the Banipal online magazine on Arabic literature.

He said that he was also introduced to many new Arabic writers courtesy of the internet.

"We can actually call it Arabic literature now because it can finally reach all parts of the Arab world," he said.
The article concludes in favour of the internet's global reach, with an interesting point about its liberalising effect not only on readers who can now access books from around the world, but also on writers.
The writers said the internet helped Arabic writing free itself from political and social restrictions that had plagued pre-internet era Arabic writing, saying it was a platform for free thought and the unrestricted exchange of ideas.

They also credited the internet with introducing Arab authors to the non-Arab world and helping globalise Arabic writing.

It was also argued that the internet had even helped promote gender equality.

"We all know that women aren't afforded many opportunities in Saudi Arabia. The internet has helped introduce the Saudi literary scene to more women, who now constitute 60 per cent of Saudi writers thanks to the internet, as opposed to the previous 40 per cent. They can become writers sitting at home now," said Turki Al Dakhil.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dunya Mikhail: New Poem @ American PEN

American PEN's 2009 Translation Feature includes a beautiful translation of Dunya Mikhail's Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea. The translation is by Elizabeth Winslow in collaboration with the poet; you can read more about how the poem, and translation, took shape here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PEN Atlas: Site of the Week

Thanks to the Guardian's Books Blog for calling us their Site of the Week, and drawing particular attention to our Voices from Gaza feature running throughout this month.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reading Arabic in Israel...

as difficult as reading Lolita in Tehran, as this blogpost from the LA Times' Babylon and Beyond series reveals. It follows up the story of Arabic-language Israeli bookstore Kull Shay, which had its permit to import books withdrawn. Saleh Abbasi, the bookstore's founder and manager, had been ordering his books from Egypt and Jordan, countries with agreements with Israel (and still having to submit his lists to the Israeli censors) -- but because many of the books that he orders, from contemporary Arabic novels to Arabic translations of English-language classics and blockbusters (Harry Potter as the inevitable example), are published in Syria or Lebanon, the Israeli government censured him under the 1939 Trade with the Enemy Ordinance, which Babylon and Beyond's Batsheva Solomon calls "one of several legal anachronisms inherited from the British Mandate in Palestine and still in use."

Mr. Abbasi petitioned the Supreme Court on 28 January 2009 with the support of Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Their petition points out that the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor - who issued the import ban on Kull Shay in August 2008 - have not previously interfered with the bookstore, which has been running since 1974. The bookstore supplies universities and businesses with Arabic dictionaries and technical books, as well as supplying more literary texts to individuals and institutions, and as such plays a key role in business communication in Israel. Furthermore, as (according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network) Adalah point out:
the ban violates the rights of all Arabic speakers and readers, and students of Arabic and Middle East studies to freedom of information, culture, education and academic freedom. These rights are constitutional rights. The violation of these rights is a characteristic of anti-democratic regimes, the petition contended.
According to Solomon, "the authorities relented and issued another temporary permit that may be extended at the end of the year," allowing Mr. Abbasi to order books during book fair season -- but it's been issued under the Trade with the Enemy Act.

According to Solomon,
Adalah is now pressing for the import be continued under regular trade agreements. "All informational and cultural materials should be exempt from the Trade with the Enemy Ordinance entirely," says Haneen Naamnih, a legal intern at Adalah.
This seems particularly pressing, as the Literary Saloon picks up, given that there are no Israeli presses translating Hebrew authors such as Amos Oz into Arabic.

Naser Rabah: Poems

Three poems from Naser Rabah, written in Maghaazi Camp, Gaza.

Our New Neighbor

If we were to plant bullets
What would the earth sprout, I wonder?
Ripe corpses
Or dead trees?

Even the cloud
The bullets pierced
Rained blood

When bullets speak
Who needs translation?

Bullets are our sole neighbor
Our pampered neighbor
Learns at night to play the guitar
To keep him company
My children sit behind me
And I hold my heart
And beat it like a drum

Our papers expired
And bullets are now our metallic currency

Release the bullets
Release them, and have a long night’s sleep
The bullets will howl
And at the end of the night return to you
A hungry and rapacious dog

Anxiously the night shields you
Or per chance sees you
There is no escape
The bullet is an owl, and you a mouse

The sniper does not see the eye of the gun
The sniper does not see the eye of the victim
The sniper does not see
Does not see

What dead country in your migration do you seek
Oh, Flock of Bullets?

Naked past the security gate
They heard the sound of the siren
Several times the guards inspected it
But a bullet builds its nest in memories

What Youssif Did Not Say

Wednesday is yours
And Thursday is yours,
And all the days of mourning are yours
Your eyes erode from tears
The years erode, your deep-rooted wisdom
The houses that stretch from river to sea erode
While waiting for me to return as the camel driver of caravans
Some time ago I gave you back the shirt
My weeping brothers still ask about me
They ask the Arab League and the itinerant Arabs
I am no longer Youssif, Father
I no longer drink cold coffee
When others are through with tribe talk
I await the Eid when you will buy me a new shirt
I no longer have brothers who cast stones into the creek of your tenderness
They shatter upon the knee of wrath my small dream
I am no longer a child, Father
I am the king of others
Master of the earth, guardian of wheat, the most handsome of prophets
I belong to others
Why should I return to you?
Torn was my shirt that governments held sacred
And carried around in the lean years
How my blood was a lie
Now you recognize the tribe’s wolf in every face
You recognize your eternal solitude in the Security Council,
When you turn over between your palms the new shirt
Studded with stars, perfumed with civilization
Console yourself with it… over me
With the fragrance of the land… over the land
With the keys… over the houses
I am no longer your child, Father
I am here to stay, so stand far over there
Blessed be my sons on the way to the wheat fields of their joy
They wake at dawn
Take the sun by the hand
To the last kernel in the field
Smile upon them, Father
Smile once
Perhaps they remember an ancient forefather
Who planted orchards and vines in the land of Canaan
They may remember you, as they shed the cloak
As they sip wine

Telegrams that will not arrive.

When I give unto Caesar… what belongs to Caesar
And unto God…what belongs to God
What is left unto me…?

The shadow has a memory of sorrow
The walls convey it from house to house
So that when my shadow passes me by
I find myself crying unawares

The birds fear landing
When they cross my heart
Fear eating the crumbs of its sorrows
Turning into a heart like it,
And dying.

When you sleep
Set a glass of water next to you
Why, oh Mother...?
So that your guardian angel may drink.

On the way to our delusion..
We meet the returning ones
Their God-given empty hands
And empty dreams.

Graced is mankind with a love for women
A trove of gold and silver
Branded horses
And land*
Why, oh God, did you not grace it with a love for poetry?

The cypress dreamt it was seduced by the cloud
And so it yearned for it
Reached, reached out its arms
But the passing cloud
Poured into the stream
Became the lover of the earth.

What since Imru’ al-Qais**
Merits happiness?

(A madman throws a rock down a well
And a hundred wise men fail to get it out)***

Why don’t they let it be then?

I remembered
As the ambulance broke the sound barrier
And your wound convulsed blood and screams
That—putting aside the sight of blood—
You hate excessive speed.

* Holy Quran Surah III:14.
** Reference to the first line of a qaseeda by Imru’ al-Qais, Arabian poet of the 6th century
***A popular proverb

Translations by Rima S. Hassouneh

Monday, February 23, 2009

Faten al-Gharra: I Reveal Myself

Faten al-Gharra is an award-winning Palestinian poet with three collections to her name and an international following. The Poetry Translation Centre who produced this delicate and evocative translation of al-Gharra's beautiful poem. You can read more about their process, and see the Arabic original and English literal translation of the poem here.

I Reveal Myself

Descendant of raiders who landed on the beaches,
heir to the woman who unmanned Samson,
I am the daughter of waves and of memory,
a fresh shoot on old stock.

When I open my arms, the universe sets forth.
When I smile, honey wells from my virgin lips.
I take a step and the earth loses its balance.
In my laugh, earthquakes resound,
and volcanoes spurt from seven tectonic plates.

The child of frivolity and modesty,
I am the daughter of depravity and purity,
the progeny of black and white.

The tip of my finger taps the stars off track.
If I close my eyes,
darkness eclipses the world, until my eyelids lift
bathing it in gold.
And when I toss back my hair
the universe shivers in recognition.

I am today and I am tomorrow.
Crowned queen on the throne of space.
A blink, and fields foam green with wheat.
I am wheat itself. I am green.
The first harvest.
The last.

Translated by Sarah Maguire with Anna Murison and the Poetry Translation Centre Workshop

© The Poetry Translation Centre

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Fiction from Saudi Arabia: Overview in The National

Literary Saloon helpfully points the reader to an excellent article from The National on publishing in Saudi Arabia. Rather than focusing (as might be expected) on censorship, Kelly McEvers offers some provocative thoughts about the form of the novel, its introduction to Saudi culture, the role of creative writing teaching in husbanding a certain kind of "sellable" fiction -- and draws welcome attention to Saudi fiction master Abdelrahmane Munif, whose books were banned in Saudi but are still published outside the country (in "monochromatic covers and simple fonts") and shipped in. McEvers notes that Munif's books now compete with
what one critic has called a tsunami of Saudi writing: some 50 to 100 novels published each year, up from five to 10 in years past. That’s partly due to the 2007 release of Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea, a diaristic account of four upper-class young women and their illicit love affairs, set here in the capital. Trashy? Maybe. But also a rare look into a once-forbidden realm of experience, and an undeniable catalyst
. But there are also emerging writers:
Raja Alem, Abdul Hal, Ahmed Abu Dahman, Mohammed Hasan Alwan and Yousef al-Mohaimeed, whose book, Wolves of the Crescent Moon, was translated into English and published by Penguin in 2007.
Could Penguin's comment in the Readers' Guide to the book -- that
banned in his own country, the novel and its characters have now found voice in the United States.
- hint at a new rationale for English-language publishing of the Saudi "tsunami"? That is, out of a combination of liberalism akin to Bush's "feminist" rationale for invading Afghanistan coupled with the desire to have another Midnight's Children on their hands...

No wonder that ends with a quote from Saudi film director and screenwriter Hana al Omair.
“I know good writers who are working on novels but don’t want them to be published at this moment,” she says. “They don’t want to be seen as part of this fad, this tsunami. They would rather wait until things quiet down again.”


Margaret Atwood tells readers of the Guardian that her "head is spinning" in light of new details concerning the "banning" of Geraldine Bedell's book from the Emirates Book Festival. Having discovered that the story had been blown out of proportion, Atwood has the good grace to make fun of her own reactions in the role of
Anti-Censorship Woman! I nipped into the nearest phone booth, hopped into my cape and coiled my magic lasso, and swiftly cancelled my own appearance; because, as a vice-president of International PEN, I could not give my August Seal of Elderly Writer Approval to such a venue.
While the status of The Gulf Between Us in the Gulf remains unclear, Atwood makes some savvy points about the nature of book festivals and authors' egos, concluding -- cape aloft -- with the hope that the incident will provide a forum for serious debate:
The positive effect of this fracas is that the door has now been opened for a discussion of such matters. PEN will send its international secretary, Eugene Schoulgin, to initiate such a discussion; there is talk of a panel. I am considering my options. Should I - for instance - appear at the festival on video screen? Or are there yet more twists and turns to this story?

Books are seriously "banned" and "censored" around the world, and people have been imprisoned, murdered and executed for what they've written. A loose use of these terms is not helpful.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Suheir Hammad: Live

Fantastic video of Palestinian-American poet Suheir Hammad reading (in Arabic) in Amman, posted by Black Iris.

Khaled Jum'a: Why?

Written in January, this short piece by Khaled Jum'a is an immediate and intense evocation of life under occupation.


The dense crowds made it seem like the Apocalypse had arrived; one coach, and people still flowed into it like a river without obstruction. Suitcases filled half the coach, and what was left had to be room enough for a hundred bodies. If not… we’d be spending the night here.

The space filled up with office workers dragging their exhausted bodies, yet the soldiers on the other side insisted we keep the first row empty, four whole seats… and you can say whatever you want… but… there’s no sitting in the front seats behind the driver… it’s military orders.

A five-year-old girl, who didn’t care about orders, or borders, or waiting… filled the place up with her laughter and her jostling about that bothered some of the people, but she didn’t care. She might have been wondering: What’s all this sadness on people’s faces?

After three thousand years of waiting, the doors closed. I was still in the same position, glued to my window, watching the little girl, oblivious to everything but her, when the driver took his seat behind the wheel and the engine’s rumbling shook us all. The child jumped over everyone and sat in one of the empty seats at the front of the coach, and again might have been wondering to herself: Why’s everyone squashed together and not sitting in these empty seats?

I looked at her with a smile I’d been hard-pressed to find, and she looked back and smiled without thinking. I said: Habibti, you’re not allowed to sit here. She sprawled out without paying attention to what I’d said, and asked, simply, while turning her head to look for her mother: Why?

Finally, when the soldier boarded the coach, he looked at her sitting there on the front seat, inspected the coach with an air of contempt, and left without a word. And I thought to myself: Why?

Translated by Isis Nusair and Shaun Levin

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jadal: New Online Magazine from Mada al-Carmel

Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research, has recently published the first issue of Jadal, its new bimonthly electronic magazine. The magazine is published, in all three languages: Arabic, Hebrew and English.

According to Nadim Rouhana, Mada’s director, “Jadal will give voice to the major political and social concerns of the Palestinians in Israel, provide context for developments of importance to this community, contribute to narrating their history and articulating their hopes for the future".

As well as monitoring and reporting, the magazine is dedicated to exploring some of the principal ongoing activities at Mada to shed light on our community's intellectual life.

To read the magazine in full, click here [pdf]

To read the Arabic version, click here [pdf]

Al-Tayyib Salih dies in London

BBC online has this short notice of the death of Sudanese novelist and broadcaster Al-Tayyib Salih, author of -- among other works -- Season of Migration to the North, declared "the most important Arabic novel of the 20th Century" in 2001 by the Damascus-based Arab Literary Academy. France24 notes that
Published in the late 1960s, "Season of Migration to the North" was banned by Sudan's Islamist regime in the 1990s because of its descriptions of a Sudanese intellectual's sexual experiences in Britain.
South Africa's Mail and Guardian adds that today's announcement was made by Salih's friend Ezzat el-Kamhawy, editor of the Egyptian literary publication Akhbar al-Adab.

Longer tribute from the BBC.

Bedell Banned in Dubai

Guardian journalist and novelist Geraldine Bedell wrote in the Guardian Books blog yesterday that her forthcoming novel The Gulf Between Us has been banned from the Dubai book fair, where she had hoped to launch it. Bedell comments:
It seemed a perfect fit. Mine is the only novel I know of in English (but I can't think there are many in Arabic, either) set in a Gulf emirate. Most of the action takes place in a small fictional state called Hawar, which means either "little camel" or "dispute" in Arabic.
This "hawar", coming close on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, will undoubtedly draw attention to the novel. Margaret Atwood has withdrawn from the festival in protest against the censorship of Bedell's novel. Other novelists are considering their invitations, including children's writers Anthony Horowitz and Lauren Child (perhaps as much at the suggestion from the fair to Bedell's publishers Penguin that they consider launching a children's book [read: harmless] instead -- oblivious to the excellent, contentious and controversial children's and YA fiction currently being published). As the festival is being funded by the Emirates Airline Foundation, a boycott of Arsenal might also be considered.

Speaking to the Guardian today, Jonathan Heawood, director of English PEN, said:
Ideally a festival like this should be a chance for authors from all cultures and different backgrounds to come together, share work and exchange experiences. A literary festival should be about cultural exchange, and clearly this one isn't.

Bedell suggests that the "comically long list" of reasons for banning the novel from the fair omit - and in fact disguise - the decision-makers' homophobia (the novel features a gay sheikh). The author of Saudi-set Girls of Riyadh faced a backlash for her portrayal of the sexual double standards among the "velvet class," including a minor character who is a lesbian. The author of Al Akharoun, a Saudi novel with a lesbian protagonist, has to use a pseudonym. So Bedell's guess has some precedents in the region to support it. Al Akharoun was published in Arabic by Dar al Saqi, who also publish Hani Naskshabandi, a Saudi journalist and novelist currently living in Dubai.

I haven't read The Gulf Between Us, but I'd be curious as to how it compares in its worldview and style to the fiction covered by Laila Mohammed Saleh's Women Writers of the Islands and Arabian Gulf, and to the fiction and non-fiction writing being fostered in UAE by the al-Owais foundation, most of which is not available in English translation. Anyone familiar with writing from UAE who can offer an insight?

Emile Habiby on Stage

Body on the Line has a review-in-context of Mohamed Bakri's one-man-show based on Emile Habiby's novel The Secret Life of Saeed, also known as The Pessoptimist, or The Opsimist. Actor and director Bakri, best known for his film Jenin, Jenin, was a close friend of Habiby's and in 2006 wrote and filmed Since You Left, a poetic meditation on the life and death of this leading novelist and politician. A lifelong inhabitant of Haifa, Habiby was only writer to win – and, controversially, accept – both the al-Quds prize given by the PLO and the Israel Prize in 1990.

The production is being staged at the Freedom Theatre in the refugee camp at Jenin, which has also played host to a stage version of Mahmoud Darwish's Memory for Forgetfulness.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Coming Soon...

Next week there will be more translations, more new authors, more news from the Arab publishing world... but first - a short break. I'll be back with work from Fatena al-Gharra, Khaled Jum'a, Naser Rabah and Yousef Alqedra from Wednesday 18th Feb.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

AUC Press: A Tribute

A rare publisher dedicated to translating the best of Arabic contemporary writing into English, the American University in Cairo Press is profiled in Al-Ahram Weekly by Gamal Nkrumah. AUC Director Mark Linz comments that:
As the AUC Press approaches its 50th anniversary in 2010, it has, over the past 24 years and especially over the last 12, found renewed talent and energy as it has become the major translator of contemporary Arab literature.
And it's working well for them:
We sold more books [at Cairo] this year than this time last year. Our colleagues in Europe and North America are moaning and groaning because of the global economic meltdown.
As Nkrumah comments:
There is an upsurge of interest in Arabic literature and the AUC Press is in a perfect position to take full advantage of this old-new phenomenon.

Najah Awadallah: Sad Song

Another beautiful piece from Najah Awadallah, whose short story appeared on Tuesday.

(Five days under Attack)

First day-
The violin bow is completely taut, conversing with its strings, while a gigantic bird delivers its first blows, and the residential high-rise trembles…with a shudder the violin’s bow snaps backwards, though quickly I retune it in order to control the fear in my music teacher’s eyes. I lead her to the safest spot in the house.

I smile to ease her tension. They’re working and demolishing upstairs while we play music.

Hysterical thoughts overwhelm me: What if we went outside and played a little over the rubble? Will this bird chirp and flap its wings away from us? She smiles a sad smile, we restart playing a piece from Tchaikovsky’s “Sad Song,” the bow falls in sorrow on the violin, while wrath pours from the sky.

I say goodbye to my teacher before the lesson is over. I fear for her safety. I say goodbye until the next lesson.

Second day-
While the violin is frightened in its box, the metal birds play their music from the score of Gaza’s remains.

In a book I find shelter from a death I see and smell, a book in which I don’t want to be the heroine or the narrator, or even a street corner, just a period or a comma, a question or an exclamation mark at most.

I ask myself: Is it fear for life or escape from it into paper where I alone hold the decision to end the sentence or turn the page?!

Third day-
I look out of my forlorn window at the street that pedestrian feet have abandoned. It is empty of the noisy vendors who had often annoyed me and I had often assailed them with a thousand curses. Now I implore a single sound so I can feel alive and so the city can feel the living are still ringing the bells of life within it.

I spot a herd of goats whose shepherd risked his life in order to feed them what remains of grass untouched by rain. Joy ululates in me like a child when I hear the little goats bleat. I delight in them as I hide behind the curtains.

Fourth day-
The sun wakes me from my sleep and I wash my face with its light. I feel pleasure in the notion that humans are unable to invent a devilish idea and conceal it from those they war with and hate. Exhausted, dark Gaza has had enough night.

Fifth day-
The molten bullets are still pouring over the city. They grant the foreigners the right to leave and exempt them from war. I call my teacher and her husband tells me she has already left. The violin has left the city. Music raises its arms up, in surrender, to the bullets.

I get my violin out of its coffin and play “Sad Song.” My lids are swollen. I am ashamed to tell my husband I’m crying over my teacher’s departure and my violin’s aloneness.

Only now has Gaza become orphaned.

Translated by Fady Joudah.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jasad: Issue Two Out Soon

Muslimah Media Watch has this follow-up article on the story of Joumana Haddad's Arabic erotic magazine Jasad, including an interview with Haddad about how the first issue has been perceived.

It's definitely worth scouting around the rest of MMW, as it's an excellent site on Muslim women in media and pop culture.

Yousef Alqedra: Poems

Translator Ali Issa comments that Yousef Alqedra's language is often deliberately and distinctively awkward in Arabic, an "awkwardness" he didn't try to smooth over in translation.

Shade fights barriers of illusion
erasing its heavy awakening.
I also cooperate . . .
Your absence is a hell made of nightmares.
I do not sign on the echo of fatigue’s tremble.
I just whisper an unimprisonable secret into the ear of the universe
and slap it in the face!

* * *

Let’s Say

Let’s say
there’s a beautiful port
embraced by a calm blue
and your heart’s seagulls
are flying.

It’s hot, of course,
and only your smiles
moisten the beach and its goers.

An old man with a forehead
from an old country, and a hook
-on your right-
that he catches his memories with and sobs.
On your left, the heart of a failed phrase.
The sea was as happy as it could be,
the curb out in the water.
Its edges were colored with green and grass.

Your two wide eyes left the country.
They’d covered my soul more than I’d thought.
The sun was about to set.
My hand slipped from between us
when it got close to your shaking hand.
I acted out of aesthetic necessity.

Like this:
Time took us on a journey
from a dream to physics.

The discussion was heavy and had an air of chemistry.
It was overflowing with butterflies’ liveliness,
dressed in an elegant surprise,
reviewing used meanings,
and furnishing for a fresh and smiling world.

There are children playing like distant continents.
The shore is a piece of glass.
The photos look like our joy
and friends were warm and a genuine shelter.

I told you that your presence:
is a real shove to a stupid illusion,
warmth to a gatherer of diasporas,
beauty that lessens the burden of the end.
I still sometimes suspect
that I’m a character
in a dream of yours!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Al Amajidi Ibn Dhaher Blue Metropolis Arab Literary Prize 2009

Literary Saloon (always first with the global lit stories!) reports that Zakaria Tamer won the Blue Metropolis Arab Literary Prize for 2009, awarded at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montréal. Sponsored by Abu Dhabi, the prize "seeks to increase global awareness of Arab writers and literature, and strengthen the role of the UAE in supporting interaction among cultures and civilizations."

Tamer's short stories, Breaking Knees, are available in English from Garnet and The Hedgehog, a novel, is due shortly from AUC.

Najah Awadallah: A Story

Najah Awadallah is an experienced storyteller, having worked in television design, documentary filmmaking and as a writer.


She woke up in the morning to the usual screaming and commotion of her five children. She wished she could remain in bed, even just for a few minutes, to let herself feel that it was actually a holiday for her. It was not to be, however, as her children’s screaming in the salon adjacent to her bedroom scattered this tiny desire. She feared that the echoes of their quarrel might reach her husband’s bed and deprive him of the satisfaction of sleeping in the morning.

She wondered why was it that every time the morning opened its box of tricks and took out light and the sun to illuminate the world, it did not remember to illuminate the hearts of those around her and spread peace and quiet through them. She put this query aside and began to think about what awaited her on this holiday that was not going to finish before it finished her. When she went back over what awaited her, she sighed so deeply from her heart that she frightened the birds taking refuge by her bedroom window. How she wished, in that instant, that she had wings like theirs that could take her to the sea to wash her feet and refresh her soul. To steal from time an hour that would be for herself only.

Ever since she had opened her eyes to the world, she could see the sea but had never enjoyed its water. She saw it as if it were a portrait she was forbidden to touch. Mere footsteps separated her from it, yet she would only go with her family to clean its salty sand and water off her children’s bodies. She would clean them with joy, smelling the odor of the sea ion them. More footsteps separated her from the sea, yet she could not embrace it. And even if she wanted to, she would have to put on all the clothes in her closet to hide anything possibly scandalous. So she cut short the whole matter and muted her desire whenever the sea enticed her with its vigor and blueness. It saddened her to the point of madness that her sea was not like the ones she saw on television screens. She had heard that her sea’s beach was one of the cleanest in the world. Maybe. But she was searching for the happiness that shows all over people’s faces.

The screams of the little ones shook her awake from her daydream. She had a long laugh, as her eyes welled up with tears.

Translated by Suneela Mubayi.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Poetry International Web: Poetry Translation Online

Poetry International Web features an amazing array of poetry from around the world, translated into English, including poets from Morocco, Egypt, and Iraq. They are looking for national editors for Iraq and Egypt to increase the number of poets represented on the site: if you are interested, you can contact Sarah and Madea on info [at] poetryinternational.org.

The current issue features a portfolio of poets from India under the title Poetry in Times of Peril, a title that we could borrow for the Atlas' portfolio of Palestinian writing!

Nasr Jamil Shaath: Poems


I told you repeatedly:
Shiny poetry cannot
Inject the war with a needle of reconciliation
To the world, poetry is light as feather.
Until dawn I stayed stockpiling the opinion of poetry on papers,
But the world does not recognize a status for poetry.
When you violated the honor of my name
I realized, nevertheless,
You begrudged me my civilization.


After a few minutes, not five
I will leave my home.
The balcony girl will see me,
An old lady at the intersection plays
With naked white pebbles,
She raises the roof of wisdom for me to ascend.
Beyond the houses of my neighborhood,
Beyond the deafening horns of the cars
Beyond the annoying folks
I will emerge, like a prophet,
From white water!

Translated by Amal Eqeiq and Samer Al-Saber

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gamal al-Ghitany wins Sheikh Zayed award

Gamal al-Ghitani has been announced as the winner of this year's Sheikh Zayed award for Literature. The winning book is the 6th volume of Dafater Al-Tadween, a series organised around the revival of memory, and encompasses the spiritual journey of the writer paralleled with travel from the Pyramid Plateau to the Southern parts of Egypt. The book was published by Dar Al Shourouq in 2008.
The advisory council decided that Jamal Al Ghitani’s work manifests the intersection of the spiritual and carnal, the artistic and intellectual, exceeding the boundaries of time and history.

More Writing from Gaza

I hope you've been enjoying this past week's pieces by Atef Abu Said and Soumaya Susi.

The process of collating this portfolio has been exhilarating, but abstract, circulating through the myriad loops of the web, with poems and stories flying to and fro between Gaza, London, the US, and the ether. The 'net creates the illusion of a nationless globe in which information, emotion and creativity can flow -- and yet it also reinforces national boundaries. Issues of censorship, access, language, and politics all delimit and define individuals' roles in the worldwide web -- we are not equal netizens. And as in nations, so online: in the last few weeks I've read about teams of Israeli and Zionist hackers working to take down Palestinian websites, and vice-versa. Blogs boil over: too often, they serve as mouthpieces preaching to the converted and provoking the unconvertable, rather than fora for the kinds of discussion that can change minds and create alliances.

There are also amazing sites online like Poetry International Web that use the network of global connections to increase the flow of creativity between readers and writers around the world, and to give hope to the argument that the internet can provide a voice for those who would otherwise be silenced. In doing so, it's an extension of what poetry and song have always done: like a news ballad circulating from mouth to ear, the web has come to provide us with globally common expressions (such as shoe-throwing) that speak truth to power, as well as a place to gather (virtually) and speak them. Many writers are eager for any space that allows their words to enlarge, to echo back from readers.

The next two upcoming writers are no exception: Nasr Jamil Shaath is, at 29, not only a widely-published and award-winning poet, but also a critic and editor who promotes the work of other writers of his generation in international journals, while Najah Awadallah has the experience of reaching out to large audiences as a documentary filmmaker and programme designer for the Palestinian Television and Broadcasting Authority.

There's still work to come from Khaled Jumaa, Fatena al-Gharra, Khaled Abedallah, Yousef Alqedra and Naser Rabah, from translators including Sarah Maguire, Isis Nusair, Ali Issa, Fady Joudah, and Randa Jarrar. Keep checking iN.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Soumaya Susi: The City

The City
What will this sad, silent, fallen city by the old sea oppressed by time give you? It will give you a lot if you listen to its nightly voice strewn amongst the rustling of the trees and the lapping of the waves. No one tries to listen to that angelic voice emanating from it. Everyone only hears his own voice and strives to search for himself among the city’s heaps.
Often I think if only geography wasn’t so clever, if only it bestowed the city with a few more coastal kilometers and released it from its existing borders; how would your seashore look oh, Gaza? Which ships would reach you? What would be the state of your residents, teeming with feelings of exile, cries, and fear?
Perhaps it is the constant thought of escaping the city’s boundaries weighing on me, or at least the idea that my city is without borders, drowning in isolation. A city where whoever enters is lost, and whoever leaves writes himself a new life story.
Now there is no leaving and no entering. A city of imprisonment that consumes its own inhabitants and which everyone wants to escape. To be more precise, they are not trying to flee the geographic location itself. But rather, they want to find what was lost. They want their freedom that was caught unawares in circumstances that they had never, for even one day, dreamt of. The city was becoming more confined each day, with new chains forced upon it each year. After it was completely open to the outside world, it was seen as too narrow to encompass all its residents’ desires. How is this so and yet the contradiction of aspirations wrecks all attempts to survive. How are love, death, and life all possible on one street? How can you shake hands with your brother’s murderer and reply to his ‘good morning’?
Before Gaza transformed into a city of conflict, I was a participant at a poetry conference in Paris. What surprised me was that everyone I met was stunned when they learnt I hailed from Gaza.
Gaza, this magical word! No sooner had the others heard it than they looked at me with all the world’s amazement and astonishment. They began to ask me all the questions that had crossed their minds, after hearing one day about this city’s existence and about its old and new troubles. I transformed from a poet participating in a conference with more than other thirty poets, to a representative for the common Palestinian people - the dwellers of the dark, unknown city. A city that does not disappear from the daily newscasts of cities the world over.
Their curiosity to know and their attempt to understand what is truly happening was greater than my ability to reply. When I returned here, there was a strange longing to go back to Paris. Maybe I liked it more through their eyes, and maybe I wanted to experience more of this city’s character.
I am taken by surprise upon my return. The city is no longer ours, and all that was in the past is mere rehearsal for what happened afterwards. The changes are visible in such a short time. There is a demand for everyone to erase what took place and live anew, as if nothing had happened.
Oh this paradox! I did not enter a state of shock, I did not change, and I do not understand - what happened? We went back to the daily routine that we know, only to find that the context had changed completely. But it was dialogues, more events, and more testimonies. Everyone knew what they had to say, and everyone was utterly silent.
Too many deaths. Many dreams run through the minds of those who live in this forgotten town and who continually occupy a large part of the media. No one truly tries to know what is being lived here, and no one wants to start changing anything. Perhaps this city’s misfortune is that whoever lives in it takes on a strange quality; it is the strength to endure and wipe away what one cannot live with. They do not grumble, they do not cry out. In silence they accept each new reality as if they were created for it. This capacity to adapt always used to amaze me. It clashes entirely with the personalities of those residing in this city, but they continue in their wordlessness and I in my astonishment. How then is it possible to go on living here, waking up every morning with a smile on your face and hope for a clear, new day?
There is a small secret. If you know it, then it is possible to carry on. In order to live in Gaza you must create your own secret world. This beautiful world which contains you and those like you; those who carry small dreams that come true in the rain on a winter’s day, or staying up late into the night with melodic music and friends. Because this matter becomes forbidden in the laws of the invaded city, you must search and you will find it inevitably. You will hide well your small secret and in that moment enjoy what you can from it; in order to create for yourself days contrasting completely from those of the news reports. Days abound with death, poverty, and foolish fighting that does not change anything. Or filled with nameless rockets releasing a sound resembling some sort of explosion, though unable to even harm a cat. You persist in your beautiful isolation and your ultimate wish to get tobacco at a price cheaper than in the market. You continue thinking about New Year’s night and how you can spend it outside the walls of your room.

Translated by Sawad Hussain.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Soumaya Susi: Gaza, The First Sip from the Sea's Breast

Gaza, The First Sip From The Sea's Breast

When the wind sips the silent cloud
Floating around you
You seem as if you are
Death embracing the sea
Lashes absorbing fear,
A barrier concealing the very first tear,
Suspended by the day palm,
You were not as I wished,
When I met you on a day of no tale
The same fairy held between the waves' rips

My lady, you were
A strange spirit not bearing the beach's seed
A chopper binding to enjoy my thorns,
The wind does not clap for the absence
Of your ancient half from
The stage of memories
It does not curse the other face
Which emerged before you
It was like a hanging finger
Desiring the time of travel

I desired flowing over your rips
Sans curtain
As invited by all cities
And, despite being subsided,
I'm fluttering an apparition,
A song
A bunch of things not formed without your breath

You, the first sip from the sea's breast
You, sadness' seed inside us
O, city encompassed by curses
How shall we walk without voices?
Without springs carrying beach hues?
How shall we talk with your shreds?

You, an ancient secret,
A painting consumed by the song's star,
A morrow not baptized by the sun's light
When the time-vines emerge from your sides
Looking from your western terrace
Trying to return your mare to her summer
Winning a little victory
Then trying to sneak through the dawn's blue
To a slumbering ship
Residing there and vanishing
Into the basements of victory

Translated by S. el-Omary

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Soumaya Susi: Thoughts in the Dark

Soumaya Susi is a local government researcher in Gaza as well as a striking poet. Her work has been translated into many languages, and appeared in English in Nathalie Handal's The Poetry of Arab Women.

PEN Atlas are proud to present a new poem and two new short stories by Susi on the blog, thanks to our translators Christina Phillips, Sawad Hussain, and S. El Omary.

Thoughts in the Dark

The darkness brings fears and ideas you’d never dare to think in the light of day. You’re good at this game. The daily interruption to the electricity forces you to think in a particular way, according to a completely different logic. You give up your usual rituals and adopt new ones in keeping with the imposed darkness. You contemplate the romantic nature of candles and the night-time voices you’ve forgotten. You count the stars like the ancients did, except stars these days are deceptive; you think you see one but when you look for it the next night it’s changed course in order to carry out another task. You return to the old broadcasts which you assigned to a distant, forgotten past but are now forced to listen to learn about the death, roar and destruction going on around you. You relax a little and wait for morning, when you can listen to everything that happened while the lights were out last night on the radio in the taxi on your way to work. You go to work ready for new thoughts, desperate to find yourself amid the heap of routine. Normal work means perseverance and carrying out daily tasks assigned to you or the area you work in. It means collecting your salary at the end of the month to spend on necessities, though it hardly covers them.

Then your salary suddenly vanishes without any explanation for your children, who are dreaming of new summer clothes, new games, or even just some sweets. It vanishes and thoughts about getting along without it, an advance on your salary or recuperating some of what you’ve earned in the past few months grow. You get a bit of cash from here and there and you take out everything you’ve saved during your working life only to find yourself surrounded by columns of debts that crowd your thoughts whenever you try to sleep.

You keep going. Walking, eating, drinking, going to work every morning, meeting up with your friends, or those of them left. Something appears on the horizon and strikes the electricity station. The debates about how to manage your money are replaced with new worries. Do you have enough candles for tonight? Is there enough gas to light the long evenings? What will you do with all your time without electricity, without television or the computer, even without a fan in a summer whose heat took you by surprise, as though it was joining forces with everything else against you.

What will you do?


You sit in your room and tell yourself that you’re better off without fans and air-conditioners. You smoke a cigarette and discover things around you that you hadn’t noticed before. You recall conversations with your children for the thousandth time. You wait for the current to offer you a window onto the world and take you out of your lonely prison in this stony city.
Your endeavour to live by a different logic, one that befits your new lifestyle and the altered social and economic circumstances, is usually successful. But it leaves scars inside you. It leaves a burning in your soul for the life that is escaping you, the days that are slipping away from you while you are silent and ignorant of what’s going on around you. Perhaps everything around you is ignorant of you too. Forgotten in a remote corner of the world, you’re good at isolation and intentionally drift into it. You hear many melodies but don’t find your own. You read a lot of books and novels. The world goes on around you but there’s no place for you in it. Perhaps in an effort to release you from your addiction to communicating with others over the internet electricity has become your ally, for it prevents you communing with the hypothetical life that you created for yourself and lived happily with in all its details. You’re forced to withdraw, unable to refuse or complain, acquiescing to your options in a stony country on a forgotten shore. What do you think about?

Perhaps of nothing!

Of what will happen.

Of the contradictions around you.

You keep smiling, in an effort to remind yourself that something will change.

Translated by Christina Phillips.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Anna Lindh Foundation: Best Arabic Children's Books

The Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue Between Cultures announced its top ten Arabic children's books. The award is part of the Foundation's "100 Books Exhibition" at the Cairo International Book Fair, which aims to circulate 100 Arabic children's books in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The Foundation site hasn't yet posted the top ten on their sight, but Moroccan blog The View from Fez is proud to announce that a Moroccan children's book has made the list.

Written initially in French, Raconte-moi le zellige was recently translated into Arabic by Mohamed Belmlih, and published by Casablanca’s Yanbow Livres Publishing House. According to The View from Fez,
Ahki li ez-zellige (Tell me about zellige) by Nadia Benmoussa takes the reader in an immersion in the art and history of the Zellig (traditional tiles) through the journey of a hero, Ali, and his master. Tell me about Zellige sends young readers in a marvellous travel in Fez, Marrakech and back in Andalusia, to discover the splendour of this Moroccan architectural art.

Atef Abu Saif: Portraits

He was delicate like a breeze, and soft like a virgin branch on which the birds hadn’t yet perched.
His face was like a sun when it first rises, and his frame spread out in the space around him like a solid mass.
He walked in a leisurely manner, looking at the road without stumbling.
He liked to smile for the people he met on the road, greeting them with a movement of his hand.
Whenever he came home, his children gathered around him like moths around a lamp. He was a warm person, and a kind man.
He died. How can death take away all this beauty?

She likes loneliness (as she claims), and to keep herself away from the world because it is full of evil (she’s escaping, nothing more), and she likes to play the role of a lover who can’t swim against the waves of love (and there’s a lot of that in her). She said to him that Gaza likes scandal, and that people’s tongues spread rumors like rain on a sloping street.
When he left the house for the last time, after they had agreed on a permanent separation, she appeared nonchalant and proud. “This is better than people’s chatter.”
He closed the door, pulling his shadow between its two halves and dragging it on the surface of the road.
That day she wept like a cloud. The rain fell from her lips. She threw herself on the floor. She turned around in the dark. The sun had disappeared; so had he; and loneliness as always remained her companion.
Who is it that can praise this pain?

Thursday Visit
Like other people in the camp he goes to the cemetery every Thursday to visit his mother, his brother, his two friends, his aunt, his grandmother, and the child who was his neighbor and played behind the window every morning.
The good time in which he could see all those he loved went away. The ones he loved went away and became boxes made of marble decorated with beautiful words about heroism, or about the last day, or about sacrifice and the homeland, but nothing about his grief.
When he comes back home, there will be a little girl playing by the door. No sooner does she see him than she jumps between his arms like a butterfly. He laughs, hiding a tear that almost betrays him behind his eyes.

There used to be five of us
He was not the first to be born, or the last
He was not even in the middle
It was not his luck to be firstborn, to be indulged most
He also was not the last to arrive, the final cluster on the vine and sugar crystallized
He was not the symbol of glad tidings, where middle is best
His birth did not suggest anything in the history of the family

Yet, in spite of all that, he was the most spoiled and closest to our parents’ hearts, most privileged and most rewarded
It was Joseph, whom we envied for the space people made for him in their hearts
We did not throw him in the well and we did not sing at his departure. We cried!
Now we must live without our jealousy, give up part of our nature, and we must accept that we have become four

Undesirable Wisdom
She was sipping water from the transparent glass and staring in at the bottom, that she might see his face like a sun darting between the clouds. She laughed as she removed the chapping from her lips, saying, “If only time were to return; if only the time were to pass!” She wanted the moment when she was holding him, but the wisdom of time (someone is bound to say, “how sad!”) is that it will not come back, that it will not pass, just as it will not die.

The Postman
He passes by every morning after the sun rises, around eight thirty, riding his motorcycle with its rusting handlebar but with bright blue around the wheels. He always wear a black overcoat, even in the summer, as though holding on to a picture of himself. Dangling from his neck is a black satchel with letters that seem to be looking out like birds wanting to fly the cage. He will park his motorcycle where the street begins and will start delivering the letters.
For the past six month when she saw his motorcycle, with the rusty handlebar but with bright blue around the wheels, turning into the street she would run to the door where he never stopped to bring a letter from the one who has been in prison for four years now. He had promised to write her, hoping against hope that they would allow him, as his mother told her after she had visited him.
Who will implore this postman to stop, even in jest. Perhaps he could bring some joy to her heart.

Translated by Ibrahim Muhawi.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Get Involved in PEN's Poems from Palestine

The Poetry Translation Centre will be translating poems from Faten al-Gharra and Khaled Abedallah over the next few weeks. If you're a translator based in London and would like to get involved, head over to their site for workshop details. You can also read online an exciting selection of workshopped translations from Arabic poets.

Atef Abu Saif: Four from Gaza

He hadn’t watched the television for two weeks, and hadn’t read the newspapers for longer than that. He hadn’t opened his e-mail for two weeks, and hadn’t listened to the news on the radio for ten days. And he hadn’t left the house for a week. The electricity was a strange visitor that hadn’t visited their neighborhood for fourteen days. The city was wrapped in darkness, and destruction was coming its way from the edges slowly but surely. He saw the air raids on the neighborhoods, and his only recourse was to tell his child that their home was very, very far away from where they were shelling. He lied, telling his child that the jets had used loudspeakers to make the shelling sound close when it was very far away.
He’s terrified because he doesn’t know anything about what’s going on around him. He wanted to stand at the window and stare into the darkness, that he might understand something, but the darkness brought him nothing but more fear and more sounds of jets and ricocheting of bullets and the sirens of the ambulances. He thought the best thing would be to sleep, that he might dream about what’s taking place and see it clearly. Darkness taught him to sleep early, since he could do nothing in the dark except stare into the emptiness. He would sleep to wake up early, before the sun, and drink his coffee very slowly as he looked through the window to the sea that had no ships except the destroyers and the fierce wind of December. In a while the children will wake up and their day will begin full of questions to which he will give answers that their eyes will say aren’t convincing, but they are sufficient for these times in which he is cut off from the world like a disconnected computer.

A Game of Luck
No expression can describe his life better than luck. When he borrowed money from his brothers to open an ice cream shop, all wondered why he would gamble on a shop in a distant neighborhood on the edges of the camp that people had a hard time reaching. It all appeared like a short-lived adventure at first, because when the army attacked the camp from the edges to control it, it set about destroying all the fields and orchards that separated it from the fast road. It was a stroke of luck also that the bulldozer blades stopped at the sparse houses in which only a few weeks ago he had opened his ice cream and cold drink shop.
The army left the camp and went back to its barracks in the distance, and the huge space that the bulldozers left behind became an open square for public celebrations. People started to come by the hundreds then thousands to take part in these celebrations. The narrow street leading to the space became congested with demonstrations lifting the banners of different factions and organizations, and the youth running behind these banners. When Fatah organized a celebration, the cassette player inside the shop rang out with the Fatah song “Oh Fatah, mother of the masses!” And when it was Hamas holding the celebration, an Islamic song rang out from inside the shop. The shop became the only refuge for people who wanted to lighten their mood after hours spent in shouting out or listening to speeches and slogans.
And the shop became part of the celebration.

The Mayor
As soon as he became the Mayor, the electricity was never cut from his house, while all the neighborhoods around were bathing in darkness for the whole summer. And all the house in the immediate neighborhood were the only ones with water tanks. And the dirt road, neglected for decades, was paved, with shady trees and street lamps planted into the sidewalk that was made of stone.
And from that day on, that is, since he became the Mayor, the rain no longer gathered in puddles that children had to jump over to go to school, and the handsome car started to pass through the street in orderly fashion while the policemen interfered with all those passing there. And we got used to that.
And we got used to seeing him only in newscasts, cutting ribbons or making announcements.

Hard Times
He kept good track of the morning.
Al-Jazeera news before breakfast showing picture of the dead and the wounded that night, and sudden death.
Radio 105 FM is also broadcasting songs of pain about a mother who says goodbye to her son and starts to cry, while the loud voice of the announcer says, Death has a great flavor (it doesn’t matter what he means).
Every once in a while the police car fills the atmosphere with its siren. Also the noise of trucks and huge carts pass through the narrow streets.
The whispering of the two young neighbors (they are arguing) will soon turn into shouts and shrieks. The whole neighborhood gathers (but they say that contrary to expectations it didn’t lead to divorce).
The voice of the old woman who was muttering a song about old times is lost in the crush.
It was also a fatiguing day. The sun appeared like a ball of flame that could barely catch fire.

Translated by Ibrahim Muhawi.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Atef Abu Saif: Look Closely

A Different Morning
This morning is different.
No jets in the sky. Even the sun was late in rising from its bed. And the sound of guns can no longer be heard at the outskirts. Ambulances that did not sleep all night settled down to rest. Even the sun woke up late from its bed in the east. Children, contrary to their custom, did not fill the streets with the noise of their games; nor did the hawking of the women carrying their baskets on the way to market. Also, in the alley in our quarter, the kiss will not appear that two small lips will draw on the cheek of the mother standing in the doorway saying her last good-bye to the son on his way to school.

A young man one day paused and wrote on a wall a short phrase in which he said to a young lady with who had exchanged vows of love with him that he loved her.
Did anyone see that?.
Look closely.
Among all these huge slogans with their bright colors and bright outlines, there’s a phrase beyond this gaggle, singing in another place and saying something different.
Of course no one will look beyond these slogans. No one will make even a small effort to reflect, even a little.
Maybe she was the only person to look amidst all these posters with their bright colors for a small phrase written in fading ink but shining in her heart. At that moment someone surprised her to ask if she wanted to join the faction whose slogans covered the wall at which she was staring.

An Undesirable Poster
Gaza is a huge wall for posters. Election posters are everywhere in the city. A huge box for the posters of those running for President. Huge pictures and slogans hang on the horizon in the street. News bulletins and television programs. Conversations in the coffee shops and differences of opinion. Circulars and fliers promising people sunshine and honey lie about in every alleyway.
Therefore could anything be more touching in all this crash of things than a young man posting the photograph of his mother who died ten years ago (the tenth anniversary of her death) in the middle of the layers of photographs and posters of the candidates. What could be more touching than to have been the only person to see this picture while passing in the street, which, no sooner did the young man turn his book than someone attached a photo of his candidate or maybe he was paid—a poster that covered everything including the picture of the mother of the young man who is sad over her departure on the tenth anniversary of her passing?

The Shadow of the Butterfly
He was walking the unpaved road carrying his satchel on his shoulders. The satchel is like a butterfly that had just settled on a branch. He never forgot to smile. His shadow was moving along the wall to his right, as the sun was setting in the belly of the sea, only a few meters away.
Today he won’t walk the unpaved road, and the butterfly (I mean the satchel) will not settle on the branches (I mean his shoulders), even though the sun today, like every day, still settles into the belly of the sea. Only his shadow will remain on the wall, like an old portrait that stays in place.

The Road
There is something in the road
I asked, “Are you sure it leads to the sea?”
He answered, “Not just sure. I know it as well as the palm of my hand, and I remember it as well as my father’s name.”
He shook his head, and I walked behind him. But there’s something in the road!
A forest on the edges whose heart is darkness
A cloud over our heads whose face is gloomy,
Women wearing black passing every once in a while
Destructive weeds despite the exuberance of spring
A child with bloody feet standing like a lost piece of marble
A disquiet growing like sea moss in the rock of my heart
And something that is whispering to me that he doesn’t know the road, and we are lost

Translated by Ibrahim Muhawi.
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