Kurdistan + 100
Stories from a future republic
"Kurdistan + 100" is the third anthology in Comma Press's "future past" series, and a fourth – Egypt + 100 – is set to be published next year. Writers are asked to imagine a moment in the future connected to an event in their shared past
10/11, not 9/11
New literary agency for a new approach
Specialising in bold, exciting, contemporary Arabic literature, 10/11 literary agents Sandra Hetzl and Katharine Halls talk to Marcia Lynx Qualey about their tastes and selection criteria, how they divide their work, and what they love (and don't) about literary agenting
'They Fell Like Stars from the Sky'
Sheikha Helawy's joyous, rebellious passions
Their bodies might be displaced, torn away from homes and villages. Yet the memories of women and girls in Sheikha Helawy's short-story collection "They Fell Like Stars from the Sky" remain, haunting the spaces where they once lived. Marcia Lynx Qualey read the book
“A History of Arab Graphic Design”
Shaping collective memories
Bahia Shehab and Haytham Nawar's award-winning "A History of Arab Graphic Design" (2020) took ten years to produce. In interview with Marcia Lynx Qualey, Shehab talks about the project and the difficulties in compiling an Arab graphic design textbook
"The Book of Charlatans"
Mediaeval Syria's answer to Mark Twain
In this new bilingual edition, translated by Humphrey Davies, al-Jawbari, one of the thirteenth century's leading experts in skullduggery reveals all there is to know about the wiles of false prophets, quacks, prestidigitators, cat burglars, money changers, false alchemists, and – worst of all – women. By Marcia Lynx Qualey
Book review: Hassan Blasim's "God 99"
A different sort of sacred
Reading Hassan Blasim's God 99 is an immersive experience of grief and exaltation, anger and disgust, writes Marcia Lynx Qualey. We join the Iraqi narrator as he sits around in seedy Finnish bars and plays slot machines; as he meets refugees and listens to their stories; as he exchanges letters with a dying friend; and as he crosses a kaleidoscopic series of borders
Meryem Alaoui's "Straight from the Horse’s Mouth"
A fiercely enjoyable feminist fairytale
Even though Meryem Alaoui's debut novel "Straight from the Horse's Mouth" centres on a female character working in a field – sex work – that is often, at least in Arabic literature, linked to Morocco, it does so with humour, warmth, and a tumbling, cartwheeling taste for the fantastic. Marcia Lynx Qualey read the book
Tayeb Salih in translation
"Mansi": A rare book in its own way
Widely acknowledged as one of the twentieth century’s great writers – think "Season of Migration to the North" – most of Tayeb Salih's work is surprisingly overlooked. The publication in posthumous translation of "Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way" has therefore been met with delight by fans. Marcia Lynx Qualey read the book
Aziz Binebine's "Tazmamart: Eighteen years in Morocco’s secret prison"
We were robbed of our health, our youth and our innocence
Spring 2020 finally saw the publication of Aziz Binebine's Tazmamart memoir in English, translated by Lulu Norman. While it has now been nearly 30 years since the prisoners left their underground cells, Tazmamart remains synonymous both with hidden military prisons and with the terrors of Morocco’s Years of Lead. Marcia Lynx Qualey read the book
Book review: Sahar Khalifeh's "Passage to the Plaza"
It's all a question of timing
When Sahar Khalifeh’s "Passage to the Plaza" appeared in English this year, thirty years after its initial publication, it seemed out of sync – too late and too overshadowed by the coronavirus. Yet perhaps this is just the right time: its locked-in world of curfews and domestic violence speak to 2020 as much as it did to 1990. By Marcia Lynx Qualey
Book review: Mohamed Elshahed's "Cairo Since 1900"
In pursuit of other modernisms
Cairo is often described as an ancient city, full of wonders that are thousands of years old. Yet Mohamed Elshahed persuasively argues, in the newly released "Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide", that the city we see today was largely shaped by twentieth-century concerns. By Marcia Lynx Qualey
Book review: Tawfiq al-Hakim’s "Return of the Spirit"
Awaiting the day of resurrection
In 2019, the long-running Penguin Classics series released its first novel translated from Arabic: Tawfiq al-Hakim’s "Return of the Spirit", conveyed into English by William Hutchins. Al-Hakim wrote his popular novel in Paris in 1927 and published it in Cairo six years later, in 1933. Marcia Lynx Qualey read the book