١٠ × ١٠: يوسف رخا يعمل إزعاجاً

(١) الكتابة

أرى الكتابة كلها نوعاً من المعرفة، أراها معرفة أو تواؤماً مع الواقع كما أن كل معرفة تواؤم وإن لم تكن مصالحة ولا حتى بالضرورة فهماً. الفهم مجرد جزء من المعرفة. لكن الكتابة أيضاً منطق في الحياة أو طريقة بالمعنى الصوفي، وبهذه الصفة – بلا مبالغة أو تحوير – أنت تدخر لها كل شيء عن طيب خاطر، لأنها تمنح حياتك معنى أو جدوى بمعزل عن كل أسباب التحقق خارج النص، مادية أكانت أو معنوية. هي لا تغنيك عن الحياة من أجل تحقق مادي أو معنوي، لكنها تمنح السعي إليهما معنى وتجعل المعرفة غايته. كل الناس تعيش بالكلمات، الفرق أنك تصير واعياً بذلك. تعرف أنك تعرف. ولعل هذه ثورة في حد ذاتها: تلك المواجهة مع الكلمات والتي أظن أكثر الناس يتحاشونها بكل طاقتهم لأنها مؤلمة ومخيفة، لكن الكتابة تمكّنك من استمتاع معذّب بخوضها حتى وأنت تدفع ثمن متعتك من استغراب واستياء الآخرين ممن تكتب عنهم أو تفقدهم بمرور الوقت.

 

 

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Youssef Rakha: Sartre, My Father and Me

When my father’s body gave in at the age of 67, there was no cause of death as such. His health was undoubtedly poorly, he was addicted to a range of pharmaceuticals — but none of the vital organs had stopped functioning. Strangely, my mother and I saw it coming: there were tears on the day, long before we could have known it was happening. And when it did happen, the relief of no longer having to care for a prostrate depressive seemed to justify it. In the next few months there was oblivion. I had felt alienated from his dead body, I saw it wrapped in white cloth, in public, and I thought I was over the fact.

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البودكاست، مع مينا وإسلام🎙: (١٢) الطغرى والإنجليزي: مقابلة مع يوسف رخا



Photo of Youssef Rakha courtesy of the subject

في حلقة بودكاست ختم السلطان الثانية عشرة – والأخيرة لسنة ٢٠١٩ – يتحدث مضيف البودكاست يوسف رخا عن تاريخه مع الكتابة والعمل ومآخذه على الوسط الأدبي المصري، وعن الإجابات التي أعانته على أسئلة صعبة من قبيل جدوى الإبداع ومحاولات خلق مجتمع أدبي بديل. كما يناقش النشر والأنواع الأدبية والفروق بين العالم العربي والغرب والقيم الريفية في المدينة.

 

بودكاست ختم السلطان هو إنتاج وتنسيق مينا ناجي وإسلام حنيش. هما من يختاران الضيف، ويحددان الأسئلة، ويديران الجوانب التنسيقية والتقنية. وليس للموقع فضل ولا عليه لوم غير استضافة البرنامج

يوسف رخا: دِيَم، المتنبي ١

Trent Parke, Sydney, from “Dream/Life”, 2001. Source: magnumphotos.com

أربعة وأربعون عاماً حتى أعرف أن الديمة هي المطر الحنون، ذلك الذي حين يَنزل لا تُصاحبه أصوات مُفزعة، وأن مجيئه متوقف على أمزجة الغمام. جرّبي مرّة أن تكدّريه، أن تذكّريه بمتاعب الحياة، ولو رأيتِ غير أهوال السماء اتفلي على وجهي. معقول كل هذه السنين وأنا أكابر؟ الصواعق التي تحيلني شبحاً مُعتذِراً يزحف على أمل أن تمصّه الأرض، التي تجعل المياه إيهاماً بالغرق والجفاف تعذيباً بالكهرباء، وحده الغمام يقدر على منعها كما يُرسِل الدِيَمَ غيداء وشهية وفرحانة باحتوائي. أربعة وأربعون عاماً حتى أراها كراتٍ من الفضة تتراقص في أسراب على هيئة طائرة أو حصان، تتجسّم للقائي. فأعرف أن الشوق ليس سوى المياه التي تَقطُر من أجسامنا حين يعصرنا الفراق. الدِيَم عندي أنا يا حبيبتي. في جلدة رأسي من الداخل سماء أحاول أن أكون غمامها. وحتى الأرض التي تحملني مجرد حجة لأكتب لك. الآن ينقعني المطر.

ثلاث قصائد لأوشان فونغ ترجمة يوسف رخا

Ocean Vuong. Source: asitoughttobe.wordpress.com

هايبون المهاجر

 

الطريق التي تقودني إليك آمنة
حتى وإن صَبّت في المحيطات
– إدمون جابيس
ثُم، وكأنّه يتنفس، انتفخ البحر من تحتنا. إذا كان ولابد أن تَعرف أي شيء، اعرف أنّ أصعب مُهمة هي أن ​تعيش مرة واحدة. أنّ امرأةً على سفينة غارقة تُصبح قارب نجاة – مهما كان جِلْدها ناعماً. بينما أنا نائم، أَحرَق كمنجته الأخيرة لتبقى قدماي دافئتين. رقد إلى جانبي ووضع كلمة على قفاي، ذابت فإذا هي قطرة ويسكي. صَدَأٌ ذهبيٌ بامتداد ظهري. لنا شهور مُبحِرون. الملح في عِباراتنا. مبحرون ولا أثر لحافة العالم.
*

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الثورة بجد: قصائد مختارة ليوسف رخا

Rakha, Iford Delta 3200 Negative, 2003

Youssef Rakha, Iford Delta 3200 Negative, 2003


رسالة المنفِي*

 

إلى محمد أبو الليل راشد في غربته

 

أكتب لكَ والمنافض أهرام من الأعقاب.
الشيء الذي حذّرتَني من دَوَامِه توقّف.
وصداع النوم المُمَزَّق يجعل الدنيا خاوية. أنت فاهم.
في جيوب الحياة ننقّب عن عملة من عصور سحيقة،
عملة صدئة وربما قبيحة لكنها سارية في سوق الأبدية.
نصبح ملائكة حين نعثر عليها. نجترها حتى نتأكد
أنها لا تشتري البقاء.
؎

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Youssef Rakha: You Will Still Hear the Scream

Reading “Correction” in Cairo

Thomas Bernhard by Michael Horowitz, 1976. Source: revistacaliban.net

“If one disregards the money that goes with them,” says the narrator in Wittgenstein’s Nephew, a more or less real-life avatar of the writer Thomas Bernhard, “there is nothing in the world more intolerable than award ceremonies.” Berhard goes on to describe his experience with literary awards and how they “do nothing to enhance one’s standing”—also the subject of a dedicated little book of his, My Prizes: An Accounting—revealing the depth of his contempt for the institution, for Vienna’s “literary coffee houses”, which have a “deadly effect on the writer”, and for the compromises and dishonesties required by the writerly life:

I let them piss on me in all these city halls and assembly rooms, for to award someone a prize is no different from pissing on him. And to receive a prize is no different from allowing oneself to be pissed on, because one is being paid for it. I have always felt that being awarded a prize was not an honor but the greatest indignity imaginable. For a prize is always awarded by incompetents who want to piss on the recipient. And they have a perfect right to do so, because he is base and despicable enough to receive it.

For a Third World writer inevitably enraged by the tastes, biases and ulterior, including politically correct motives of Third World award juries, the effect is one of liberation. So even in grand old Austria this happens! It is also one of recognition. Here, dead since 1989, is someone who not only knew the truth but wasn’t afraid to say it, going so far as to integrate it into the fabric of his art.

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الحدوتة التي أحكيها: شهادة يوسف رخا، صيف ٢٠١٧

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Youssef Rakha, Self Portrait on Kismet’s Birthday, 2018

الحدوتة التي أحكيها عن نفسي… لا يهم إن كانت حقيقية وإلى أي حد، لكن الكلام لن يكون مجديًا في غير كونه حدوتة.
أليس جميلًا مثلًا أني تفاديت فخ الزَفّة العائلية التي تقيمها طائفة المثقفين لأعضائها وخرجت من وسط البلد بسلام؟ في هذه المرحلة عندي استعداد صادق للتصالح، ليس بمعنى التنازل عن رؤيتي أو كتابة ما لا يرضيني نزولًا على الرائج لكن فقط القبول بحدود المتاح من نجاح برحابة صدر والامتنان العميق لما أمكنني إنجازه بغض النظر عن الاحتفاء. سبع سنين كاملة مرت على فراغي من أكثر مشروع شعرت بضرورة إتمامه: كتاب الطغرى. فربما يصح لي أن أحكي…
الحدوتة تبدأ سنة ٢٠٠٥.  في ٢٠٠٥ انطلقتْ صحوة ما في المجال الأدبي أو الثقافي في القاهرة. وفي ٢٠٠٥ ذهبتُ إلى بيروت. الصحوة جاءت أحداث ٢٠١١ لتُخمدها كالقضاء. والغرام الذي نشب في صدري من ناحية لبنان تحول إلى ما يشبه العداء، مع الوقت. لكن، وبفضل أشياء مثل أمكنة في الإسكندرية وزوايا في بيروت ثم دار رياض الريس مرورًا بمحيي اللباد وجماعة أخبار الأدب، في ٢٠٠٥ جاءت رِجلي مرة ثانية وعدت إلى نشرالكتابة.

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Christmas Gift: Youssef Rakha’s Arab Porn *Remixed*

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Youssef Rakha. A stock photo of a woman in niqab is made up of versions of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy’s iconic picture, her act of protest of 2011.

Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.
– Plato, BC 427–347

Always I have and will
Scatter god and gold to the four winds.
When we meet, I delight in what the Book forbids.
And flee what is allowed.
– Abu Nuwas, AD 756–813

The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence; by asking this question one is merely admitting to a store of unsatisfied libido to which something else must have happened, a kind of fermentation leading to sadness and depression.
– Sigmund Freud, 1937

The revolution is for the sake of life, not death.
― Herbert Marcuse, 1977

Eros is an issue of boundaries.
– Anne Carson, 1986

Scene–1

“Hi, I’m writing a piece on Arab porn and would love to get your input…”

“Why would I be relevant to Arab porn?”

“Porn meaning explicit web content, or sexual self expression in general.”

“I see. Well, okay. I’d like to read what you’re writing but I don’t want to contribute. Not because I’m against the idea. I just don’t feel like revealing anything at this point, or I don’t have anything to reveal. I don’t want to explain myself or my sexuality or whatever.”

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Youssef Rakha: Nawwah

Rakha, Masr Station, 2007

Youssef Rakha, Masr Station, 2007

And verily We had empowered them with that wherewith We have not empowered you, and had assigned them ears and eyes and hearts—Quran, xlvi, 26

My instructions are to deliver the corpse to Nastassja Kinsky. We are to meet at nine tomorrow morning in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel, just off the seashore in downtown Alexandria. The corpse is a lightweight microelectronic bolt that looks like a miniature coffin; Nastassja Kinsky is an agent of the Plant. If I revealed what the Plant is, I would die.

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I Saw a Man Hugging a Fridge: Twelve Poems by Youssef Rakha in Robin Moger’s Translation

HAITI. Gonaives. 1994. U.S. invasion.

Alex Webb, Gonaives, Haiti, US invasion, 1994. Source: magnumphotos.com

First song of autumn

 

Joy of my days, come

watch me run

I’ve bought white shoes

and see-through eagle’s wings

I am the clarinet’s mouth

and you the ransomed player

Kneel and guzzle me, set

the sea’s taste in my throat

and make my breast a wave

upon whose mane the sun

sows jewels

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الأسد على حق: ألن جينسبرج ترجمة يوسف رخا

Allen Ginsberg at Human Be-In 1967 (Album cover for Dharma Lion), uncredited. Source: heal1.bandcamp.com

كن صامتًا من أجلي، أيها الإله المتأمل
 
عدت إلى بيتي لأجد في الصالة أسدًا 
وهرعت إلى بئر السلم أصرخ: أسد! أسد
السكرتيرتان الجارتان، عقصت كل منهما شعرها الأدكن. وبصفقة ارتدت نافذتهما مقفلة
أسرعت إلى بيت أهلي في باتيرسون، ومكثت نهارين    

هاتفت طبيبي النفسي، تلميذ رايخ 
كان قد حرمني من الجلسات عقابًا على التحشيش 
حصل” – هكذا لهثت في أذنه – “في صالة بيتي أسد.”    
للأسف، لا مجال للمناقشة،وضع السماعة 

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Youssef Rakha: The Postmuslim

A. Abbas, Pakistan, 1988. Source: magnumphotos.com

Return of the Prodigal Muslim

Everybody knows the Enlightenment is dying. I don’t mean in the hells from which people board immigrant boats. It was never very alive here in the first place. I mean in the heavens to which the boat people seek suicidal access.

They end up drowning less for the love of the Postchristian West, it would seem, than out of despair with the Muslim East. Blame politics and economics, for sure. But could it be that all three phenomena – despair, poverty and dictatorship – are rooted in the same cultural impasse?

Today Brexits, Trumps and, let us not forget, the Islamic Invasion of Europe are spelling an Endarkenment all across the North, confining progressive and egalitarian principles to intensive care units. And I’m wondering what that could mean for despairing Muslims in the South.

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Youssef Rakha: Revolution’s Residue

I had my camera when I went out to demonstrate on Friday, January 28, the climax of the Egyptian revolution (January 25-February 11, 2011). I was on the streets for over twelve hours but I took only two pictures; they were to sit for years on my hard drive, unedited and undisplayed: my only trophies from the revolution. Unlike the majority of “Arab Spring revolutionaries”, from the moment Tahrir Square was occupied in the small hours of Saturday, January 29 and until the long-time president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, I felt that I couldn’t photograph and protest at the same time, that to be photographing would render my presence in the protests insincere and that the protests were about more important things than photography.

At the same time the figures and the faces that I saw daily in and around the protests, and which belonged to both “revolutionaries” and “counterrevolutionaries”, imprinted themselves on my mind more forcefully than ever before: sullen and despairing men, slim women in high heels and children everywhere.

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Youssef Rakha: Three Times Cairo

One: Instagram Dreams

Sleep-deprivation is like being high. I know because I was high for a long time, then I started sleeping irregularly. It’s supposed to have something to do with lack of sugar in the brain, which is also the theory of what LSD does to consciousness. Things grow fluid and dreamlike, but at the same time there is a paranoid awareness of motion and a heaviness in the heart. Colour and sound become a lot sharper, and time feels totally irrelevant. Normal speed is fast but fast can pass for normal. A moment lasts for days, days can fit in a moment. Talking and laughing are far more involving, especially laughing. The grotesque animal implicit in each person comes out, sometimes messing up the conversation. And then it’s as if you have no body. As in the best music, an uncanny lightness balances the overriding melancholy. There is joy in flying when you don’t need to move. All through this, what’s more, every passing emotion turns into an epic experience.

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دعاء المؤلف: إيليا كامينسكي ترجمة يوسف رخا

Pre-1905 Odessa “Town Scenes” postcard. Source: eBay

.
إذا تكلمت باسم الموتى، فلابد من ترك
حيوان جسدي،
.
لابد من كتابة القصيدة نفسها مرة بعد مرة،
لأن الصفحة الفارغة هي الراية البيضاء لاستسلامهم.
.
إذا تكلمت باسمهم، لابد أن أمشي على حافة
نفسي، لابد أن أعيش كرجل أعمى
.
يجري في الحجرات ولا
يلمس الأثاث.
.

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Youssef Rakha: Who the Fuck Is Charlie

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From the Miraj Nama of Shah Rukh, 15th century, showing the Prophet Muhammad astride his Buraq. Source: studyblue.com

The mere idea of contributing to the Charlie Hebdo colloquy is a problem. It’s a problem because, whether as a public tragedy or a defense of creative freedom, the incident was blown out of all proportion. It’s a problem because it’s been a moralistic free-for-all: to express solidarity is to omit context, to forego the meaning of your relation to the “slain” object of consensus, to become a hashtag. It’s a problem above all because it turns a small-scale crime of little significance outside France into a cultural trope.

Charlie Hebdo is not about the senseless (or else the political) killing of one party by another. It’s about a Platonic evil called Islam encroaching on the  peaceful, beneficent world order created and maintained by the post-Christian west. Defending the latter against the former, commentators not only presume what will sooner or later reduce to the racial superiority of the victim. They also misrepresent the perpetrator as an alien force independent of that order.

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Youssef Rakha: He Threw Himself into the Sea

The Sultan’s Seal reviews one of Darf Publishers’ recent titles: the Eritrean writer Abu Bakr Khaal’s African Titanics, translated from the original Arabic by Charis Bredin

Photo by Alex Majoli, source: magnum photos.com

I immediately began to suss out the reputations of all the local smugglers, remaining in a state of anxious indecision as to which of them I should do business with. There was ‘Fatty’, known for his reliability and the care he took of those who travelled aboard his Titanics. His reputation extended all over Africa and travellers from Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Ghana and Liberia would hunt him down as soon as they arrived in [Tripoli]. Other smugglers were known for how swiftly they could arrange crossings. Every week, one of their Titanics would leave for the far shore, completely devoid of safety precautions, and likely to sink a few miles out to sea.

Like Samuel Shimon (An Iraqi in Paris, 2005), and Hamdi Abu Golayyel (A Dog with No Tail, 2009), Abu Bakr Khaal writes reportage with fictional license. Though a Tigré-speaking Eritrean with no apparent connection to the Arab literary scene, he belongs in a recent Arabic tradition of confessional narrative that benefits as much from its authors’ down-and-out credentials as their distinct vernaculars. Whether Khaal’s language is interesting because of influence from his mother tongue, I don’t know.

In Charis Bredin’s decidedly British English, African Titanics is a breezy read, worthwhile for its first-hand take on an essential topic and its pseudo-mythology of pan-African wanderlust.

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Youssef Rakha: The Importance of Being Lars

Nymphomaniac’s Message for the Arab Spring

 

As an Arab you’re probably expecting me to lay into Nymphomaniac. It’s a film that must seem, if not offensive to my cultural sensibility, then irritatingly irrelevant to the poverty, underdevelopment, and upheaval that surround my life.

In most cases dropping the word “white” in the same paragraph as “Islam’s respect for women” is all it would take to slam Lars von Trier in this context. It would be a politically correct slur, too. I could even draw on Edward Said’s hallowed legacy to point out that the only time non-Europeans appear in over four hours of action, they’re portrayed as dumb sex tools. Not only self-indulgent and obscene but also Orientalist, etc..

But the truth is I actively delighted in Nymphomaniac, and I didn’t have to stop being an Arab for that to happen. To be accurate I should say I would’ve welcomed a von Trier film anyway, but this one showed up when it was needed—and it duly exploded on arrival.

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Writing the North African Experience: Interview with Youssef Rakha

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Centre for African Poetry: Let us begin by inviting you to humour our ignorance. The title of your 2011 novel is translated Book of the Sultan’s Seal, but we wonder which of the two names we have seen for it in Arabic is more accurate – khutbat al-kitab, or Kitab at Tughra?

Rakha: Kitab at Tughra is the title. Khutbat al-kitab means, literally, “Address of the book”; it’s a formulaic canonical phrase for “introduction” or “prologue”, which here and in old Arabic books doubles as a kind of table of contents; on the surface the novel is modelled on a medieval historical text. It may be worth mentioning in passing that the original sense of kitab, which is the Arabic word for “book”, means simply “letter” or “epistle”: every canonical book is addressed to a patron or a friend, and that’s an idea that is particularly meaningful to me.

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