Robin Moger Translates 1997 Youssef Rakha

Youssef Rakha, Eagle Shadow, 2021

My Heart on the Table

I was not born on the mountaintops. but from the first the sea was my destination. wrestling the ghosts which pursue me was my singular work. exemplary. no, sadly. no, I was not born upon the mountaintops. and my childhood was without gardens. When I let my ghosts drift away to distant lands. I found night at my bedroom window. and I did not stop. until I grew tired of watching the stars. the day I lost my innocence in a whirlpool of light. and hated the sight of my city by day. I had to do something with myself. took time as my enemy before I knew what it was. and became used to sitting on the riverbank. watching the water as it ran on its way. caring nothing for associations of place. I learned to walk in streets that remained nameless. at least to me.

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Youssef Rakha: Who the Fuck Is Charlie

miraj-nama_of_shah_rukh_1-1490ba5a0977120034b

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: 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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