Hadil Ghoneim: Home Accents

The author at school in Kuwait. Courtesy of Hadil Ghoneim

“You speak with no accent,” the American man remarked. He was hosting our small Egyptian delegation for lunch, and I knew he meant it as a compliment. It was my first visit to the US, but instead of simply thanking him, I found myself thinking over his comment. “I actually speak English with an American accent,” I said. The awkwardness dissipated as I went on to tell the whole group about growing up in Kuwait, attending an American school where all my teachers were from the US. That school’s Lebanese-American founders probably had the same self-aggrandizing sense of identity, too. They named it The Universal American School.

American wasn’t the only accent I picked up there. The majority of my peers were the children of Lebanese, Palestinian, and Egyptian professionals working in Kuwait. There were very few Kuwaiti kids, some Iraqis, some Syrians, and a small assortment of non-Arab nationalities. I wasn’t even conscious that I was mimicking the other kids’ accents until the Arabic language teacher, assuming I was Kuwaiti, asked me to tell the class something about Kuwait. Before I could correct him, another kid shouted out that I was Palestinian, only to be corrected by another. I was embarrassed, but also surprised at how deceptive my speech could be. I wasn’t aware that I was an accent chameleon. For a long time after that incident, I thought the way I spoke must be the result of some weakness or insecurity that I had as a child in a culturally mixed community. Nothing reassured me about my bidialectalism until I came across some British research on accents (the Brits are famous for obsessing over voices). Rather than a sign of inauthenticity, research shows that switching dialects and accents is a natural and subconscious adaptive impulse, and that it can be attributed to the increased mobility of the middle classes.

Continue Reading

Yumna Kassab: Taxi

Beirut taxi by The Monocle. Source: cdn.shopify.com

When my father was younger, he said he would learn English. It is the language of the world, it is the future here.

 He took us out of our school and enrolled us in another. Arabic, English, a little French, and this would let us be citizens of the world.

How was he to learn English as an adult man? There were no courses in the village, he could not read at a level to enter university. His one choice was to read over our shoulders and for us to teach him the words. He put a satellite dish on the roof and we only ever watched English shows night and day. He had the TV turned to children’s shows because they spoke slowly and he could understand.

Continue Reading

K. Eltinaé: wasiya

Rashid Diab, Out of Focus, 2015. Source: artauctioneastafrica.com/

How long is a life avoiding the beach? believing God spoke through my father some found seashell pushed off a shelf I cannot bury. I’d like to think there are aisles of men praying somewhere once I’m gone/that their tongues wrap around where I kept warm like a turban woven in prayer by strangers/that I am not found stiff/half hanging off a hotel bed under a phrasebook in another useless language/I hope I go dreaming in Arabic/because love there sounds like the wind passes through every vowel/somewhere buried in my voice there is asphalt singing as brothers build rooms for one another/I find new corners in case I come back/everyone gets a duaa to float across the lake and watch disappear/this is mine.

 


K. Eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent. His work has appeared in World Literature Today, The African American Review and About Place Journal, among others. He can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Bola Opaleke: Songs and Dances as a Cosmopolitan Village

Hamed Nada (1924-1990), Untitled, 1963. Source: bonhams.com

In the endlessness of life’s cyclical wheel, in the dangerous neutrality of man’s mortal effulgence, and or the cowardly barricade of the conflictual rhythms of his existence, he often misappropriates songs without adequately supplying the right dances to them.

“Don’t sing a song,” he said. “If you cannot find the perfect dance for it.”

Those were the exact words by my father (translated from Yoruba) in 1991 after I’d told him I wanted to join the Nigerian Army so one day I could be a military president. Years later, I would still, in my head, shuffle the judgmental finality of his words, probe at its proverbial complexity and perplexity, and ultimately resign from that variegated prodding of the wheel that will never cease to turn. A song is a song is a song, and a dance is a dance is a dance. Period!

Continue Reading

Robin Moger: Two 1975 Stories by Muhammed Mustajab

Muhammad Mustajab, undated. Source: albawabhnews.com

The guide

He wandered into my path. My shoulder knocked into his shoulder and we smiled or apologised. The traffic, he said. I walked on. He turned and followed me. He said again, The traffic. I moved to the kerb and waited. He said shyly, I’m looking for the university placement office? He held out a piece of paper. I didn’t look at the piece of paper. He said, My eldest boy. He said, I’m from Tanta. He said, It’s cold. The traffic. I said, The office isn’t far. Take the first bus you see. I said, Get out at the university. Take any bus, I said. He put the letter back in his pocket and he smiled. Started moving his feet again. Started to walk away. I paused for a second and let him pass. I looked behind me. I called out. Don’t take the bus, I shouted. Listen to me. He came back. My voice was raised. Don’t take the bus, I said: It’s not far. The traffic, I said. I gestured at the pavement. I said, Just keep going on this side. I said, The office you want’s at the end of this street. He smiled. This way’s better, I said. He smiled. I said, The end of the street. Better than the traffic, I said. The letter was in his hand. He started to cross the street. I said, This side of the street, all the way down. He paused. Took a step forward. Immediately after the university, I said, and he was thrown up in the air. The whole world screaming. Rolling to a stop over his body the car.


Continue Reading

Nurat Maqbool: Gone

nilimasheikh-talk-01

Nilima Sheikh, Hunarmand, 2014. From “Each night put Kashmir in your dreams”. Source: cdn.aaa.org.hk

“Rizwan, it’s you, it’s you. Is that you, Rizwan?”

“Yes, it is me. But who are you? I know your voice but I can’t put a face to it.”

“Ah, never mind. Your father… your father has been looking for you. Where were you? What took you so long?”


Continue Reading

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.

Continue Readig

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.

Continue Reading

Hilary Plum: Lions

Saul Leiter, Barbara, 1951. Source: designobserver.com

.

The long fact of the turned face is named faith.

Through the tall windows opposing the tapestries

that depict the gaze of the lion, low hills with dark cows

remain far. A pheasant plump in the dirt, a voice saying you,

and modern angles guide us into the room where we were

never again, as in the absence of any machine a man

watches the ball propelled down the lane toward him

then bends, pins in hand. I hear his regular breath.

.

Continue Reading

Nurat Maqbool: Dark Waters

INDIA. 2015. Three friends, Kashmir.

Sohrab Hura, Three friends, Kashmir, 2015. Source: magnumphotos.com

It was a rainy day in April.

Noonie stepped out of her school bus and looked across the lake. The naked bulbs on a line of houseboats stared back at her. “Now what?” they seemed to ask.

The clouds swathed the mountains. The wind punched, pushed, bent the trees across the road.

She had to row half a kilometre to reach her home: a houseboat. Hers was at the farther edge of the lake near the marshy land. Every day she rowed the small shikara to and fro across the lake. Sometimes, Gul kak, a neighbour, rowed her in case it rained. But that day, no one was in sight.

Continue Reading

Robin Moger: Ahmad Yamani’s The Scream

Michael Donovan. Source: studiodonovan.com

My sister screamed in the night

Take me to my brother’s house

And there she screamed that same night

No no! Take me back to the house of my father

They took her back

And when she made to scream again

The night had passed

And the men had gone to work.

.

Continue Reading

Seat of a passenger who left the bus

WADIH SAADEH’S LANDMARK POEM IN ROBIN MOGER’S TRANSLATION

IMG_7827

Wadih Saadeh selling his poems on Hamra Street in Beirut, circa 1968. Source: al-ghorba12.blogspot

Farewell God I walk looking at my feet off to the cafe to meet my friends

Farewell I grow old the cafe in the square I mount two steps and sit

Heard Carmena Burana and went now the player sings alone

by the closed window

Light rain against the pane light rain against the port across the way

Farewell Four o’clock I have a date with my friends

Continue Reading

Noor Naga: Boy Does Not Like To Share

1414b8c7-424d-4dc7-8281-4c493b4c224d

Federico Giovannini, from “You and I”. Source: lensculture.com

Knowing a father’s belt has snap-

ping metal teeth, one does not

have to think of kneeling.

One kneels. One kneels

to please before the word is

heard or the leather tongue

slides drily through the loops.

Continue Reading

No more posts.