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.

Continue Reading

Omar Sakr: On Belonging to a Country that Cannot Keep its Children

Hassan Ammar (AFP), Beirut, 19 October, 2019. Source: off-guardian.org

 

after & for Ghassan Hage

 

The day is forecast as catastrophic. Heat

strangles the sky. It bulges, a rotten purple.

Earlier, an old Greek and a friend unexpected

slipped into my sleeping throat to see

why I bulged, rotting within: a history

believed in, threatens to become faith

in a future―didn’t anyone tell you

never to eat a seed? Oh it grows, it grows.

You must lose this weight to be at ease.

Continue Reading

Karissa Lang: New People

Chinese ancestral worship postcard postmarked Shanghai 1908. Source: worthpoint.com

We all descend from someone ancient, and contrary to what is generally believed in the West, they never leave us. Whether you are mystical or logical in nature, the idea sticks. For the former, ancestors spiritually guide us from beyond the grave. For the latter, science now dictates that we genetically inherit their memories and phobias. Either way, an ancestor is someone who passes on information—be it through stories, values, behavior, DNA, or supernatural means—and what distinguishes a good ancestor from a bad one is the quality of this information: a good ancestor hands down wisdom, a bad one gifts us with their pain.

My mother is a bad ancestor and her mother was a bad ancestor too​, a​nd if I can’t be a good one, I’d at least like to be better. I come from a lineage of mothers who did not want children. Mean women, selfish women, indifferent women who resented where they came from and had no idea how to nurture what they’d created. Women who buried their aborted babies in the backyard. Women who abandoned their children to others. Women who raged without really knowing why. Absent women who felt unwanted and unloved and unconsciously groomed every last one of their descendants to experience the same.

Continue Reading

Stacy Hardy: The Empty Plot

The empty lot gapes, yawns and quivers. It exhales dust and sucks the blue out of the sky. It draws her to it, an emptiness that calls out, that whispers and jeers. A wide mouth, that says, come, that dares her.  She has no business with the empty plot. It is a nothing place, a no place, not a place but a gaping, an emptiness that is yet to be filled, something still to come.

It has no address at present, nothing that sets it apart in the neighbourhood. There are so many. Empty stretches of land cleared for some future construction never to come, suspended in the eternal yawning present of oblivion. Plots that have stood so long that they have become part of the landscape, vast parks where rubbish accumulates, some partially developed, deep holes sunk in the earth, now filled with murky water that collects debris, the pokes of steel foundations casting dancing shadows on the surface like the spines of poisonous fish; ruinous scaffold of catastrophic geometries that shade rows of empty buildings, concrete structures looming like theme park wreckage, dark and sullen, windows dust coated, shattered in places, doors padlocked against squatters that never come. The streets that hem them, nearly deserted, monuments to some moment of false hope, a future that dims with each day, grows wary, listless, the air dirty with stalled development.

Continue Reading

The Ruins by Josh Calvo

“The Ruins” is a term borrowed from pre-Islamic poetry, in which “weeping over the ruins” is a favorite gharad; the word gharad, which literally means “purpose” and roughly corresponds to genre, is used to indicate not so much a poem’s theme as the driving force behind its utterance.

Josh Calvo is a writer who also translates from Hebrew and Arabic, among other languages dead and alive. He can be reached at this email.

06151v

Entrance to Aleppo Castle, G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, 1898. Source: loc.gov

Then the rains washed over the ruins, like a book whose text is written and rewritten….

— Labid (d. 661)[1]

For reasons he has kept to himself, Hakham Abraham Yeshaya Dayan–—born around the turn of the nineteenth century in Aleppo, and risen to become a rabbinic leader in its Jewish community, authoring several religious and scholarly books which have now become obscure, the world to which they are addressed having disappeared and the city in which they were to be read and applied having become in the hundred years since he lived unfathomably and irreversibly unrecognizable—decided suddenly, with the dawning of what would be the decade before his death, that the time had come for him to walk along the walls of his ancient city in search of signs from its long history. For want of some sense of his inner motivations, of what he beheld in his mind whenever he tried to see Aleppo in times he cannot have known, of what image of the city as he knew it over his own lifetime had been building itself in his memory, I can discover little more than he himself has admitted—or that has, by chance or by force, admitted itself—into his words. The nineteenth-century Hakham would not have needed to describe the impression left in mind by what he could still see outside: like the feeling of what remained of what once was: or the music of the undead voices of those who lived before: the cold stone of a synagogue surviving in the walls of a mosques: or the distant echoing of King David’s cavalry and Mongol horses heard faintly, aloft the wind from faraway mountains. And now that the Aleppo he knew has smoldered and will never again be seen, what remains are only these silent words by which it will never be described.

Continue Reading

Caroline Stockford: Manual for mourning a great poet

Hüseyin Özdemir, küçük İskender, 2006. Source: instagram.com/huseyinozdemir1

“Because life is the most tragic, most magnificent, most merciless trick death can play on us.”

küçük İskender, “Someone Call an Ambulance”

.

1.

When you first hear of his illness, you should be in the company of a genius journalist at seven at night and still at work. Upon going into the underwater world of shock, you should walk with said visiting journalist to the fountain that the ravens frequent in Vienna’s Volksgarten. Sit on a bench.  As you watch the cascades of crystal beads streaming from between stone wreathes and sculpted longing you might say,

“I can’t cry yet.”

You may regret not having published books with the great poet and letting him have his own way with the stage play you wrote as a canto of his lines.  But you didn’t finish it. Now, this is finishing it.

“When the question is asked: ‘Is there death, after life?'”

küçük İskender, “Necromantic”

.

Continue Reading

*3*ТНЄ ТЯΙВЄ //Hilary Plum//العشيرة

Hilary Plum


**Since 2011 тнє ѕυℓтαη’ѕ ѕєαℓ has brought together writers, translators, artists/photographers and others who now belong in a new kind of tribe. In this series they speak of themselves from where they are geographically and psychologically, so that visitors can meet them face to face // منذ ٢٠١١ وقد جمع ختم السلطان مؤلفين، كتابا كانوا أو مترجمين أو مصورين أو سوى ذلك، باتوا عشيرة من نوع جديد. في هذه السلسلة يتكلمون عن أنفسهم من حيث هم جغرافيا وسايكولوجيا، ليتعرف رواد المدونة عليهم وجها لوجه //

Two Ways into Bara, by Zahreddine: Speaker of the Baran Tribe

(1)

Go to the street, ask for anything, it will be given to you.

BARA will have seized the monarchies and set their palaces ablaze.

There is a fellow population suffering.

To have lived it, later generations will assume it caused great conflict of the heart.

But, take my trials, they are too good for me.

Remember, the videos passed around.

am guilty.

There is nothing left to say.

White sheets compound the pavement.

Chemicals in the territory.

The revolution is a farce.

Continue Reading

Rake the Sentiment: Three Poems by Joe Linker

Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Paris, 1996. Source: magnumphotos.com

On the Bus

Caught up short on the express bus and those drivers don’t stop for shit. I avoid the express because of my affliction but it was filthy out, brown cold rain, and here come the bus, and jostling, and I don’t notice, and it’s an express, and it won’t stop.

I’m good at first, plop down in a seat, bag under my feet, floor wet but seat warm.

Claude said it come from eating out of trashcans and such. They fixed us so we could not ever have kids and road us on a rail out of Utah.

I like to look into the houses, warm glows of lights, the bus passes.

I consider my options.

Bad to give us a bad name. And I do not call myself that. I’m a traveler. A time traveler. I travel all the time. Round and round the city I go.

But I can’t hold it any longer, and this an express bus, so here we go.

Need a boat to paddle out of here. Gives a whole new meaning to disembark.

Continue Reading

Antonio Denti: Notes on War in Times of Peace

Generations

I’d rather fight a war tomorrow than think my son might have to do it one day.

This sentence, which I know to be true, does not belong to me. It does not emanate from me. It inhabits me because I am part of this living planet. It originates in the deepest strata of life, in the mechanisms that regulate the way life is handed down from being to being, from generation to generation, across time. It does not make me any more courageous than the moderately frightened – or more heroic than the moderately selfish – man that I am.

Continue Reading

Carol Sansour: Qadaa wa Qadar

The Palestinians today are drowned in a world of predestination. It looks and feels like the fight to defend their issues is not a choice they have made, but rather a call they have followed blindly. Those who have chosen not to follow that call as it is, or heard it differently, consciously or not, are considered out of tune (not to say labeled with the most horrid qualities).

There is no doubt that Palestinians have the absolute right to fight for their dignity and freedom (what is the meaning of life without dignity and freedom?) But to take to the streets without a real awareness of your purpose or a clear strategy of what it would take to achieve it is suicide.

Continue Reading

Lots of Commas and Etceteras Lying about the Hallway: Four Poems by Julian Gallo

r_frank_41

Robert Frank, from “The Americans”. Source: fadedandblurred.com

A Sort Of Mirage

Shadows in ink. 

On such evenings I’m

too tired to applaud the maestro

but a fresh maté soothes nevertheless. 

War has not been declared

and there is not one fraction

of my life left behind. 

There are lots of commas

and etceteras lying about the hallway

waiting to be used, waiting to be set free

to dance across the page.

They seem to comfort each other

after these outbursts;

a sort of mirage

these words I cannot grasp

.

Continue Reading

Seth Messinger on Alessandro Spina: Bordello Continent, Missione Civilizzatrice

Seth Messigner reviews The Confines of the Shadow by Alessandro Spina, translated by Andre Naffis-Sahely, a 2015 title by Darf Publishers, London

“Marble Arch Built by Italians to Commemorate their victory in Libya”. Photo by Joe Willis. Source: joewillis.co.uk

Confines of the Shadow is the first of three volumes written by Alessandro Spina and translated by Andre Naffis-Sahely. The London-based Darf Publishers has produced nonfiction works in English about Libya, the Arab World and the Middle East. Recently it started publishing translations of world literature as well. Confines of the Shadow links these two concentrations in one multi-volume project. Spina is at once a Libyan, an Arab, and an Italian. He spent much of his career writing his family’s history, through which he explored a uniquely tangled web of relations with the Mediterranean world.

Continue Reading

Joe Linker: Waiting for Marjane

.

I was roaming around Eastside industrial with my notebook, waiting for Lily to get off work, when a sudden squall forced me into a crowded, steamy coffee joint. And who should be sitting at the window drawing in her notebook but my old friend Daisy.

We had been part-timers teaching at the now defunct Failing school and played on the co-ed slow-pitch softball team. Part-time meant we taught summer terms, too, while the full-timers went on vacation. But that was fine because she was an artist and I was a poet. After a few years the scene went to seed and we drifted off and found real jobs.

I got a coffee and sat down with Daisy. She had a book by the Iranian writer Marjane Satrapi (who now lives in Paris). “It’s a comic book,” I said, picking it up and thumbing through it. “Sort of,” Daisy said, smiling.

Continue Reading

Youssef Rakha: The Strange Case of the Novelist from Egypt

IMG_7360

By Youssef Rakha

About mid-way through his Nobel Prize lecture, read by Mohamed Salmawy at the Swedish Academy in 1988, the acknowledged father of the Arabic novel Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) made the point that Europeans “may be wondering: This man coming from the third world, how did he find the peace of mind to write stories?” It’s a remark that has remained with me, not so much because it implies, absurdly, that no one from a third-world country is supposed to have either peace or mind enough for literature—it particularly annoys me when, addressing his European audience, Mahfouz goes on to say they’re “perfectly right” to be posing that question—but because this presumption of deprivation or lack, of writing being something over and above ordinary living and working, seems in a way to underlie the Egyptian novelist’s collective self-image. And, especially now that Egypt is barely surviving institutional collapse and civil conflict—something that despite war, regime change, and the turn of the millennium, never happened during the 94 years of Mahfouz’s life—as a person who lives in Cairo and writes novels in Arabic, it is an idea I am somehow expected to have about myself.

Continue Reading

Youssef Rakha Translates Sargon Boulus

The refugee tells

lon42134

Chris Steele-Perkins. Refugees in a sandstorm, Sha-allan ONE camp, Jordan, 1990. Source: magnumphotos.com

The refugee absorbed in telling his tale

feels no burning, when the cigarette stings his fingers.

He’s absorbed in the awe of being Here

after all those Theres: the stations, and the ports,

the search parties, the forged papers…

He dangles from the chain of circumstance –

his destiny wound like fibre,

in rings as narrow as

those countries on whose chest

the nightmares have piled up.

 

Continue Reading

No more posts.