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

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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Chris Steele-Perkins, 1982. Source:

(This is the complete version. The sentences which have been shamelessly deleted by the cowardly editors of the Revue d’Etudes palestiniennes in Paris, in its number 6 published in 1983, have been restored here. The missing sentences, visible here in TT (typewriter police) have been published in the footnotes of the text in the posthumous volume called L’Ennemi déclaré, Gallimard, 1991, p. 408. The English translation has been done by Daniel R. Dupecher and Martha Perrigaud.)

“Goyim kill goyim, and they come to hang the Jews.”

Menachem Begin (Knesset, September 1982)

No one, nothing, no narrative technique, can put into words the six months, and especially the first weeks, which the fedayeen spent in the mountains of jerash and Ajloun in Jordan. As for relating the events, establishing the chronology, the successes and failures of the PLO, that has been done by others. The feeling in the air, the color of the sky, of the earth, of the trees, these can be told; but never the faint intoxication, the lightness of footsteps barely touching the earth, the sparkle in the eyes, the openness of relationships not only between the fedayeen but also between them and their leaders. Under the trees, everything, everyone was aquiver, laughing, filled with wonder at this life, so new for all, and in these vibrations there was something strangely immovable, watchful, reserved, protected like someone praying.

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يوسف رخا: مثلي مثلك


Jacob Aue Sobol, from the project “I, Tokyo”. Source:

لا تكاد تنتهي من رواية «الآخرون» (الساقي 2006)،تأليف شابة سعودية من منطقة القطيف الشيعية تنشر باسم صبا الحِرز ، حتى يعتريك نفور شديد من الخليج والخلايجة. نفور يربو على التقزز، ليس من مشاهد الجنس المثلي التي تخرجها الكاتبة بحساسية سينمائية (تحمل معها رقابتها الخاصة الموجهة)، ولكن من ضعف اعتراضها على مجتمع «ذكوري» من التناقض والغباء بحيث يصعب تصور العيش على هامشه، دعك من التماهي مع متنه كما في هذه الحالة، دون رغبة ولو طارئة في الهجرة أو الانتحار.
الرغبة التي لا تعبر عنها مطلقاً، ولا تدعك تشك لحظة في أنها – هي، هذه الشيطانة الصغيرة -الابنة البارة لهؤلاء الناس، وهذه الحياة.
ليست المسألة أخلاقية، أو هي أخلاقية بالمعنى الأعمق. والمقصود أن الكتابة الإيروسية، بما في ذلك ما يعرض للعلاقات المثلية (روايات جان جينيه، مثلاً) لم يسبق أن أصابتك بشعور مماثل؛ إن كانت ذائقتك تقدر المغامرة والتجاوز – في الحقيقة – لعل كتابة من هذا النوع، أكثر من غيرها، تستثير فيك نوازع الفرح والاحتفال.

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