Joanna Pickering: Paradox of Color 

Mark Rothko, No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red), 1951. Source: artscash.com/

It had been a bad morning from the onset. It started with a flood from the bathroom which cracked the lower wall and damaged her one and only painting of any expense. She didn’t have insurance. It was a real shame. 

The painting was The Paradox of Color. It was an original. It was the first original piece of art she’d bought. The gallery shipped it to her and it arrived with a crate of champagne. They knew they’d gone to town with the sale’s close. The adrenalin rush isn’t something she’d forget. 

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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.

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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.


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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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Mustajab VII: The Countryside Photography of Khaled Al Shoura

Blessed is he who lays a flower on a tomb or a palace or a breast, is he who is born in the seventh month or the twelfth, is the throat become gorge, is he who slaughters his only horse out of kindness. Blessed is he who sinks to his knees pleading forgiveness or overcome with lust, is he who bears a cross upon his back, is he who boils a porridge of cement to hoodwink his children’s hunger, is the sniffer become snout, is the time when a wife could gather together the pieces of her helpmeet’s corpse and he would live, are the truths cowering in the crevices of falsehood, is the nation that feeds on the chatter of the worthless, is the nation that feeds on the prattling of the powerful, is the gulp become gullet. Blessed is he who fashions an ear from clay and an ear from dough until his head is severed, is a sun that still rises in the East, is a star that shines through on a cloudy day. Blessed be this tale, which would not have be told of Mustajab VII were it not for that incident, revealed to the world by a wordsmith whose father laboured as a screenwriter, wherein Mustajab VII secretly murdered Mustajab VI, sold his body to students studying dissection and with the proceeds erected a sumptious pavilion replete with dazzling lights and microphones that resounded with proverbial wisdom, to outfox foes and keep in remembrance the glorious exploits of Clan Mustajab, ancient and modern, then stood at its entrance to receive the sincerest of condolences. This is a slander against the man, which lays the very heart of truth to waste and strikes at the crux of our tale, the point at which it joins with what took place thereafter, for which reason we set over this incident an upturned water jar, and kept it hid.


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Aashish Kaul: Phantom Days

Cian Dayrit, from Spectacles of the Third World, 2015. Source: tin-aw.com


in this world, beauty is so common

— Jorge Luis Borges


Again I wake up with the sound of drums in my ears, the mattress hard under me. I bury my face in the crook of my arm that is on the pillow, while with the other hand I search for the watch. The drums seem nearer now; their beats ruffle the hair on the back of my head and slide down into my ears, but sleep has not left me entirely and it is with difficulty that I lift my head to check the time. It is not yet eight and I have already twice repeated these movements in the last twenty minutes, which could well be three hours. Then all at once the beating of drums ceases. The company has concluded its morning march. A bugle is heard three times. After that all is silent, though I now become aware of another sound, that of the old fan rotating above. Fighting the urge to fall back to sleep I turn around and rub my eye with a finger. I can think of nothing as I follow the movements of the fan through the mosquito net that closes on me from all sides – like a room within a room. In my sleep I recall feeling the warmth of a body. But here I lie alone, ignoring the discomfort of a full bladder. I see the road that passes through the forest, its trees yellowish-brown skeletons, their branches bare and rising willy-nilly towards a sky which is white with heat; the earth as far as you can look is covered with dead leaves. It is a landscape at the end of time.

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Fernando Sdrigotti: Satori in Hainault

USA. Portland, Oregon. 2015. Satori on stage. From the series "Mary's Girls."

Susan Meiselas, Satori on stage, 2015. From “Mary’s Girls”. Source: magnumphotos.com

The driver announced that Hainault was the last station. The car was empty save for him and a foreign-looking bloke sitting at the other end. It had taken him ages to make it that far all the way from East Putney. Transport is a bitch on Sundays — engineering works, limited service, delays, replacement buses. He was quite late, at least half an hour. He stood up with the bag hanging from his shoulders, and waited by the doors until the train stopped.

He had never been in Hainault before and it sounded exotic to him. He got his mobile phone out and shot a picture of the station sign. He walked towards the exit and realised the other guy was still sitting inside the carriage. Perhaps he hadn’t understood the driver’s message; he himself had found it pretty hard to figure out: bad speakers plus accented English. Henry walked towards the train and knocked on the window.

“It’s the last station,” he said.

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Julian Gallo: Animals

USA. New York City, NY. 2015. Bronx Zoo.

Christopher Anderson, Bronx Zoo, 2015. Source: magnumphotos.com

“Come this way, Luca,” Carlo says, reaching out for the boy’s hand.

“But I’m not finished looking.”

“Okay. Take your time.”

Carlo eyes one of the boys in the group next to them. There’s one in every crowd, always one other kid that somewhere in the deep recesses of his not yet developed frontal lobe who felt so inadequate that he must find fault in another. This is the kid who will one day start bullying others, the one who will become a complete douche bag by the time he reaches middle school. Okay, so Luca is a little off but that’s no reason to stare, no reason to snicker behind your hand and elbow the kid next to you to get him on your side. Because that’s the way it’s going to work in the future: so inept are you to think for yourself, even at this young age, that you will need to gather an army around you to, in essence, do your fighting for you. Leader of the Pack. The Alpha Male. Perhaps, but clearly a zeta brain in development.

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Pauls Toutonghi: The Gospel of Judas

Caravaggio’s "The Taking of Christ". Source: newyorker.com

Caravaggio’s “The Taking of Christ”. Source: newyorker.com

He is arrogant.

Like a Jerusalem oak—growing in the most narrow fissure, the most meager soil—that was his arrogance, at first. There was almost nothing to feed it. It was thin and pale and stood apart from the vast landscape of him—a few dry green leaves that were, at most, a distraction, a distraction from that great and beautiful emptiness. Because that’s what was most remarkable about him—that emptiness—vast and open and almost unimaginable.

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Julian Gallo: Hoxha’s Children

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Alex Majoli, Scutari, Albania, 1997. Source: magnumphotos.com

Tirana, Albania — April 11th 1985

1

The foremost leader has died.

National mourning. Black flags flutter from the windows along side our national flag. Tears, agony, grief, everywhere one looks.

The television shows nothing but tributes to our fallen comrade.

I sit in the café, sip my coffee, watch the grief stricken faces of my fellow comrades. I look out the window at everyone just standing around, consoling one another, seeking comfort in another’s embrace.

I turn my attention back to the interior, continue to sip my coffee, occasionally watch the old films of our foremost leader when he was young, healthy, strong.

The café is crowded but most people don’t speak, most sit with their own thoughts, grieving, as if a member of their own family has passed. In a lot of ways, one had.

A woman sits by herself at the far end of the café. She isn’t crying or gazing at the television. She simply stirs a spoon in her coffee cup, smokes a cigarette, gazes out the window with no expression. She looks sad but there are no tears. Thin and pale, deep lines  crease the corners of her mouth. I can tell that she must have been very beautiful once but either time or hardship had nearly erased all traces of it. It isn’t until she glances my way that I realize who it is.

I can’t look at her.

If it weren’t for those eyes, I would have never believed it.

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Ali Almajnooni: Balls in Armpits

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Olivia Arthur, from “Jeddah Diary”: Saudi girls playing with sparklers in the night during Ramadan, 2010. Source: magnumphotos.com

As I was preparing to pay for my purchase at a clothes store, the salesman touched my hand—suggestively. He did not apologize, nor did he shrink in embarrassment. Instead, he looked me in the eye, and I discovered that his eyes were fluttering slightly.

As a matter of fact, I was by no means shocked at the man’s touch. I have gradually grown accustomed to this kind of behavior. First are the unnecessary, sugary words, the persistently stalking steps throughout the shop, and then the obnoxious, abhorrent touches. Although it had happened many times before, yesterday I was baffled as to what to do. Maybe it was because my little brother, Abdullah, was really close too me when this occurred. He was leaning against the white wooden cashier stand, idly tracing with his fingertips the floral lace of my drapey overcoat coming out of the front of my unbuttoned abaya. He was standing on my left, and I felt the tickle of his fingertips in the midst of my bafflement.

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Matthew Jakubowski: Value Proposition

John Vink, Alley near the Mid-Level escalators. Hong Kong, 17/04/2015. Source: magnumphotos.com

John Vink, Alley near the Mid-Level escalators. Hong Kong, 17/04/2015. Source: magnumphotos.com

There was concern because a concern had been raised. A meeting took place after hours; the minutes counted legal and executive management as present. A draft memo circulated and was finalized, with managerial talking points to be used in all group status meetings and one-on-ones between managers and employees. The plan was implemented.

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Marcia Lynx Qualey: A Review of the Newest Arabic Novel (Remix)

Arab Muscle Dancers, 1898, by B. W. Kilburn

Insert Title Here, by Our Arab Author, translated by So-and-so. Such-and-such publisher. $12.99.

What do you know about how people live in Cairo or Beirut or Riyadh? What bearing does such information have upon your life? We in the West hear about the Middle East all the time, but for most of us it remains unknown and unknowable. More complicated still is that, as I learnt at the weekend, forms like the novel and short story were alien to Arabic culture before the first decade of the 20th century: the genres are, themselves, imports.

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