This time, we open sadly with a tribute to Mai Ghoussoub, the London-based Lebanese co-founder of Al Saqi Books, writer and artist, who died so suddenly in February. We dedicate our major feature on Lebanese poetry to her memory.
Lebanese poets occupy an extremely important place in the Arab poetry scene, both contemporaneously and historically; this feature presents selected works by 32 poets celebrating, at the same time, the 50 years’ anniversary of the first issue of the revolutionary Shi’r poetry magazine. Among the poets are those well-known outside the Arab world such as Ounsi el-Hage, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Abbas Beydoun, Abdo Wazen, Paul Chaoul and Salah Stétié, and many others who hopefully soon will be.
Fiction writers from Egypt, Iraq and Kuwait begin the issue. In Gamal el-Ghitani’s modernist masterpiece Pyramid Texts, being published by AUC Press, the enigmatic power of the pyramids is skilfully interwoven with threads of Islamic history and Sufi mysticism in a quest for wisdom and enlightenment. Miral al-Tahawy’s latest novel Gazelle Tracks is an enthralling first-person narration that unravels unexpected stories from an old family photograph; Fadhil al-Azzawi’s novel set in an Iraqi jail, Cell Block 5, and reprinted in 2000, was made into a film in Syria. The narrator in Taleb Alrefai’s novel Samar’s Words is a young Kuwaiti woman, trapped and frustrated by society’s traditional ways. We look forward to seeing the latter three fully published in English.
The TRAVELLING TALE is a thoughtful walk around the pyramids by Lebanese poet, writer and cultural advisor Issa Makhlouf. INTERVIEW WITH AN EDITOR is with Hesham Behari of Alhambra Förlag, who publishes Arab authors in Swedish translation.
This year has begun on a high note for translating Arab literature, as the editorial reveals, with a first delegation of UK publishers at the annual Cairo Book Fair, the collaboration of the Frankfurt Book Fair team with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the announcement of a new International Prize for Arabic Fiction in association with the renowned Booker Prize Foundation, and our sister organization, the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, announcing that after a successful first year in 2006, the Banipal Prize will be sponsored for the next five years by Omar Saif Ghobash in memory of his late father, and will now be known as The Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation (see www.banipaltrust.org.uk)
Our cover artist is the well-known Egyptian painter (and translator from Italian) Adel El Siwi.
Mai Ghoussoub – a Tribute
Miral al-Tahawy Excerpt from the novel Gazelle Tracks
Fadhil al-Azzawi Excerpt from the novel Cell Block 5
Gamal el-Ghitani Excerpt from the novel Pyramid Texts
Taleb Alrefai Excerpt from the novel Samar’s Words
FEATURE ON LEBANESE POETRY
Celebrating Shi’r magazine – Issue No 1,1957
Mohammed A S al-Din
Jad El Hage
Ounsi El Hage
A TRAVELLING TALE
Issa Makhlouf – Journey around the Pyramids
INTERVIEW WITH A PUBLISHER
Hesham Bahari, publisher of Alhambra Förlag
Zuzana Kratka reviews De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage
Judith Kazantzis reviews Saraya, The Ogre’s Daughter by Emile Habiby
Susannah Tarbush reviews Remember me to Lebanon by Evelyn Shakir
and Dreams of Water by Nada Awar Jarrar
Saadi Youssef reviews Stories from Ancient Iraq retold by Fran Hazelton
Peter Clark reviews Modern Arabic Literature by Paul Starkey
BOOKS IN BRIEF