Current Issue: Banipal 65

Banipal 65

The Beautiful Creatures of Fadhil Al-Azzawi

Banipal 65 – The Beautiful Creatures of Fadhil Al-Azzawi celebrates the iconic Iraq novelist and poet, renowned for his “conceptual leaps, rich references and linguistic surprises”, who has lived in exile in Germany since the early 1970s. Ariel Dorfman described him as “an Iraqi master poet who opens up all the despair and tenderness of our times”.

PLUS excellent fiction: “Lost in Mecca” by Kuwaiti author Bothayna Al-Essa; from war-stricken Yemen “Please Do Not Bomb” by Lutf al-Sarary and a chapter from Land of Happy Conspiracies, the latest novel of Wajdi al-Ahdal; from Morocco, Ahmed El-Madini with two short stories; and from Egypt, Ahmad al-Qarmalawi with a chapter from his Sheikh Zayed Book Award winning novel Summer Rains. And beautiful poetry by two Palestinian poets Samer Abu Hawwash and Fatena Alghorra.

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Ruth Padel writes:

The island of Lesbos, also called Mytilene, is on the edge of Europe. You see Turkey three and a half miles away, on the hazy horizon. Being so close to Troy, it suffered in the Trojan war: Achilles plundered its cities, and nine of its beautiful women were offered to him in an attempt to end his quarrel with Agamemnon. Until 2015, though, the island was most famous for three things; its petrified forest, the best ouzo in Greece, and poetry.

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The sad, sad news that Moris Farhi is no more.  Somehow we expected such a wonderfully thoughtful and tireless campaigner to keep going. A much-loved and respected novelist, poet, short story writer, script-writer, essayist and campaigner for freedom of expression and against the persecution of writers, Moris Farhi is hugely missed. Rest in Peace, Moris.

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As a tribute to Lebanese author May Menassa, who sadly passed away suddenly on 21 January, Banipal brings to readers' attention the excerpt from her novel Walking in the Dust, that was published in Banipal 32, Summer 2008, after it was on the shortlist of the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction in April 2008.

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Bassam Frangieh writes:

Hanna Mina was one of the foremost novelists of the Arab world, renowned for his depiction of the social tensions and hard realities of life in modern Syria, as well as the lives of sailors and the sea. He excelled in depicting the afflictions of a life lived under great stress and anxiety, himself one of only a few major Arab writers to have suffered extreme poverty and hardship in his childhood and youth. His departure leaves a chasm in modern Arabic prose literature – an emptiness likely to continue for a long time. There seem to be no contemporary writers following in his footsteps, let alone any who could fill the void his passing has left.

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Bill Swainson writes:

Nihad Sirees is best known in the West as the author of the 2004 novel, The Silence and the Roar, translated into English by Max Weiss and published in the US by the Other Press and in the UK by Pushkin Press in 2013. An Orwellian parable with Kafkaesque overtones, it is set in an unnamed country in which the writer-narrator Fathi must choose between joining the loud chorus of approval for the country’s leader and silence.

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         The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) announces today, Monday 7th January 2019, the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2019 prize. The novels selected by the judges were chosen from 134 entries, all published in Arabic between July 2017 and June 2018.

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Algerian novelist Mouloud Mammeri’s novels are thoroughly visual and rich in descriptions, vividly written with an abundance of fine details of nature and human life. Screening of the film contributed significantly to circulation of the novel while, conversely, the popularity of the novel and the name of its celebrated writer have granted the film a unique reception.

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Hanan Al-Shaykh: My travels through Cultures, Languages and Writing From Abu Nuwas to Bint Al-Shaykh

The internationally acclaimed Lebanese novelist, playwright and storyteller Hanan Al-Shaykh gives the 2019 Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize Lecture on her life in writing and her encounters with the great 8th-century poet Abu Nuwas. Join us at the British Library's Knowledge Centre on 7 November at 7pm for the journey of a lifetime.

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Adonis and Khaled Mattawa: A New Divan


Part of Poetry International, Southbank Centre
Sunday 20 October, 12 noon in the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's great work of world literature, the West-East Divan, with readings and discussion from internationally renowned poets.


Featuring the renowned Syrian poet Adonis, known as 'the grand old man of poetry, secularism and free speech in the Arab world' and the Libyan-US poet Khaled Mattawa, who writes in English and who is also Adonis's regular translator. They gather to talk about poetry, translation, Goethe, Hafiz and different cultural traditions.

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The main feature of Summer Banipal is Iraqi poet and novelist Fadhil al-Azzawi and his “Beautiful Creatures”. His works are so innovative and original, so full of compassion and heartache, of conceptual leaps, rich references and linguistic surprises. He has been a contributing editor of Banipal since it started. We have been thrilled to see growing numbers of his works translated into English, including in Banipal issues, as well as, below, excellent new translations of poetry and fiction.

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Bassam Hajjar was the author of twelve poetry collections, which have recently been published in two volumes, hundreds of articles in literary criticism, art, and politics, and sixty books of translations in fields like philosophy, sociology, and fiction. His translations were highly instrumental in bringing the best of world literature to the doorsteps of the beholden Arab reader. The influence of these prolific translations, which he published long before writing his own prose poetry, is obvious in both the content and form of his writings.

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Among the winners of the 13th edition of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award: Moroccan author Bensalem Himmich wins the Literature Award for his authobiography  (The Self – Between Existence and Creation); Philip Kennedy the Arabic Culture in Other Languages Award for his book Recognition in the Arabic Narrative Tradition; and UAE’s The Arab Centre for Geographic Literature – Irtiyad al-Afaq wins the Publishing & Technology Award.

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Sargon Boulus, before he became a well known poet, was a writer of short stories, publishing them in magazines and newspapers in Baghdad and Beirut. This story, the first to be translated into English, is called “Wandering the Cities While Dead”. It is also the first of some online only texts – short stories, articles or poems – that will be appearing on www.banipal.co.uk from time to time.

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Book Review:
The Baghdad Clock

Shahad Al Rawi’s novel describes in colourful detail the Baghdad neighbourhood in which its young protagonist grows up, in the period between the First Gulf War and the present, while many of the rhetorical questions posed by the young protagonist reveal her anger towards the outside world for the pain it has inflicted on her country.

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Book Review:
The Book of Safety

Yasser Abdel Hafez’s wonderful satire on modern-day Cairo is by no means a quick, easy ‘lit-fix’ read. Rich, profound and with a depth of imagination and whip-smart narrative stratigraphy, it can grab you from the very first line, hold your attention tight. Translated by Robin Moger, it won the 2017 Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize.

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When morning is like a shabby shirt
noon a jacket with no sleeves
and night a pair of tattered shoes
I know that a graveyard is shouting,
seeking a new visitor
and that there is no time to wait.

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