Current Issue: Banipal 68

Banipal 68

Short Stories (Summer 2020)

Banipal 68 – Short Stories introduces 21 diverse, engaging and thoughtful stories. From the Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story, mostly for the first time in English, winner Sheikha Helawy and finalists Sofiene Rajab, Sherif Saleh and Mahmoud Al-Rahbi , plus three further great short story writers, Muhammad Khudayyir , Mustafa Taj Aldeen Almosa and Mohammed Al-Sharekh. Plus chapters from the novel Free Fall by Abeer Esber and A Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan. Plus works by two major poets – Moncef Ouhaibi, who won of the 2020 Sheikh Zayed Award for Literature, and Abdo Wazen. Plus interview with Mohamed Berrada and an essay by Bothayna al-Essa on her writings. And a glimpse into a literary past in letters from Ghassan Kanafani to Denys Johnson-Davies. A HUGE THANKS to all our contributors who have continued working from home under coronavirus restrictions, and to our socially-distancing printer and distributor.

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The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, one of the Arab world’s most prestigious and lucrative literary prizes, has announced the winners of its 14th edition across seven key categories. 

And we are pleased to share with you the wonderful news that Banipal Magazine has won the Award in the Publishing and Technology category. It is a tremendous accolade for the magazine, for the years of translating and publishing contemporary works by Arab authors.

The Award Ceremony was lifestreamed on the Award's YouTube Channel on 16 April.

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Join our Fellows, Ali Bader, Najwa Bin Shatwan and Hammour Ziada, for a free celebration on Zoom, 23 September 2020, at 16:00 pm (BST, -1 GMT) with readings from their works and discussion.  The annual Banipal Visiting Writer Fellowship was established in October 2016 for a published author writing in Arabic to spend a term at St Aidan's College, University of Durham.

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This third novel by Libyan writer Najwa Bin Shatwan, The Slave Yards (Zarayib al-Abid), shortlisted for the 2017 International Prize for Arab Fiction, is set in 19th century Libya, then under Ottoman rule. Its title refers to the real-life encampments on the outskirts of Benghazi where most of the country’s slaves and former slaves were held at the time.

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The road from Zagreb to Sarajevo is a little over four hundred kilometres. I studied the road map in the morning and reckoned that the journey would take about five hours, taking account of the time spent stopped at the Bosnian border guard post. I started the engine and headed south, towards another life, another horizon . . .

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I discovered Elias Khoury’s writing in 1983 through a series of columns he wrote for As-Safir, the left-leaning Lebanese newspaper where Khoury was then an editor.

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What is storytelling? Khoury asks. Are stories to be found strewn among the streets of memory and the pathways of the imagination? How do we gather them to create a structure where all other structures have been destroyed?

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Poems by Lebanese poet Wadih Saadeh who was awarded the Moroccan Argana International Poetry Prize in 2018 for “his unique poetic contribution over fifty years”.

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The novel chronicles Qisma’s odyssey through a changed Iraqi in the company of Tariq. Her search for her father’s headless body is the main axis of the plot, around which Al-Ramli weaves an expansive, digressive saga rich in sub-plots.

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Amjad Nasser has been an important and innovative participant in the contemporary Arab poetry and literary scene. His death, announced on 30 October 2019, after a long struggle against cancer, means a major loss to the world of Arabic literature and beyond. He published more than ten volumes of poetry, four travel memoirs and two novels and performed his poetry at many international festivals, from South America to London's Poetry International. 

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"Mansi, A Rare Man in His Own Way will show another side of Tayeb Salih to readers who know his classic novel Season of Migration to the North. This is a flavourful and entertaining memoir of his friendship with a shape-shifting, rule-breaking character who treated life as an 'endless laugh'."           Boyd Tonkin

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Presenting a major feature on 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.

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During this pandemic of coronavirus we are endeavouring with our distributors to bring you both print and digital editions of Banipal 67.

The main focus of Banipal 67 is the celebrated Lebanese and international author Elias Khoury, who is an essayist, editor, teacher, playwright and short story writer, but above all a renowned novelist. The feature opens with three excerpts from his latest novel Stella Maris, the second part of the trilogy Children of the Ghetto, and closes with an excerpt from his as yet untranslated first novel. Our thanks to all the contributors to this powerful issue.

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At Banipal we are very happy to see a welcome increase in works translated over the years as we continue doing what we started 22 years ago – following the Arab literary scene as to what is being written, discussed and published, and trying to reflect that in the Banipal issues. Although we are mindful of what is translated, and review as many as possible, our interest is in Arab literary creativity.

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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 . . . 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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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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The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize is pleased to announce the shortlist of the 2020 Prize. Five works were selected for the shortlist from a total of fourteen entries, the judges noting a rich diversity of styles, themes and settings ranging from sprawling cities to humble villages.

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This year’s Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize Lecture will be given by the well-known Palestinian novelist, short story writer and film director, Liana Badr. In her talk, she will describe how she grew up in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Jerusalem, where welcoming strangers and visitors of whatever nationality or religion was an established tradition. 

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In these anxious and crazy times of the coronavirus pandemic, when nothing is certain, a digital subscription to Banipal will not fail you, giving you access to every single issue, from the current 68 – Short Stories, back to No 1, February 1998, plus No 69 (out in November) and on into 2021.

Digital Banipal throws open an ever widening window on the diverse contemporary Arab literary scene through its unlimited access to the complete archive of issues from Number 1, February 1998.

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He was standing at the side of the road, atop a pile of gravel, between the asphalt and the rocky mountainside. Frozen in place, with a fixed gaze, like a wax doll, his black eye gleaming at me.

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In her many works the writer and filmmaker Liana Badr documents the different stages of Palestinian national struggle against occupation and chronicles the Palestinian diaspora experience, including the Nakba of 1948.

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A month ago during the last air raid on our neighbourhood, a shell landed on our street. The shrapnel hit the roof of the bird man Abu al-Tir’s house, who went into the coop to serenade his birds and let them peck seeds off his head every time there was a raid. This time the coop was smashed to smithereens, bird parts and blood were strewn everywhere, but we could not find him or his head.

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Velvet is Huzama Habayeb’s third novel and marks a high point in her writing career, with the Arabic original, Mukhmal, awarded the 2017 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. It was hailed by the judges as “a new kind of Palestinian novel” that wrote about the “everyday lives of Palestinians”, and about the “human condition” through its portrayal of woman.

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Gypsies! I first heard the word from Sheikh Jasim al-Ahmadi, the religious scholar. When I was ten years old, my family sent me and my cousin Saleh, who was nine months older than me, to spend our summer holidays at the sheikh’s home, for us to have fun and improve our Arabic. The sheikh had a kindly face and spoke as clearly as a BBC announcer. Every morning he would lecture us and other children of the same age on history. He also read us Mutanabbi’s heroic poetry and speeches by famous Arabs.

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Banipal 68 – Short Stories is out in both print and digital format.  Some selected pages from the issue are available to read online here on the website. The feature introduces 21 very diverse, engaging and thoughtful stories, commenting on the uneven vagaries of life today and on the pulls of human emotions and desires, by seven authors from Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Palestine and Tunisia. Plus poetry, interview, essay and letters.

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We are shocked to learn of the passing of the novelist and short story writer Naima El Bezaz, at the age of 46, by her own hand. What a terrible silencing of a courageous and talented literary voice.  What suffering she went through as she struggled for years and years to stay true to her right to be critical, to break down social taboos that enforced a conservative environment for Muslim women, to write freely about her life, and her community.

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The shocking news came to us yesterday that our friend and colleague Elias Farkouh had died of a heart attack.

We had been in touch with him only recently. He was writing an essay for Banipal 69 (Autumn/Winter 2020 issue) on his literary influences, for our regular column, and we were working with him on publishing some of Ghalib Halasa’s short stories. As his publisher, Elias Farkouh had recently re-published his collected works.

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It wasn’t until three o’clock in the afternoon that Shakib Effendi learned from Radio Amman what was really behind the events of that morning. He was looking out of the window at the roofs of the tall houses when the booming voice declared: “Weep for the martyr, Karak; weep for the martyr, Hebron; weep for the martyr, Salt; weep for the martyr, Nablus; weep for the martyr, Irbid; weep for the martyr, Galilee!”

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Two new fiction works in translation just out from Banipal Books, The Mariner by Kuwaiti author Taleb Alrefai, translated by Russell Harris, and Goat Mountain by Habib Selmi, translated by Charis Olszok. Both available as paperback and eBook.

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Elias Khoury’s The Kingdom of Strangers wrestles with issues of Lebanese identity and memory, using a fractured, non-linear narrative to reflect the fracturing of society during the Lebanese Civil War. Published in Arabic in 1993 and in 1996 in Paula Haydar’s excellent English translation.

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The Spartan Court by Abdelouahab Aissaoui has been announced the winner of the 13th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). Muhsin al-Musawi, Chair of the 2020 Judging Panel, said: The Spartan Court stands out for its stylistic brilliance. It is polyphonic – with multiple voices telling the story. Readers gain a multi-layered insight into the historical occupation of Algeria and, from this, the conflicts of the entire Mediterranean region."

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The 2019 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is awarded to Leri Price for her translation of the novel Death is Hard Work by Syrian author Khaled Khalifa, published by Faber & Faber. Following the shortlist of four titles in 2 December 2019, the judges unanimously named Leri Price the winner of the £3,000 prize, awarded on 12 February 2020.

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Bassam Hajjar was the author of twelve poetry collections that were recently published in two volumes, hundreds of articles in literary criticism, art, and politics, and sixty books of influential translations in the fields of philosophy, sociology, and fiction. His translations were highly instrumental in bringing the best of world literature to the doorsteps of Arab readers.

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To the ordinary reader, reading Arabic literature in translation today, the title The Arab Renaissance might be a little perplexing. What Renaissance? and when? The Nahda period covers roughly a hundred years, ending almost 100 years ago. It was a time of burgeoning Arab cultural and political modernity with an ideal of knowledge, secularism, and reform of language.

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