Current Issue: Banipal 66

Banipal 66

Travels

Banipal 66 – Travels presents works by five innovative travel writers: the Iraqi poet Farouk Yousif following Federico García Lorca’s footsteps in New York; Tunisian Hassouna Mosbahi who escapes to Andalusia; Algerian Said Khatibi in Sarajevo with his award-winning book The Inflamed Gardens of the East; Moroccan-Dutch Abdelkader Benali with an intriguing short story “To Tangier with Emmanuel”, and Syrian-Danish Monir Almajid who is a serious Japanophile. A second feature introduces Jordanian novelist Kafa Al-Zou‘bi who reveals Russian influences, while our Guest Writer series features British poet Linda France. Iraqi Yasmeen Hanoosh’s ‘remarkable’ experimental work, The Land of Accursed Bounties: the World of Iraqi Plants, opens the issue, followed by fiction from Lebanese Abbas Beydoun and Egyptian Ahmad Abdulatif and new poems from two excellent poets, Emirati Abdel Aziz Jassim and Palestinian Samer Abu Hawwash.

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Banipal 64 – A Rebel named Hanan al-Shaykh features the Lebanese, now London-based author whose spirit of rebellion has stayed with her, enriching the Arab literary scene since her first works as a teenager in Beirut. The issue opens with poems by the late Lebanese poet Bassam Hajjar, widely read as “pioneering and inspirational” among young Arab poets. Plus Iraqi poet Adnan Mohsen with poems of “the ordinary, the familiar and the quotidian”.

Three fiction writers, from Syria, Morocco and Tunisia, explore their respective country’s dilemmas: Damascus-based Khalil Sweileh with “Remorse Test”, and two debut novels – Teatro Cervantes” by Nassima Raoui and “Lavazza” by Chafik Targui. Plus the six shortlisted novels of the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), considered the most important fiction award in the Arab world.

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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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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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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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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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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. He is the recipient of a number of literary prizes for his works, among them the Mohammed al-Maghout Prize for Poetry (2006), the Prize for Creative Writing in Jordan (2008), the Ibn Battuta Prize for Travel Writing (2009) and the Mahmoud Darwish Award for Literary Creativity (2019). He  performed his poetry at many international festivals, from South America to London's Poetry International. 

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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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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 has given the 2019 Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize Lecture. She spoke about her life, her journey in writing, and her encounters with the great 8th-century poet Abu Nuwas, at the British Library's Knowledge Centre on 7 November.

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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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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 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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