Four new literary translations from Banipal

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Four New Literary Translations


• Two novels, an open work and a poetry collection    
All translated from the original Arabic 
•  All available now from bookshops, from online stores and our own website

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Sarajevo Firewood

by Algerian author Saïd Khatibi, translated by Paul Starkey

Front cover of Sarajevo FirewoodSarajevo Firewood is a searing narrative by Algerian author Saïd Khatibi about two countries – Algeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina – both of which experienced traumatic and destructive civil wars in the 1990s. It is told through the voices of Salim, an Algerian journalist, and Ivana, a young Bosnian woman, both of whom have fled the destruction and hatred of their own countries to try to build new lives in Slovenia.

As Ivana pursues the goal of writing her ‘dream play’, and Salim discovers he is not his father’s son, Khatibi’s novel brings to life in a rich fictional form the memories and experiences of the countless ordinary people who survived the atrocities linking the two countries.


“Saïd Khatibi’s courageous and extraordinary novel, Sarajevo Firewood, is a labyrinthine journey, with Algeria at one pole, Bosnia at the other, and Slovenia serving as neutral ground in-between . . . Along the way, we are forced to reconsider what we think we know about liberation, nationalism, decolonization, and war, as Khatibi masterfully shifts our focus from the state to the family and the continual trauma of self-understanding in the process of becoming an individual.”

“Khatibi’s style is simple, precise and beautiful. A true sculptor, he shapes his sentences and eliminates the superfluous . . . “Sarajevo Firewood is an astonishing novel and Khatibi is one of the most original voices in Arabic literature today.”
AMARA LAKHOUS, author of Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio


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The Madness of Despair

by Omani author Ghalya F T Al Said,
translated by Raphael Cohen

Front cover of The Madness of DespairThe Madness of Despair tells the story of Maliha, who is living in London with her husband Nafie after an arranged marriage in their distant Arab homeland. The couple become good friends with Doctor Nadim, a fellow exile, but in the twists and turns of the friendship, the men’s nostalgia for their old lives – and old ways of living – come into conflict with Maliha’s ambition to live and love freely and make something of her new life now she’s settled in London.

Though ready to throw off the constraints of her disastrous marriage at the slightest turn, Maliha is ill-prepared for the fire of emotions that overcomes her, leading to unforeseen consequences for all three. It is a powerful narrative that reveals just how much psychological suffering and cultural displacement can upset the most ordinary of aspirations for life and love.

“A talented and inventive storyteller, with a well developed sense of tragedy and comedy”   

 “The Madness of Despair depicts the tragedy of the Middle East, which will remain without solution until Arabs can live in freedom and dignity in their own lands rather than turning to life in exile. “       

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Fadhil Al-Azzawi’s Beautiful Creatures

by Iraqi author Fadhil al-Azzawi, translated by the author

Front cover of Fadhil Al-Azzawi's Beautiful CreaturesThis open work was written in defiance of the “sanctity of genre” and to raise the question of freedom of expression in writing. First published in Arabic in 1969 to great acclaim, and never out of print since, it has been variously called a novel or a prose poem, while the author calls it an epic in prose, divided as it is into cantos. In mid-1960s Iraq such an open-ended form, in which different genres could come together and blend into each other, was difficult to even imagine.
For Iraqi writer Fadhil al-Azzawi it was the core of a new vision of life after the country’s tough political experiences, especially the bloody coup in Iraq of February 1963, and then the abysmal defeat in the June 1967 Six-Day War.  The 78 cantos, narrated by a lonesome traveller with down-to-earth pitch-black humour that is simultaneously surreal, are preceded by an equally surreal and tragi-comic story of how the original book managed to wind its way through the Iraqi censors.

“Fadhil Al-Azzawi’s Beautiful Creatures is a unique work in modern Arab literature”
AHMED ABDEL MUTI HIJAWI, Rose el-Youssef magazine (Cairo, 1969)

“Fadhil al-Azzawi is an exceptional poet and writer, for him writing is a holistic experience and modernity a phenomenon, while his texts escape classification. None of the well-known pioneers of Iraq and abroad can compare, he is perhaps closer to Cavafy or Kafka, but always remains Al-Azzawi, unlike anyone else.”
MONCEF OUHAIBI, Nizwa magazine 

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 • • •

Poems of Alexandria and New York

by Egyptian poet and artist Ahmed Morsi,
translated by Raphael Cohen

Front cover of Poems of Alexandria and New YorkAhmed Morsi is a renowned painter as well as a prolific art critic, journalist, translator, and, as this book reveals to a new audience, a consummate poet. Poems of Alexandria and New York, Ahmed Morsi’s first volume in English translation, captures the modernity and empathy at the heart of all his works, his surrealistic humour, and his visions of the dramas of ordinary life.
It comprises two of his best known collections, Pictures from the New York Album and Elegies to the Mediterranean, both written when he resumed writing poetry following a break of nearly 30 years after the calamitous Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War. The former opens up the city of New York, his home since the mid-1970s and where he still lives and works, while the latter takes readers deep into abiding memories of the Mediterranean city of his birth, Alexandria, Egypt, in 1930.

“When I read the poems of Ahmed Morsi I begin to travel.”
ALFONSO ARMADA, journalist, playwright and poet
“These two collections weave multiple relations – threaded with the themes of exile and alienation – between New York and Alexandria.”
HALA HALIM, New York University

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Published Date - 08/09/2021