City Stories from the Middle East
Edited by Joumana Haddad
ISBN: 1905583206 /978 1905583201
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(Istanbul), Gamal Al-Ghitani
(Alexandria), Fadwa Al-Qasem
(Dubai), Ala Hlehel
(Akka), Hassan Blasim
(Baghdad), Yousef Al-Mohaimeed
(Riyadh), Elias Farkouh
(Amman), Nabil Sulayman
(Latakia), Joumana Haddad
(Beirut), and Yitzhak Laor
About the Book
‘Madinah’ – the Arabic word for ‘city’ – may conjure labyrinthine streets and the hustle and bustle of the souq in Westerners’ minds, but for the inhabitants of the Middle East it is a much more mercurial thing, and one that’s changing today faster than ever.
Here – in ten urban stories set across the region – the city reveals itself through a vibrant array of characters: from the celebrated author collecting an award in the city that exiled him decades before, to the forlorn lover waiting at a rendezvous as government officials raid nearby shops, confiscating ‘wanton’ Valentine’s Day roses.
Whilst engineers race to complete another ‘world’s tallest building’ in Dubai, and American helicopters patrol the Martyrs Bridge in Baghdad, we realise it is the people, and not the landmarks, that define these places; like the language student in Beirut who tries to make a joke of being ‘war-broken’ to her friends, or the Israeli General who invites guests to his office to watch promo videos for the tank that will ‘win the next war’ whilst eating biscuits and reciting poetry.
For all we think we know of the conflict and exoticism of the region, nothing opens more doors to what we don’t than its writing. Here, ten short stories by new and established writers have been selected and translated in English for the first time, to open just such a door…
"Isolation, homesickness and sex are themes to be expected in literature about cities. It is human for isolated people to experience places intensely and for the displaced to miss home..."
- The Times, 22 Nov 08 Read review.
"The desert cities bloom with unsustainable desire..."
- The Independent, 28 Nov 08 Read review.
'a sampler of the vibrant writing coming out of the Middle East...'
- The Saudi Gazette, 5 Jan.
'The anthology is perhaps more of an experience exchange, coming down to more than just culture....'
- Interview with Fadwa al Qasem Time Out Dubai, 16 Feb.
Read more about it on:
and The Tanjara Blog
About the Authors
Hassan Blasim is a poet, filmmaker and short story writer. Born in Baghdad in 1973, he studied at the city's Academy of Cinematic Arts, where two of his films ‘Gardenia’ (screenplay & director) and ‘White Clay’ (screenplay) won the Academy's Festival Award for Best Work in their respective years. In 1998 he left Baghdad for Sulaymaniya (Iraqi Kurdistan), where he continued to make films, including the feature-length drama Wounded Camera, under the pseudonym Ouazad Osman, fearing for his family back in Baghdad under the Hussein dictatorship. In 2004, he moved to Finland, where he has since made numerous short films and documentaries for Finnish television. His stories have previously been published on www.iraqstory.com and his essays on cinema have featured in Cinema Booklets (Emirates Cultural Foundation). After first appearing in English in Madinah, his debut collection The Madman of Freedom Square was published by Comma a year later (Nov 09).
Elias Farkouh was born in Amman in 1948. A novelist and short story writer, he has published seven short story collections - including Ihda wa Eshrouna Talqa lil-Nabeyy (‘Twenty One Shots for the Prophet’), which won the 1982 Jordanian Writers Association Award, Tuyour Amman Tuhalliq Munkhafida (‘Amman's Birds Sweep Low’, 1981), Al-Saf'a (‘The Slap’, 1997), and Huqoul Al-Zilal (‘Fields of Shadows’, 2002) - and three novels. His first novel, Kamaat Uz-Zabad, translated as Foam Statures, won the State Encouragement Award in 1990. His third novel ‘The Land of Purgatory’ was shortlisted for the inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction and won the Jordanian Writers' Association Award of the novel in 2008. Elias has also won the State Meritorious Award (1997) and the Mahmud Sayf Ed-Din Irani Award (awarded by the Jordanian Writers' Association), both for his short story writing. His work in literary translation, Other Fires, a volume of short stories by women writers from Latin America, appeared in 1999. In 1991 he founded Dar Azminah, his own publishing house.
Gamal al-Ghitani, is the founding editor of the weekly newspaper Akhbar Al-Adab - for many, the Arab world’s most active literary-cultural resource. He began his career as a war reporter and a left-wing activist, before embarking on a career in cultural journalism. Born in Juhaina, Sohag, Al-Ghitani grew up in Cairo, and became one of the founders of the literary magazine Gallery 68, as well as a central figure in the city’s café culture, and for many years the friend and confidante of the late Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. His writing works to reconnect the stylistics of the Arab literary cannon with the grassroots vernacular of urban discourse. His best known novel in English is Zaini Barakat (Penguin) which mimics the cadences and rhythms of canonical Arabic to retell the story of the Ottoman takeover of Egypt. He received the Lora Betlouine Award for translated literature, the highest French award to be bestowed upon non-French writers, for his book Al-Tagalyat Illuminations (2205). In 2007 he was awarded Egypt’s State Merit Award.
Nedim Gürsel has been described by Yashar Kemal as ‘one of the few contemporary Turkish writers who have brought something new to our literature.’ Born in Gaziantep, Turkey, in 1951, Gürsel was forced - after the coup d’état in 1971 - to testify in court over one of his articles, which lead to his temporarily exile in France, where he studied at the Sorbonne. Gürsel then returned to Turkey, but the military putsch of 1980 sent him back into exile in France. He was awarded the Prize of the Academy of Turkish Linguistics and Literature for his first major prose work, A Long Summer in Istanbul (1975), which has been translated into several languages. In 1986, his novel La Première Femme received the Ipeçki Prize for its contribution to conciliation between the Greek and Turkish peoples. His autobiography Au Pays des Poissons Captifs was recently published simultaneously in France and Turkey. His first novel to be translated into English, The Conqueror, is about to be published by Talisman, New York.
Joumana Haddad (1970, Beirut) is a poet, translator and journalist. She is head of the cultural pages in prestigious An Nahar newspaper, as well as the administrator of the IPAF Literary Prize (often referred to as the ‘Arab Booker’) and the editor-in-chief of Jasad magazine, an Arabic cultural magazine specialising in the literature and arts of the body. She has published several widely acclaimed poetry collections, including I Did Not Commit Enough Errors, Lilith's Return, The Panther Hiding at the Base of her Shoulders, Bad Habits, and The Mirrors of Passers By. Her books have been translated into many languages and published internationally. Speaking seven languages, she has also published several works of translation, including a compilation of Lebanese modern poetry in Spanish, and more recently an anthology of 150 poets who committed suicide in the 20th century.
Ala Hlehel was born in Jesh, Galilee, in 1974 and graduated from the Tel Aviv School of Screenwriting and Haifa University. He has written numerous short stories, plays, and scripts for film and TV, and in 2003 he took part in an international playwrights’ residency at the Royal Court, London. He has received a number of awards for his work, among them the 2003 Young Writer Award from the AM Qattan Foundation. Ala has also worked as a radio presenter in Haifa and has published three books to date: The Circus (a novel); Stories for the Time of Need (short stories) and The Father, the Son and the Lost Spirit (novel & five short stories). He lives in Akka.
Yitzhak Laor is a poet, author and journalist. He was born in Pardes Hanna, and completed his degree in Theatre and Literature at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of five poetry books, most recently Leviathan City, 19 novels, most recently Ecce Homo, plays, and article collections. He is mostly known for his poetry of political protest, particularly about the Lebanese War of 1982 and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Laor writes literary criticism for the Ha`aretz newspaper, is a founder and editor of the literary journal Mita’am and works and writes in Tel Aviv. He was recently awarded the Amichai Poetry Prize (2007).
Yousef al-Mohaimeed was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1964 and has published several novels and short-story collections in Arabic. His novels include Al-Qaroura (‘The Bottle’), The Dolphin’s Excursion, and Wolves of the Crescent Moon. The latter was published in English by Penguin USA and in French by Actes Sud (both 2007). All of his novels are widely published in the Arab world but banned in his own country.
Fadwa al-Qasem is a Palestinian author, born in Libya (1963), with Canadian citizenship. Her short stories have appeared in Akhbar Al Adab (Cairo), Al Adab Magazine and Al Hayat Newspaper (Lebanon), and Al Bayan (UAE), and in English in Banipal #27, In Our Own Words (USA), as well as on websites. She keeps a bilingual blog – www.gypsyexpress.com - and works as the Creative Director of Tabeer, a company providing bilingual content and translation services. Her first collection of short stories in Arabic The Scent of Cardamom, was published by Dar Sharqiyat in 2005. She is currently working on translating this collection into English and on her second collection of Arabic short stories.
Nabil Sulayman was born in 1945 and graduated from Damascus University in 1967. He founded Al-Hiwar publishing house in 1970, the same year that he published his first novel, now one of 16, along with 24 books of literary criticism and other cultural themes. He has lectured in many a number of Arab countries, as well as in Madrid and Austin, Texas.
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