Arabic · Drama · non-fiction · Translation

Political satire from Lucien Bourjeily and a short story by Samar Yazbek

I had two translations in this edition of Index on Censorship magazine.

Lebanese political satire

When writer Lucien Bourjeily made censorship the theme of his latest play, he knew he was in for a battle. And he was right. His play about censorship ended up being banned. Not surprisingly, he thinks this decision tells its own story about Lebanon today.

In this extract from Will It Pass or Not?–published for the first time in English–Lucien Bourjeily exposes the ridiculousness – and arbitrary nature – of the Lebanese Censorship Bureau, which commonly bans material that is deemed to be obscene, offensive to religions or politically sensitive.

Title: Will it pass or not? (click here for online extract)

Author: Lucien Bourjeily

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

First published in: Mission creep — defending religious tolerance and free speech, Index on Censorship, vol. 42, issue 4, pp. 134-148, December 2013

Sample: this extract is available online here

Syrian short story

In a story written for this publication, Syrian dissident author Samar Yazbek reflects on what it’s like to be a writer of fiction faced with the violence and atrocities of civil war and asks: how can we produce literature right now, in this era of bloodshed?

Title: I write with blind eyes and forty fingers

Author: Samar Yazbek

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

First published in: Mission creep — defending religious tolerance and free speech, Index on Censorship, vol. 42, issue 4, pp. 130-133, December 2013

Sample: this extract is available online here

Arabic · non-fiction · Translation

Samar Yazbek in The Washington Post

I am two women. They stand head to head, at loggerheads. 

The revolutionary in me joined what started as peaceful demonstrations against the Syrian government in March 2011.  The novelist in me fled to France that July. 

The revolutionary, who has several times since then furtively crossed the border back into her country, is steeped in the smell of blood. She wipes the dust off the corpses of children disfigured by violence, stops to wring out her heart, then carries on.

It was an honour to translate this powerful piece on Syria by Samar Yazbek, a Syrian author in exile and winner of the 2012 PEN/Pinter Prize for international writer of courage. The piece appeared in the Washington Post on Friday.

Title: The novelist vs. the revolutionary: my own Syrian debate

Author: Samar Yazbek

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

First published: The Washington Post, Sept 2013

This article is available to read online.