Arabic · Fiction · Translation

Bottled up by Basma Abdel Aziz

‘I could wander aimlessly from one colleague’s office to another, stopping here and there for a chat, maybe a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. I’d sit back with a carefree yawn, my notebooks and files piled up in front fo me, gnawing on a pencil that splinters between my teeth. I wouldn’t bother with any correspondence or with responding to any queries, no matter how pressing. Instead I’d gaze on idly as the people wait, crushed by their exasperation. But why should I feel the need to do anything about it?’ Extract from Bottled Up, published in Index on Censorship magazine, September 2016

‘In a new short story, published here in English for the first time, a woman trapped in a glass bottle is able to see, but unable to influence, the world around her. By failing to resist, she views the women, who are concerned only with the superficial details of life, as complict in the regime. Her inspiration was a pivotal moment of understanding that “we have given away our transient victory to such a totalitarian authority and that we keep turning int he same vicious closed circle, without an end.”‘ Interview with Basma Abdel Aziz by Charlotte Bailey, in the same edition of Index on Censorship magazine, September 2016

Short story title: Bottled Up

Author: Basma Abdel Aziz

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

First published: The Unnamed: Does anonymity need to be defended? Index on Censorship, vol 45, issue 3, September 2016

Arabic · Fiction · Translation

Tajdeed: Contemporary Arabic Stories in Translation

Long awaited, the Arabic short story special of The Common journal is now out!

‘The issue was co-edited by Jennifer Acker and Jordanian short-story writer Hisham Bustani, with an eye not just to bringing new Arabic literature into translation, but into joyous, sharp translation — with work by some of the best emerging Arabic-English translators. This collection is not for Arabists, but for English-language fictionophiles.’ (ArabLit blog)

The Common issue 11, entitled Tajdeed: Contemporary Arabic Fiction, features the work of 31 contributors from 15 Middle Eastern countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Translated for contemporary English-speaking audiences, the issue presents a diverse group of emerging and established literary stars.

The anthology is available to buy at www.thecommononline.org. You can also read several of the short stories online, including the one I translated – the surreal Minouche by Moroccan author Anis Arrafai – but I’d urge you to buy a copy of this stunning publication. One to treasure.

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