New in Translation: Radwa Ashour’s /Specters/, Excerpt from /Yusuf’s Picture/ by Najem Wali

This morning, the computers at Amazon.Com kindly alerted me (as someone who raved about Sonallah Ibrahim’s Stealth) that Egyptian author Radwa Ashour has a new book out in English this month: Specters.

Translated by Barbara Romaine—who did a lovely version of Bahaa Taher’s Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery, as well as Ashour’s Siraj—the book should be out from Interlink this month.

Specters, the winner of the Cairo International Book Fair Prize, was originally published in Arabic in 1999. According to Interlink, the book: “alternates between the stories of Radwa and Shagar: two women born the same day, one a professor of literature, one of history. The novel that results is part fiction, part autobiography, part oral history, part documentary—a metafiction moving between Radwa, who is writing a novel called Specters, and Shagar, whose has written a history, titled Specters, about the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin.”

Read reviews from GoodReaders here.


I’m not sure when Najem Wali’s novel, Yusuf’s Picture, will be out from MacAdam/Cage (yes, I will ask). But an excerpt, translated by William Maynard Hutchins and titled “Visiting the Morgue,” is on the Words Without Borders website as part of the September 2010 issue.

Wali is an Iraqi-German writer who left Iraq in 1980. (You can read more of his somewhat unorthodox views here and here on Sign And Sight.

His novel excerpt begins:

Am I really being pursued?

Where is my corpse?

When he reached the coffeehouse at the entrance to Bab al-Mu‘azzam Square, Yusuf changed his mind and didn’t enter, even though it had begun to open its doors and even though he had been eager to drink a morning cup of tea.  Sensing that two men had been tailing him since he left home, he decided to continue on his way.  Then seeing two officers in sunglasses and helmets emerge from one of several military vehicles lined up in front of the coffeehouse, he chose to leave the area immediately.  He didn’t want to have to think about a surprise incident —a bomb exploding, an unexpected attack, or an exchange of gunfire—but hated seeing soldiers even more, regardless of their nationality and appearance.

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