Friday Links: New Stories and Poems in Translation, Submission Calls, Arab Neustadt Nominees

The June issue of Words Without Borders is now up (Queer II), and it features the writing of Beirut39 laureate Abdallah Taia. His “The Algerian and the Moroccan” was translated from the French by Lydia Beyoud. It opens:

A large notebook of ninety-six pages with a deep-blue cover.

I had lost it.

I found it yesterday while cleaning, forgotten, abandoned for I don’t know how long behind my dresser.

In the middle of this notebook there was, there is, an envelope on the back of which is written this title: “The Algerian and the Moroccan.”

Keep reading.

Meanwhile, this week’s Jadaliyya features a poem by Sargon Boulos (trans. Sinan Antoon, who’s been working steadily at translating Boulos), “To the Master of the Banquet.”

At the Poetry Translation Centre, there’s a new poem up by Palestinian poet Fatena Al-Gharra, “I Reveal Myself.” The PTC translations are interesting because they usually come with translation notes. This one begins, “This was an enormously difficult poem to translate – as is often the case with Arabic poetry.”

Submission Calls: Translation

NewPages regularly lists magazines’ calls for submission. A number of smaller publications are explicitly looking for translations. They are: Press 1, Mixed Fruit, Rhino (October 1), Tripwire, Anomalous, and Arroyo Literary Review (May 31).

A Look at Saudi Theatre

Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker has a guest post on his blog from Dr. Mona Hashish, a professor at Saudi’s Dammam University. She writes, in part:

Since there is no theatre institute in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi theatre counts on Saudi amateurs and professionals who have studied theatre abroad. The Saudi theatre does not hire actresses or tackle anti-social or local political issues. Male actors wear masks and wigs to act the female roles. Children, though, are allowed to act with male adults. Most the Saudi plays are either historical or universal in theme.

Neustadt Nominees Include Venus Khoury-Ghata and Tahar Ben Jelloun


The top international you’ve-had-a-great-literary-career prize—after the Nobel—is probably the Oklahoma, US-based Neustadt.

The Neustadt is run in an interesting manner: each judge is allowed one nominee. Then, presumably, the judges all get together and duke it out, lobby for their favorites, and eventually come to rest on a winner.

There are three Arab writers on the nine-person judging panel: Lebanese novelist Rabih Alameddine, Egyptian poet/aphorist Yahia Lababidi, and Palestinian-American poet Nathalie Handal. They have all nominated non-Arabs (you can see all the nominations here).

But Russian poet Ilya Kaminsky nominated Francophone Lebanese poet Venus Khoury-Ghata (seems like a longshot to me) and Philippino novelist Miguel Syjuco chose Francophone Moroccan novelist and poet Tahar Ben Jelloun, who has a new book out in English this year, A Palace in the Old Village.

The only previous Arab Neustadt winner is Francophone Algerian author Assia Djebar.

So I’ll close with a selection from “She Says” by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, trans. Marilyn Hacker and published on Jacket:

The wind in the fig tree quiets down when she speaks

and speaks up when she’s silent

Once upon a time

she argued with an old man

quarreled with dogs

bartered with a knife grinder

The bed and the salt-shaker can attest to it

not the wardrobe

mute guardian of linens

She howls to frighten her own voice and make the water in pond shudder

chases hawks to see their red cries unleash a storm

dumps out a drawer to hear the knives and forks swear at each other

To run up to the road is only good for her shadow

the rains have erased the fields

and the planet turning on itself will bring her back to her point of departure

She knows the echo is no friend of hers

and the mountain hides another, older mountain

which wouldn’t greet a woman who talks to a tree till she’s out of breath