11 Books to Pre-order this Fall: New Arabic Writing (in Translation)

There are an unusual number of new translations of Arabic fiction, poetry, and memoir forthcoming this fall. Eleven I think are particularly worth ordering or pre-ordering:

I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, by Mourid Barghouti, trans. Humphrey Davies (October). This memoir, Barghouti’s second, will be co-published by Bloomsbury and AUC Press. The Palestinian poet’s first memoir, I Saw Ramallah, was translated by Ahdaf Soueif and has been listed by Nouri Gana, Shakir Mustafa, Maia Tabet, and Neil Hewison as one of their “five books to read before you die”—and for good reason. It is translated here by two-time Banipal translation prize winner Humphrey Davies.

More: Baheyya on “The Truth Teller

Vertigo, by Ahmed Mourad, trans. Robin Moger (October). Translators and those who edit and publish translations often eschew popular thrillers. The world would be a much poorer place without Elias Khoury’s luminous and complex As Though She Were Sleeping and Mahmoud Darwish’s beautiful In The Presence of Absence, also out this year. But it’s good to see Bloomsbury-Qatar reaching out to reads that are both interesting and fun.

In this novel, the society photographer who narrates the novel (also named Ahmed) witnesses the murder of his close friend in the book’s opening chapter. The briskly paced novel is set amongst corruption, yellow journalism, and violence at the top of Egypt’s regime.

More: The Incipient Revolution in Ahmed Mourad’s ‘Vertigo’

Ahmed Mourad: On Poison, Diamonds and Vertigo

Brooklyn Heights, by Miral al-Tahawy, trans. Samah Selim (November). This International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlisted novel (2011), also a winner of the 2010 Naguib Mahfouz Medal, is forthcoming from AUC Press. The book is a deft recognition of both the differences and commonalities between the residents of Brooklyn Heights and the protagonist’s village back in the Delta. It is translated here by award-winning Samah Selim, who took the 2009 Banipal translation prize for her rendition of Yahia Taher Abdullah’s The Collar.

More: Miral al-Tahawy Wins Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature

We Are All Equally Far from Love, by Adania Shibli, trans. Paul Starkey. Shibli’s first novel in translation, Touch, was a poetic reflection on an eight-year-old’s coming-of-age in Palestine that was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. We Are All Equally Far from Love, published by Interlink, is a look at collaboration, enemies, and love in Palestine.

More: An excerpt of Shibli’s Touch

Sarmada, by Fadi Azzam, trans. Adam Talib (October). This book is being co-published by Interlink and Syrian-German author Rafik Schami’s new venture, Swallow Editions. It is a short read, just 128 pages, but vividly told. According to Schami, “Sarmada and its women dance in front of us with all their senses; they take us by the hand and escort us into their village homes, where the events of this great novel take place.”

More: A free excerpt is available on Book2Look.

The Palm House, by Tarek Eltayeb, trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Eltayeb’s first novel, Cities Without Palms, was an accomplished and interesting story of migration and loss. His second novel can be read as a sequel (or on its own). AUC Press writes: “Following several years of hardship, his fortunes begin to change when he meets Sandra, a young Austrian woman, who shows him the Palm House. In this famous Viennese greenhouse, the frost of Hamza’s heart begins to thaw, and he slowly opens himself to Sandra, revealing his bitter yet beautiful past in Sudan and beyond.” Translator Abu-Zeid was a runner-up for the Banipal prize for his translation of Cities Without Palms.

More: A Review from Egyptian novelist Ahmed Khalifa

In the Presence of Absence, by Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Sinan Antoon (November). Darwish’s third prose work, translated by poet and novelist Sinan Antoon, will finally be out from Archipelago in November.

More: Read an excerpt

My review in Al Masry Al Youm: Mahmoud Darwish’s farewell to language

Always Coca Cola, by Alexandra Chreiteh, trans. Michelle Hartman (October). Interlink writes, “Critics in Lebanon have responded in a storm, calling the novel an electric shock and finding that the problems of its characters reflect grave social anomalies.”

A compelling excerpt of Chreiteh’s novel appeared in Banipal 41.

Utopia, by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, trans. Chip Rossetti (October). Egypt’s most celebrated author of science fiction pens a futuristic tale set in a gated community on Egypt’s north coast in 2023. This novel, also published by Bloomsbury Qatar, was called a “miniature masterpiece” in The Independent, where reviewer Sholto Byrnes said, “I defy anyone not to read it in one sitting.”

Midaq Alley, by Naguib Mahfouz, trans. Humphrey Davies (November). This is a re-translation of one of Mahfouz’s thoroughly enjoyable novels by award-winning translator Humphrey Davies.

Even if you’ve read it already, it will be interesting to see what Humphrey does with it. AUC Press.

The Time of White Horses, by Ibrahim Nasrallah, trans. Nancy Roberts (December). This novel was shortlisted for the inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction. According to AUC Press, the novel, “ paints a vivid picture of Palestinian villagers’ preoccupations and aspirations—their ties to their land, to their animals, and to one another.”


Ali Badr’s The Tobacco Keeper would certainly be on this list, although I’m no longer sure it’s coming this fall. Indeed, several of these dates might slip.

More books out this fall worth reading:

A Tunisian Tale, by Hassouna Mosbahi, trans. Max Weiss (AUC Press)

Homecoming, Sixty Years of Egyptian Short Stories, edited by Denys Johnson-Davies (AUC Press)

Judgment Day, by Rasha al Ameer, trans. Jonathan Wright