New in Translation: Hussein Habasch, Tarek al-Tayeb, Kamel Riahi, More

Jadaliyya‘s culture section has suddenly burst back into flower this new year, with work by three different poets, two novel excerpts, and a short story.


A short excerpt of Kamel Riahi’s al-Ghurila (The Gorilla) has been translated here by Elliott Colla. The excerpt, titled “Dog Hunting,”  is chilling. It begins with a newspaper account of an attempt to round up the city’s dogs, and, “To that end, it [the government] is encouraging citizens to help out in their capture.”

The dogs are humanized as the citizen dog-catcher loses hold of his humanity: “At some point, the young man forgot about the bounty on the dog’s heads. He had become addicted to the pleasure of seizing each dog and twisting its muzzle away from him as he stuffed it into the sack. With each new dog he caught, his dog-catching skills grew and multiplied—–and it was not often that a dog would escape from his traps.”

You can read another section of Riahi’s The Gorilla, trans. Peter Clark, online in the ArabWashingtonian.

The Gorilla was published by Dar al-Saqi in 2011. As far as I know, all translation rights are still available.


The second excerpt is from Tarek al-Tayeb’s The Palm House (2006), trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid.

In this excerpt, it’s Eid al-Adha, and Hamza (the narrator) is walking through his village. As in the opening of his previous novel, Cities without Palms, there is a wonderful description of an interaction between a mother and young child; here, the child is being weaned.

James Abu-Zeid is also the Banipal award-winning translator of Tarek Eltayeb’s Cities without Palms. The full novel will be published this year by AUC Press.


Hussein Habasch here has four new poems in translation by poet Sinan Antoon.

In Praise of my Father

Beethoven and Kurds

Tomorrow You Will Be an Old Man

My Mother’s Chants


Joyce Mansour, a Francophone Egyptian poet, has four poems translated by Gaelle Ghada Raphael.

Blue Like a Desert

Spontaneous Fires

There Are Intersections…

Untitled Poem

Joyce Mansour (1928–1986) was born Joyce Patricia Adès, in Bowden, England to Jewish-Egyptian parents. It was Cairo where she first came in contact with Parisian surrealism. From here, she moved to Paris in 1953. She was author of 16 books of poetry, as well as a number of prose and theatre pieces.

There are at least two bilingual collections of Mansour’s work: Essential Poems and Writings and Torn Apart, both trans. Serge Gavronsky.

Also here, one of Mansour’s most well-known works, “I want to sleep with you.”


Jamil Sidqi al-Zahawi’s long poem “Thawra fi Al-jahim” is also in new and first translation by Firas Massouh.

“Revolt in Hell” 

Some of the wording in English is a bit awkward (“With a jaw akin to a lion’s” for “وفمٌ مهروسٌ يضاهي فمَ الليث”) and at times the rhyme is a bit forced in the English. But it still makes for an interesting read. And you can read the Arabic here.

Al-Zahawi was particularly known, in addition to his poetry and philosophy, for his defense of women’s rights.


“A Prayer,” a new short story from our friend (Egyptian author) Hamdy El-Gazzar, trans. Nancy Linthicum. This is part of a series of stories by El-Gazzar. Others posted by Jadaliyya are:



Quoth the Grandmother

El-Gazzar has one novel in translation, his first: Black Magic (trans. Humphrey Davies, AUC Press).