On Nov. 30, Banipal will be hosting a “Banipal Short Story Circle” at the V&A on Cromwell Road, London, as part of the Nour Festival of the Arts:
“The Way to Poppy Street,” by Tunisian writer Rachida el-Charni (this story was also included in the recent Granta Book of the African Short Story, trans. Piers Amodia).
“Kuya’s Little Things,” by Emirati writer Abdul Hamid Ahmed.
“A Fateful Meal,” by Palestinian writer Eyad Barghuthy.
I am a particular fan of el-Charni, and have said previously that “she has a particularly sensitive management of groups of people, managing deftly to put great variety and power in them, and also to show how they can act together, as a sort of single character, as she did in the story ‘The Way to Poppy Street,’ from her 2002 collection. There, a group crowds around a character who tries to hang onto her necklace in the face of a determined, knife-wielding thief and an apathetic, critical crowd.”
And I was also impressed by:
“In ‘Visitors’ day at 9 Avril Prison,’ the parents and loved-ones of prisoners come to queue outside the 9 Avril prison in the June heat in order to bring food to their sons, brothers, and fathers. The extreme humanity with which el-Charni treats everyone in the queue is remarkable: the movie star, the woman who clings to her hijab, the woman who has to go buy new containers from a kiosk down the road (her hard-plastic containers were rejected as too dangerous) and who “crouched down beneath the wall, tipped water over them, washed them carefully and transferred the food into them, having first inspected it closely, even smelling it. This accomplished she returned to stand at the back of the long queue, followed by her child.”
The story-event is free, and, on the Banipal website, organizers say, “Read the stories in advance or just come along to learn more about modern Arab story-telling today.”