Follow the World Cup of Poetry, World Cup of Literature

There are two “World Cup” literary games going on now, in parallel with the football matches:

6942In the novel-oriented games, run by Chad Post over at Three Percent, Algeria is represented by Leïla Marouane’s Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris. From my Believer review:

Translator: Alison Anderson; Fictional dedication:“With thanks to ‘Mohamed’ for his trust and his outspokenness”; Partial list of violent descriptive phrasing used in jacket-copy blurbs: “Pot shots,” “stinging,” and “lyrical stabs”; Plot summary: a forty-year-old Algerian French virgin leaves his mother’s home in a Muslim suburb and moves to a ritzy Saint-Germain apartment, where he tries to chase women and loses himself; Representative passage: “‘Islam is the only religion where sex pleads not guilty,’ I continued, carefully enunciating each syllable, thus allowing my ulterior motive to filter through, but my semi-mistress did not pick up on it.”

You can follow the brackets at Three Percent; today, Algeria’s Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris will run against Day of the Oprichnik by Russia’s Vladimir Sorokin, refereed by Chris Schaefer.

Meanwhile, over at The Missing Slate, they’re doing a Poetry World Cup, using not the World Cup teams, but pieces that have previously run on the magazine. Tunisia and Lebanon are both in play, and Lebanon rolls with Wadih Saadeh’s “Hey Allen Ginsberg, I think that the fan is rotating” from a TMS issue guest-edited by ArabLit.

The poem, trans. the acclaimed Egyptian poet Maged Zaher, opens:

Listen Allen

I am on the curb and my cigarettes ran out

I open my eyes and close them

Sometimes I recall that night when we wiped the spit from the mouths of the dead

Then we descended the stairs together

And took a walk by the sea

Or, if you wanted to read books about football:

Drumbeat, by Mohamed al-Bisatie. In Drumbeat, the national team of an “Emirate” qualifies for the World Cup, and the country empties out as everyone is required to go to France and cheer on the team. We don’t watch much football in this book, but we do see the insanity and euphoria that attends it.

Moon over Samarqand, by Mohamed Mansi Qandil. In the latter part of the novel, titled “My Tales,” the narrator—Ali—plays out a sometimes-violent battle with an Islamist rival on the football pitch.

And, speaking of football and Islamism, Khaled al-Berry attributes joining the Islamist group Al Jama’a Islamiyya to football in his memoir Life is More Beautiful Than Paradise: A Jihadist’s Own Story.

Mahmoud Darwish talks soccer, among other things, in Memory for Forgetfulness.

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