Remembering Mahmoud Albayaty, 1944-2014

According to Iraqi playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak, today a wake is being held for short story-writer and novelist Mahmoud Albayaty.

contributor_20141103153553_1Albayaty, who died on the last day of October in his London home, was born in Baghdad, but left his native country in 1974. After that, he lived in Prague, Sweden, and England.

Albayaty published ten books, including the short-story collections Breaking the Sound Barrier (1985), The Geography of the Soul (1994), Hallucinations Behind the Scenes (1999), Waiting for the Stranger (2008) and Khalilo (2010). His debut novel, Dancing on Water, (2006) was banned by the Islamic Research Academy in Cairo under the pretext that it “contains poems which constitute indecent assault on morality.”

On Facebook, Albayaty’s nephew wrote, “It is a shame that his first novel, Dancing On Water, was not translated fully to Swedish or English, as it dealt with the still hot topic of immigrants living on the margins of Western society but the story did so through the guise of an unconventional thriller and it had a sex scene in a library that landed Mahmoud in hot water with an Egyptian censor. Jesus also pops up at one point, giving one of his best cameo roles in fiction.”

Also from Abdulrazzak’s Facebook tribute:

I was privileged to have grown up with his wonderful stories which varied in style from the realistic to the surreal and absurd, the tragic to the laugh-out-loud funny. Mahmoud captured worlds that have disappeared: the Baghdad of his youth and Prague under communism. His style was uniquely his own and his voice was always clearly identifiable.

Banipal published one of Albayaty’s short stories, “Junction,”trans. Abdulrazzak.  In remembrance of Albayaty, the magazine has made the story available on their website.

Abdulrazzak also writes that Albayaty left a final gift:

He was particularly prolific in the last couple of decades of his life. I look forward to reading his second novel which he worked on for a number of years and luckily managed to complete before illness sapped his strength completely.

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