Spring 2015: Best of the Newly Translated Arabic Literature Online

Words Without Borders just released its May 2015 “New Palestinian Writing” issue. There’s lots to read there and elsewhere around the Internet; here are a few of the best:

Short stories

concrete-garden-bench-1256720041-0“Shut-eye,” by Mohamed Kheir, trans. Robin Moger 

Suddenly he stopped. We sleep here, he said.

– In the street?

On a concrete bench he set down his bag, rested his head atop it and stretched out. I stayed standing. I looked at the sea: a mass of darkness. The pavement: empty. The cold digging insistently beneath my clothes.

– Ten minutes then you wake me up and you sleep, and I wake you, and so on.

And he laid his head back and slept. Keep reading.

“The Stolen Shirt,” by Ghassan Kanafani, trans. Michael Fares

Holding back the blasphemous swearing that nearly slipped off of his tongue, he raised his head to the dark sky. He could feel the black clouds gather like pieces of basalt, overlapping and then dissipating.

This rain will not stop tonight – this means that he will not sleep – but instead he’ll stay hunched over his shovel, digging a path to divert the muddy water away from the tent poles. His back has become virtually impervious to the beating of the cold rain upon it. The cold gives him a pleasant feeling of numbness. Keep reading.

“A Knock-out Punch,” by Eyad Barghuthy, trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid

When Adib saw the delegations of athletes waving to the applauding fans in the Moscow stadium, he sighed, I should have been there. He had promised himself a gold medal, and they had all expected one of him. He didn’t watch the rest of the opening ceremony on the TV. He went out into the alleyways of the Abeed district and disappeared in their shadows, walking. Keep reading.

“Tales from the Book of the Palm in Bassoura,” by Mohamad Khudayyir, trans. Elisabeth Jaquette

While the ancients wrote many volumes about the palm tree, the book of Bassoura is unparalleled among them for its structure and its sources, the tales of farmers and harvesters. Yet when forged copies appeared in Bassoura, the city known as Basra today, wars descended upon it, and so a new version of the book was created, by the sweat of every bard and storyteller’s brow. Every descendant of the men who owned palm groves had the right to claim a copy of the original for himself, while the builders, the seasonal workers, and the slaves of the salt flats owned simple forgeries of the book their masters had locked within their libraries. Keep reading.

“Mustajab VII,” by Muhammed Mustajab, trans. Robin Moger

Blessed is he who lays a flower on a tomb or a palace or a breast, is he who is born in the seventh month or the twelfth, is the throat become gorge, is he who slaughters his only horse out of kindness. Blessed is he who sinks to his knees pleading forgiveness or overcome with lust, is he who bears a cross upon his back, is he who boils a porridge of cement to hoodwink his children’s hunger, is the sniffer become snout, is the time when a wife could gather together the pieces of her helpmeet’s corpse and he would live, are the truths cowering in the crevices of falsehood, is the nation that feeds on the chatter of the worthless, is the nation that feeds on the prattling of the powerful, is the gulp become gullet. Keep reading.


Fourteen Poems from Loneliness Spoils its Victims, by Dara Abdallah, trans. Mona Kareem

“Solitary Confinement on the Seventh Floor,” by Mazen Maarouf, trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Nathalie Handal

Poems by Ahmed Shafie, trans. Robin Moger

Poems by Ibrahim al-Sayed and Hermes, trans. Robin Moger

“Hash and Gout,” by Yasser Abdellatif, trans. Robin Moger