May Is the Month of Arabic Literature in New York City: Dramatic Readings, Magazine Launches, a Discussion with Basma Abdel Aziz, More

If you’re in NYC, there are four big Arabic literature events to attend in the next few weeks. If you’re not in NYC, you can still participate online:

1. May 12: Reading for Ahmed Naji at Lehman College in the Bronx, featuring Mariam Bazeed

Facebook event page here. This is the International Day of Readings for Ahmed Naji. There will also be a small event hosted by PEN American, but they don’t have Mariam Bazeed. If you’re in or near NYC, please consider attending either this event or:

2. May 16: Reading for Ahmed Naji in Brooklyn 

Facebook event page here. This is the day Naji will receive his free-speech award, in absentia, from PEN American.

Other non-NYC Ahmed Naji events can be found at If there isn’t one near you, please consider remembering Ahmed, or reading an excerpt of his work, in your home or school or office.

2. May 19: “The Common in the City 2016”: A Celebration of Contemporary Arabic Fiction

tajdeedThis fantastic event — a night of drinks, and canapés, and performed readings from The Common’s special Arabic-literature issue — is set for May 19 from 7-9:30 at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University 20 Cooper Square, New York. Readings include:

Malika Moustadraf, “Just Different” (read by Omar Berrada)

Fatima Al-Mazroeui, “A Bouquet” (read by Ulku Tekten)

Zakaria Tamer, “Hassan Al-Shaghoury’s Last Victory” from “Five Stories” (read by Hadi Eldebek)

For those who haven’t glimpsed this beautiful, fresh collection of Arabic literature that stands on its own forms, subjects, and agendas — not those imposed by an over-determining Anglo eye — you can find sneaks and peeks of it over at These include Hassan Blasim’s “The Abandoned Village,” ferried into English by his long-time co-award-winning translator Jonathan Wright. It’s a story that will be featured in Blasim’s third collection, out next year from Comma Press, and if the issue had just this story, you should get yourself a copy. But you can also find work by globally celebrated Syrian short-story writer Zakariya Tamer — “Eat of the Delicacies We Have Bestowed on You” — translated by Maia Tabet; Mona Merhi’s “Hapharzadia,” translated by Nariman Youssef; and more.

Although these wonderful short works are available online, you will have to buy the magazine to get Elisabeth Jaquette’s translation of a startling surreal story by one of the great under-appreciated Iraqi writers, Muhammad Khudayyir.

Purchase a ticket, tote bag, and copy of issue 11 online. 

4. May 25: Basma Abdel Aziz, author of The Queue, in conversation with Yasmine El Rashidi

Abdel Aziz, a journalist and psychiatrist, has written two important nonfiction works, Beyond Torture and The Temptation of Absolute Power. Her brilliant debut novel, The Queue, was translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette and is out this month from Melville House Press. Rashidi is also a fantastically talented writer whose debut novel, Chronicle of a Last Summer, will be published in June.

Event starts at 6:30 p.m. More details here.