Darf Publishers Signs Deal for ‘The Apartment in Bab El-Louk

LitHub can cross one off this list of “10 Books by Arab Writers That Should Be Translated,” published earlier this year; Donia Maher — along with artists Ahmed Nady and Ganzeer — has inked a deal for an English edition of The Apartment in Bab El-Louk with London-Based Darf Publishers:

Image swiped off Restricted Frequency.
Image borrowed off Restricted Frequency.

Ganzeer announced it last week via his “Restricted Frequency,” the email missives where he also writes about his must-read The Solar Grid, which is unfolding at thesolargrid.net.

Ganzeer wrote:

THE APARTMENT IN BAB EL-LOUK was the recipient of the KAHIL AWARD for Best Graphic Novel last year, even though it isn’t exactly a graphic novel. It’s an odd thing, this book. It’s only 40 pages long, and its neither comics nor is it illustrated novel. The text alone would not constitute a novella, but more of a short story rather. The illustrations aren’t a mere add on, but an integral part of the storytelling mechanism involved, making the format of the book the only way you can experience the story. The best description of it is Marcia Lynx Qualey‘s, who referred to it as a “fabulous noir poem” in this here interview from 2014.

An excerpt of the book was excellently translated by Lissie Jaquette for Words Without Borders. That said, I do take issue with the typographic treatment in that version, mainly because I had done everything by hand for the original, and that hand-made quality is completely absent from the text in that translated version. Luckily though, Darf Publishers will allow me to hand-write all the text for theirEnglish edition, which I think should be released within the next 18 months.

I’ll add: Let there be more odd things like this.


On September 15, novelist Ahmed Naji — who was the writer behind another not-really-a-graphic-novel, Using Life — will spend his 31st birthday in prison. Please start making cards and origami and such now, and we’ll have details about where to send them. Thanks.