ArabLit and Arabist Launch New Podcast: BULAQ

Yesterday, ArabLit and The Arabist launched a new podcast, BULAQ, co-hosted by Ursula Lindsey (The Arabist) and M Lynx Qualey (ArabLit), and produced by The Arabist’s Issandr El Amrani:

By M Lynx Qualey

ArabLit readers have several times suggested a podcast, but I have no experience or equipment, and it seemed a perilous thing to attempt by oneself.

But when Ursula suggested we could do one together, it felt immediately right.

Ursula, Issandr, and I all had previous lives in Cairo, as we discuss in the debut podcast. A few months ago, I moved to Rabat, where they now live. Ursula and I both write about books — although in different ways, and for different publications — and both have lives filled with and informed by them.

Our debut focuses on Mohammed Abdelnaby’s beautifully built In the Spider’s Room, which should be out in Jonathan Wright’s excellent translation in 2018. The novel takes, as it’s starting point, a character jailed as part of the high profile Queen Boat arrests of 2001.

There is a strong critique of Abdelnaby’s novel, which was as on the shortlist for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, on the blog “Notes from Over There,” which we discuss, as well as two reviews on Mada Masr. There will be much more discussion of it in the years to come, we hope, both in the original and in translation.

It’s part of a new wave of authors writing sympathetic and complex portraits of queer characters (Hilal Chouman, Alexandra Chrieteh, Khaled Khalifa), but also translating seminal queer novels, such as James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, just launched by Rewayat at this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair, which closes today.

We go on to discuss a number of other books — the alienation from oneself in In the Spider’s Room reminded me of the alienation in The Apartment in Bab El Louk — as well as book news, awards, arrest updates, and more.

You can subscribe to this podcast using this RSS feed or on iTunes. We look forward to hearing your criticisms, comments, and suggestions for future episodes.


  1. Mabrook! The podcast is terrific! It comes with everything one wants: background and contexts, intelligent conversation about specific literary topics with competent knowledge of political and social implications. Especially valuable is venture into taboo issues like LGBT themes. More important, one feels the passion for Arab literature and culture behind the entire conversation. I just wish that such conversations are also video taped. I teach classes on Arab literature and culture and such videos would be invaluable.

    1. Dear Shakir, ArabLit’s first & most important reader, I am so glad you approve!

      Issandr is our producer, and he’s the one who knows all things technical. Perhaps it would be easy to do both at once for use in the classroom. I know a large percentage of ArabLit’s use is in classrooms, & certainly I’d love to accommodate what’s most useful.

      1. Yes, both can be done at the same time, and when you and Ursula become more comfortable some adjustments might become necessary. Like introducing video clips, photos, charts. Can’t tell you how much my students liked Guyer’s “Mad Cartoonists of Egypt.” There were about 15 Discussions posts on that video.Greetings to Ursula.

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