The Notorious Ghalib Halasa

At the end of last month, The Common magazine posted a translation of Ghalib Halasa‘s “The Slaves”:

Halasa (1932-1989) is little-translated into English, but continues to have a cult following in Arabic nearly thirty years after his death. From the story’s translator, Thoraya El Rayyes:

Halasa — a writer, translator, and revolutionary — was born in a small Jordanian village in 1932. For his political activities, Halasa was jailed, at various times and under various charges, by the Jordanian, Lebanese, and Egyptian authorities. He lived a peripatetic life: in Beirut as a teenager, and later in Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus. He’s the author of seven novels and two short story collections, including Laughter (1971), Sandstorms (1975), and Sultana (1988). Halasa died at the age of fifty-seven in Damascus, Syria.

There will be more Halasa in English — according to a September 2017 news brief in the Jordan Times, Halasa was one of four Jordanian novelists selected for a new translation partnership between the Jordanian Ministry of Culture and the University of Michigan Press.

Halasa’s “The Slaves,” beautifully tr. El Rayyes, opens:

Two men sat near the round threshing floor in the western fields. Each with his rifle on his lap. “What a goddamn year,” Tafish said. He had a skull-like face. Small, sunken, deep-set eyes. Emaciated cheeks with protruding cheekbones. A broad forehead with dark blue veins at the sides. Skin like an aged tortoise.

More by Halasa:

We are a generation without teachers, tr. Yasmeen Hanoosh

A Birthday, tr. Issa J. Boullata

Sultana: A Chapter from a Novel by Ghalib Halasa, tr. Ali Issa