Lit & Film: Hadiya Hussein’s ‘Man in a Cup’

If you’re lucky enough to be in London 13-18 September for the 2018 SAFAR Festival, then surely you’ll want to attend the short film program, which is set to include a Q&A with curator Joseph Fahim. This #WITMonth, we look at one of the short-story writers whose work inspired a film, Hadiya Hussein:

The four shorts, all based on short stories, are:

LILI | Marwan Hamed | 2001 | Egypt | 40 min

HER MAN | Ayten Amin | 2006 | Egypt | 10 min

I | Al Al Anssari | 2012 | Qatar | 17 min

A MAN IN A CUP | Yahya Alabdallah | 2006 | Jordan | 5 min

The first, “Lili,” is based on the wonderful 1954 short story “Did You Have to Turn on the Lights, Li-li?” by the great Egyptian writer Youssef Idris. “Her Man” adapts a short story by Egyptian-English writer Ahdaf Soueif, while “I” is a new take on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Tell-tale Heart.”

The last, the short-short “A Man in a Cup,” is an adapation of a short story by Iraqi writer Hadiya Hussein of the same name. If you won’t be in London, you can watch it online.

Hussein, whose third novel, Ma Ba’d al-Hub (2004), was published as Beyond Love by Syracuse University Press, left Iraq for Jordan in the 1990s. At present, she lives in Canada.

In a 2013 interview, she said of her writing:

There was no particular thing or event that pushed me towards writing. However, my childhood environment gradually prepared me for it. I was raised in a family that loved singing and poetry. My father was colloquial poet, and most of my relatives were either poets or memorized poetry. We had a gramophone and many records from the most well-known Iraqi and Arab singers. Our house was located on Tigris River, one of the biggest rivers in Iraq, where my imagination was fed by the river’s legends and its impact on the lives of the Iraqi people. My father was the one who encouraged me to read and brought me many books.

At the very beginning of my literary path, I thought I might become a major poet, especially after I won first prize among the schools in Baghdad. But later, my readings interests widened and varied, and the novel and story became my top priorities.

Few of Hussein’s stories have been translated into English. But “Man in a Cup” has been translated to film: