Nine translations from the Arabic — at least, translated from the Arabic in some roundabout fashion — forthcoming this month:
1) We Have Buried the Past, by Moroccan novelist ‘Abd al-karim Ghallab, translated by Roger Allen. Forthcoming from Haus Publishing on November 19, 2018.
From the publisher:
Written after the country gained independence, the historical novel follows two generations of al-Tihamis, a well-to-do family residing in Fez’s ancient medina. The family members’ lives reflect the profound social changes taking place in Morocco during that time. Bridging two worlds, We Buried the Past begins during the quieter days of the late colonial period, a world of seemingly timeless tradition, in which the patriarch, al-Haj Muhammad, proudly presides over the family. Here, religion is unquestioned and permeates all aspects of daily life. But the coming upheaval and imminent social transition are reflected in al-Haj’s three sons, particularly his second son, Abderrahman, who eventually defies his father and comes to symbolize the break between the old ways and the new.
2) Tenants and Cobwebs, by Iraqi-Israeli novelist Samir Naqqash, translated by Sadok Masliyah. Forthcoming from Syracuse University Press on November 15, 2018.
From the publisher:
Samir Naqqash’s stirring novel Tenants and Cobwebs nostalgically commemorates the lost culture of an ancient Iraqi Jewish minority living amidst a majority Muslim population in 1940s Baghdad. The plot unfolds during a time of great turmoil: the rise of Iraqi nationalism and anti-Jewish sentiment fueled by Nazi propaganda; the Farûd, a bloody pogrom carried out against Jewish residents of Baghdad in 1941; and the founding of Israel in 1948. These pivotal events profoundly affected Muslim-Jewish relationships, forever changing the nature of the Jewish experience in Iraq and eventually leading to a mass exodus of Iraqi Jews to Israel in 1951.
3) Aladdin, translated by Yasmine Seale, from the French of Antoine Galland, who was told the story by Syrian traveler-writer Hanna Diyab in 1709. Introduction by Paulo Lemos Horta, forthcoming on November 27, 2018.
An endless question! Diyab, growing up in Aleppo, would have heard & read many stories, Arabic & European. He meets AG in his early 20s, while assisting tomb-raiding collector Paul Lucas. On one of their expeditions in Syria, they find a ring & a lamp in an underground vault…
Aladdin at least partly autobiographical. But even this is complicated: we know about Diyab’s life from his memoirs, recently discovered in the Vatican Lib (pub. in French 2015). But he’s writing 50 years after the facts; how much to trust his account? Time is also a translator.
Regardless of its origins, by the time it’s printed the story has passed thru so many sieves – the reading & experience of both men, HD’s performance of the story in French, AG’s own unknowable intrusions – that the question of the author (or just, authorial purity) is troubled.
From the publisher:
In this epic novel, Al-Koni blends Tuareg folklore and history with intense, fond descriptions of daily life in the desert, creating a mirror for life anywhere. Through its tragic rendering of a clash between the Tuareg and traditional African civilizations, the novel profoundly probes the contradictions of the human soul as it takes the reader on a unique spiritual adventure inside the Tuareg world.
5) Praise for the Women of the Family, by Palestinian novelist Mahmoud Shukair, translated by Paul Starkey. Forthcoming from Interlink Books on November 13.
From the publisher:
A tale of a Bedouin clan through the eyes of its women. Shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2016 The Al-Abd al-Lat clan has left the desert and is preparing to leave its Bedouin customs behind. Some of the women of the clan are drawn to the allure of modern life, while others scorn it and fear the loss of their traditional lifestyle and values. When Rasmia accompanies her husband to a party, Najma wears a dress and Sana gets a tan on her white legs, they set malicious tongues wagging. Meanwhile, Wadha, the sixth wife of Mannan, the chief of the clan, still believes that the washing machine and television are inhabited by evil spirits. Set in the tumultuous time after the nakba (the Palestinian exodus from what is now Israel), Praise for the Women in the Family portrays the rapid advance of modernity and the growing conflict in 1950s Palestine. It also reveals the impossibility of political equality in a society that treats its women unjustly and denies them the right to dignity and equality with men.
6) Sarab, by Saudi novelist Raja Alem, translated by Leri Price. Forthcoming from Hoopoe Fiction in November.
This is Raja Alem’s siege-of-Mecca novel, not published in Arabic, only in German and English translations. From the publisher:
November 1979. Violence has broken out in the holiest site of Islam after a charismatic rebel and his devoted followers have announced the coming of the Mahdi and seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Among the insurgents is a young woman, Sarab, disguised as a man. As the horror and chaos of the siege reach their peak, she escapes and encounters a French officer from the opposing side. They form an unexpected bond, as hostility turns to attraction, but the violence of both of their pasts will return to haunt them.
7) Loss Sings, by James E Montgomery, with translations of poems by pre-Islamic poet al-Khansa. Forthcoming from the Cahiers Series on November 20, 2018.
Heartbreaking, gorgeous, necessary. From a review on ArabLit:
The poems remind you of Homeric or Norse poems of valor, courage, and loss. In and of themselves, the fifteen poems express the grief of a sister for her two brothers lost in war, Muawiyah and Sakhr. She celebrates their valor, their generosity, and their wisdom. In some ways, her loss should transcend time, and we should be able to feel her pain even now, for all of us will at some point lose a loved one. But as Montgomery admits, even though he taught her poetry, the poems have been difficult to connect with. They are filled with tropes and literary conventions which to the modern reader, in the Occident at least, appear melodramatic. Even though we understand the emotion, we find it hard to connect with; men in Western culture do not weep, for instance. If we do, we do it alone. Our way of expressing and talking about grief and loss is different from that of the ancients. Had these poems stood alone without the commentary by Montgomery, I suspect they would have been confined to the specialist.
8) The Life and Times of Abu Tammam, by Abu Bakr al-Suli, translated by Beatrice Gruendler, foreword by Terence Cave. Forthcoming from the Library of Arabic Literature on November 13, 2018.
From the publisher:
In The Life and Times of Abu Tammam, translated into English for the first time, the courtier and scholar Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Suli (d. 335 or 336 H/946 or 947 AD) mounts a robust defense of “modern” poetry and of Abu Tammam’s significance as a poet against his detractors, while painting a lively picture of literary life in Baghdad and Samarra. Born into an illustrious family of Turkish origin, al-Suli was a courtier, companion, and tutor to the Abbasid caliphs. He wrote extensively on caliphal history and poetry and, as a scholar of “modern” poets, made a lasting contribution to the field of Arabic literary history. Like the poet it promotes, al-Suli’s text is groundbreaking: it represents a major step in the development of Arabic poetics, and inaugurates a long line of treatises on innovation in poetry.
9) ArabLitQuarterly: Fall 2018, forthcoming from ArabLit on November 15, 2018.
Free to Patreon supporters; details on how others can purchase on November 15.