Friday Finds: Mazen Maarouf’s ‘Portion of Jam’

Mazen Maarouf’s Almultaqa Prize-winning short-story collection — Jokes for the Gunmenwas published this month in Jonathan Wright’s English translation:

If this collection doesn’t make a notable-book or translation-award list, I’ll have to eat the hat I already ate when Khaled Khalifa’s Death is Hard Work wasn’t longlisted for the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Or, who knows, buy a new hat.

The story is published at Granta magazine; the book is out from Granta Books. Although the stories aren’t linked, they are told through a series of linked voices, all of which echo a wide-eyed, surrealist naïveté that is our guide to civil war, dementia, adolescence, and other events that are impossible to understand. Maarouf first came to the literary world’s attention as a poet, and these stories could also be long narrative poems.

Portion of Jam opens:

Dad comes home holding a little plastic portion of jam like the ones they give the patients in the hospital where he works. He holds it up in the air and says, ‘See the jam?’

‘No,’ I reply.

He puts his hand a little closer to the only lightbulb in the ceiling. ‘And now?’

‘No, I can’t see anything,’ I say.

Keep reading on Granta.