Inspired by LitHub’s list of Most Anticipated Books of the Second Half of 2019, a list of 21 works forthcoming in translation, translated from Arabic, Tamazight, and French, in the second half of 2019. Please add your own recommendations in the comments:
Last year, Egyptian critic Mohammed Shoair made an unusual and thrilling announcement: He had come across never-before-seen stories by Egypt’s only Nobel laureate for literature, Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006). The slender trove of texts had been filed in a cardboard box in the possession of Mahfouz’s only living daughter. From that file comes the newly released book The Quarter, published in Arabic as The Whisper of Stars last December, now translated into English by Roger Allen. Keep reading.
Return of the Spirit, by Tawfiq al-Hakim, tr. William Hutchins and Russell Harris (July 9, 2019)
The Book of Disappearance, by Ibtisam Azem, tr. Sinan Antoon (July 12, 2019)
What if all the Palestinians in Israel simply disappeared one day? What would happen next?
An insightful exploration of intimate relationships and the question of how the disappeared speak.
Palestine + 100, ed. Basma Ghalayini (July 25, 2019)
Contributors to this English PEN Award-winning collection are Selma Dabbagh, Anwar Hamed, Talal Abu Shawish, Tasnim Abutabikh, Emad El-Din Aysha, Samir El-Youssef, Saleem Haddad, Majd Kayyal, Mazen Maarouf, Abdalmuti Maqboul, Ahmed Masoud, and Rawan Yaghi, with translations by Raph Cormack, Mohamed Ghalaieny, Andrew Leber, Thoraya El-Rayyes, Yasmine Seale, and Jonathan Wright.
The collection ends with a story by Almultaqa Prize-winning and Man Booker International longlisted Mazen Maarouf — “The Curse of the Mud Ball Kid” — which is translated by Jonathan Wright. This story has the queasy combination of childlike naïveté, historical surrealism, and intense violence that can be found in much of Maarouf’s work. Keep reading.
Poetic Justice An Anthology of Contemporary Moroccan Poetry, Deborah Kapchan (July 25 2019)
Poetic Justice is the first anthology of contemporary Moroccan poetry in English. The work is primarily composed of poets who began writing after Moroccan independence in 1956 and includes work written in Moroccan Arabic (darija), classical Arabic, French, and Tamazight.
In Her Feminine Sign, by Dunya Mikhail, translated by Dunya Mikhail (July 30 2019)
This is a new collection by qward-winning Iraqi poet, journalist, and author Dunya Mikhail, whose The Beekeeper, co-translated from the Arabic by Mikhail and Max Weiss, made the 2019 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction shortlist.
Mikhail, who worked as a translator and journalist for The Baghdad Observer before being forced to flee Iraq, is the author of several collections of poetry, including the award-winning The War Works Hard (2005), translated by Elizabeth Winslow; Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea, co-translated with Elizabeth Winslow, and Iraqi Nights, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Her latest collection is being published almost simultaneously in Arabic and English: as الغريبةبتائها المربوطة (June, Dar Al Raffidain) and as In Her Feminine Sign (July 30, New Directions). Both were written by Mikhail. Keep reading.
Ghady and Rawan, by Samar Mahfouz Barraj and Fatima Sharafeddine, tr. Sawad Hussain and M Lynx Qualey (August 1, 2019)
Ghady and Rawan is a heartfelt and timely novel by the award-winning author Fatima Sharafeddine (The Servant, Cappuccino) and Samar Mahfouz Barraj. The novel follows the close-knit friendship of two Lebanese teenagers, Ghady, who lives with his family in Belgium, and Rawan, who lives in Lebanon. Ghady’s family travels every summer to Beirut, where Ghady gets to spend all his time with Rawan and their other friends, enjoying their freedom from school. During the rest of the year, he and Rawan keep in touch by email. Through this correspondence, we learn about the daily ups and downs of their lives in Brussels and Beirut, including Ghady’s homesickness and his struggles with racism at school, as well as Rawan’s changing relationship to her family. The novel offers a glimpse into the lives of Lebanese adolescents while exploring a range of topics relevant to young people everywhere: bullying, parental conflicts, racism, belonging and identity, and peer pressure. Through the connection between the two main characters, Sharafeddine and Mahfouz Barraj show how the love and support of a good friend can help you through difficulties as well as sweeten life’s triumphs and good times.
Edward Said: His Thoughts as a Novel, by Dominique Eddé, tr. Trista Selous and Ros Schwartz (August 13, 2019)
Eddé weaves together accounts of the genesis and content of Said’s work, his intellectual development, and her own reflections and personal recollections of their friendship, which began in 1979 and lasted until Said’s death in 2003. In this intimate and searching portrait of Said’s thought, Eddé continues to maintain their dialogue despite his death, trying to make peace with the loss of a collaborator with whom she still wants to talk and disagree.
Ice, by Sonallah Ibrahim, tr. Margaret Litvin (August 15, 2019
The year is 1973. An Egyptian historian, Dr. Shukri, pursues a year of non-degree graduate studies in Moscow, the presumed heart of the socialist utopia. Through his eyes, the reader receives a guided tour of the sordid stagnation of Brezhnev-era Soviet life: intra-Soviet ethnic tensions; Russian retirees unable to afford a tin of meat; a trio of drunks splitting a bottle of vodka on the sidewalk; a Kirgiz roommate who brings his Russian girlfriend to live in his four-person dormitory room; black-marketeering Arab embassy officials; liberated but insecure Russian women; and Arab students’ debates about the geographically distant October 1973 War. Shukri records all this in the same numbly factual style familiar to fans of Sonallah Ibrahim’s That Smell, punctuating it with the only redeeming sources of beauty available: classical music LPs, newly acquired Russian vocabulary, achingly beautiful women, and strong Georgian tea.
Based, in part, around Ibrahim’s experiences studying at the All-Russian Institute of Cinematography in Moscow from 1971 to 1973.
The Sea Cloak, by Nayrouz Qarmout, tr. Perween Richards (August 22, 2019)
The Sea Cloak is a collection of 14 stories by the author, journalist, and women s rights campaigner, Nayrouz Qarmout. They draw from her own experiences growing up in a Syrian refugee camp, as well as her current life in Gaza.
More from Qarmout coming next month on ArabLit. Until then, watch: Actress Grazyna Monvid reads ‘The Sea Cloak’, a short story by Gazan author Nayrouz Qarmout, translated by Charis Bredin.
Velvet, by Huzama Habayeb, tr. Kay Heikkinen (September 3, 2019)
Hawa is a child of the grinding hardship of a Palestinian refugee camp. She has had to survive the camp itself, as well as the humiliation and destruction of an abusive family life. But now, later in life, something most unexpected has happened: she has fallen in love.Velvet unfolds over a day in Hawa’s life, as she makes plans for a new beginning that may take her out of the camp. She sifts back through her memories of the past: the stories of her family, her childhood, and her beloved mentor, who invited her into the glamorous world of the rich women of Amman.
Young love, meddling relatives, heart-to-hearts with friends real and imagined – Philistia’s world is that of an ordinary university student, except that in occupied Palestine, and when your father is in indefinite detention, nothing is straightforward. Philistia is closest to her childhood, and to her late grandmother and her imprisoned father, when she’s at her part-time job washing women’s bodies at the ancient Ottoman hammam in Nablus, the West Bank. A midwife and corpse washer in her time, Grandma Zahia taught Philistia the ritual ablutions and the secrets of the body: the secrets of life and death. On the brink of adulthood, Philistia embarks on a journey through her country’s history – a magical journey, and one of loss and centuries of occupation. As trees are uprooted around her, Philistia searches for a place of refuge, a place where she can plant a memory for the ones she’s lost.
A Shimmering Red Fish Swims with Me, by Youssef Fadel, tr. Alexander Elinson (October 1, 2019)
This completes bringing Fadel’s trilogy into translation.
In 1980s Casablanca, Farah arrives from her small town life with big dreams: she wants to sing. She meets Outhman, but he longs to leave the city, to seek his fortune elsewhere. They fall in love, but trouble brews on the horizon.
The Egyptian Assassin, by Ezzedine C. Fishere tr. Jonathan Wright (October 1, 2019)
Also a TV series.
A lifetime ago, Fakhreddin had been an idealistic young lawyer, seeking to fight corruption from his modest quarter of Cairo. Then, a botched attempt on his life forced him to flee the country, propelling him on a wild journey that would lead to Afghanistan’s jihadi training camps.
The Old Woman and the River, by Ismail Fahd Ismail, tr. Sophia Vasalou (October 7, 2019)
Shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
After the ceasefire in 1988, the devastation to the landscape of Iraq wrought by the longest war of the twentieth century – the Iran-Iraq War – becomes visible. Eight years of fighting have turned nature upside down, with vast wastelands being left behind. In southeastern Iraq, along the shores of the Shatt al-Arab River, the groves of date palm trees have withered. No longer bearing fruit, their leaves have turned a bright yellow. There, Iraqi forces had blocked the entry points of the river’s tributaries and streams, preventing water from flowing to the trees and vegetation. Yet, surveying this destruction from the sky, a strip of land bursting with green can be seen. Beginning from the Shatt al-Arab River and reaching to the fringes of the western desert, several kilometers wide, it appears as a lush oasis of some kind. The secret of this fertility, sustaining villages and remaining soldiers, is unclear. But it is said that one old woman is responsible for this lifeline.
The Philosopher Responds: An Intellectual Correspondence from the Tenth Century, Volumes 1 and 2, by Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi and Abu ‘Ali Miskawayh,ed. Bilal Orfali and Maurice Pomerantz, tr. Sophia Vasalou and James E. Montgomery (October 8, 2019)
Why is laughter contagious? Why do mountains exist? Why do we long for the past, even if it is scarred by suffering? Spanning a vast array of subjects that range from the philosophical to the theological, from the philological to the scientific, The Philosopher Responds is the record of a set of questions put by the litterateur Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi to the philosopher and historian Abu ‘Ali Miskawayh. Both figures were foremost contributors to the remarkable flowering of cultural and intellectual life that took place in the Islamic world during the reign of the Buyid dynasty in the fourth/tenth century.
The correspondence between al-Tawhidi and Miskawayh holds a mirror to many of the debates and preoccupations of the time and reflects the spirit of rationalistic inquiry that animated their era. It also provides insight into the intellectual outlooks of two thinkers who were divided as much by their distinctive temperaments as by the very different trajectories of their professional careers.
Alternately whimsical and tragic, wondering and brooding, trivial and profound, al-Tawhidi’s questions provoke an interaction as interesting in its spiritedness as in its content. This new edition of The Philosopher Responds is accompanied by the first full-length English translation of this important text, bringing this interaction to life for the English reader.
Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi, tr. Marilyn Booth (October 15)
The US edition of the winner of the 2019 Man Booker International is forthcoming from Catapult. From the MBI judges’ statement:
‘A book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure, worth lingering over. Interweaving voices and timelines are beautifully served by the pacing of the novel. Its delicate artistry draws us into a richly imagined community — opening out to tackle profound questions of time and mortality and disturbing aspects of our shared history. The style is a metaphor for the subject, subtly resisting clichés of race, slavery and gender. The translation is precise and lyrical, weaving in the cadences of both poetry and everyday speech. Celestial Bodies evokes the forces that constrain us and those that set us free’.
Mama Hissa’s Mice, by Saud Alsanousi, tr. Sawad Hussain (Nov 12, 2019)
Growing up together in the Surra section of central Kuwait, Katkout, Fahd, and Sadiq share neither ethnic origin nor religious denomination—only friendship and a rage against the unconscionable sectarian divide turning their lives into war-zone rubble. To lay bare the ugly truths, they form the protest group Fuada’s Kids. Their righteous transgressions have made them targets of both Sunni and Shi’a extremists. They’ve also elicited the concern of Fahd’s grandmother, Mama Hissa, a story-spinning font of piety, wisdom, superstition, and dire warnings, who cautions them that should they anger God, the sky will surely fall.
Then one day, after an attack on his neighborhood leaves him injured, Katkout regains consciousness. His friends are nowhere to be found. Inundated with memories of his past, Katkout begins a search for them in a world that has become unrecognizable but not forsaken.
Snaking through decades of Kuwaiti history well into a cataclysmic twenty-first century, Mama Hissa’s Mice is a harrowing, emotional, and caustic novel of rebellion. It also speaks to the universal struggle of finding one’s identity and a reason to go on, even after the sky has fallen.
Daughter of the Tigris, by Muhsin al-Ramli, tr. Luke Leafgren (November 14, 2019)
This is the follow-up to al-Ramli’s The President’s Gardens.
On the sixth day of Ramadan, in a land without bananas, Qisma leaves for Baghdad with her husband-to-be to find the body of her father. But in the bloodiest year of a bloody war, how will she find one body among thousands?For Tariq, this is more than just a marriage of convenience: the beautiful, urbane Qisma must be his, body and soul. But can a sheikh steeped in genteel tradition share a tranquil bed with a modern Iraqi woman?The President has been deposed, and the garden of Iraq is full of presidents who will stop at nothing to take his place. Qisma is afraid – afraid for her son, afraid that it is only a matter of time before her father’s murderers come for her.The only way to survive is to take a slice of Iraq for herself. But ambition is the most dangerous drug of all, and it could just seal Qisma’s fate.
Palestine as Metaphor, by November 19, 2019)
Palestine as Metaphor consists of a series of interviews with Mahmoud Darwish, which have never appeared in English before. The interviews are a wealth of information on the poet’s personal life, his relationships, his numerous works, and his tragedy. They illuminate Darwish’s conception of poetry as a supreme art that transcends time and place.Several writers and journalists conducted the interviews, including a Lebanese poet, a Syrian literary critic, three Palestinian writers, and an Israeli journalist. Each encounter took place in a different city from Nicosia to London, Paris, and Amman.