Friday Finds: Excerpt of Youssef Fadel’s ‘A Shimmering Red Fish’

A Shimmering Red Fish Swims with Me — set for an October 1 release  — is Youssef Fadel’s tenth novel, his third translated to English:

A Shimmering Red Fish, translated by Alex Elinson, is the final book in a trilogy set around historical events of twentieth-century Morocco. The first two were A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me (tr. Jonathan Smolin) and A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me (tr. Elinson).

This novel focuses on 1980s and early-90s Casablanca, during the construction of the Hassan II Mosque, which was completed in 1993. In it, an enormous mosque is being built alongside a very poor neighborhood; the backdrop of a star-crossed love story.

The book’s title in Arabic was Farah, which means joy and is also, as Elinson writes in his foreword, “the name of the eponymous teen-age girl who runs away from her hometown of Azemmour to Casablanca to follow her dreams of becoming a singer. The mosque and its construction dominate the novel which follows Farah and the ill-fated love story between her and the novel’s main narrator, Outhman.”

Alex Elinson’s foreword and the first two chapters of the book are online for pre-release reading.

The first chapter opens:

The man is stretched out on his bed. He’d rather not know who the woman is whose body is underneath it. It’s been a while, a long while, since the man has had any dreams, unsettling or otherwise. He usually wakes to a chirp from the magpie sitting on one of the posts that stretches the barbedwire around the field not far from the railroad tracks. Themagpie is black during the day, white at night. Its beak is gray regardless. When it lets out its lone chirp, its tail moves to the same rhythm, as if it is singing with its entire body. It always lets out just one chirp. This bird comes to sing a song just for him, so the man waits for a few moments—savoring or rushing them depending on his mood, and on what the bird expects, so taken it is with this exceptional attention—so that he can respond with his own drawn-out note: tweeeet. Justlike that. This time, the nightmare wakes him up before the bird sings, so he gets out of bed wondering what time it is.

Keep reading at the Hoopoe website.

A Beautiful White Cat

Hoopoe Fiction: An excerpt of Fadel’s A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Metr. Alex Elinson

ArabLit: ‘A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me’: The More I Think About It, The Funnier It Gets

ArabLit: Alex Elinson on Translating the ‘Power of Laughter in the Face of Economic and Social Despair’

ArabLit: Court Jesters and Black Mirrors: Translator Alex Elinson on Bringing Moroccan Literature into English

A Rare Blue Bird

Hoopoe Fiction: An excerpt of A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Metr. Jonathan Smolin

ArabLit: Youssef Fadel: Throwing Light on the ‘Hidden Aspects of Ordinary Injustice’, by al-Mustafa Najjar

A Shimmering Red Fish

Hoopoe Fiction: An excerpt of A Shimmering Red Fish Swims with Me, tr. Alex Elinson

More Fadel:

The New Yorker: “To Be a Writer You Have to Be Against the State’: Youssef Fadel Illuminates Morocco’s Past and Present”

More Elinson:

ArabLit: Translator Alex Elinson on Novelist Youssef Fadel’s Shift Away from Colloquial