‘Tight Spaces’: Bulaq on ‘Bab as-Saha,’ ‘Nos Richesses,’ and Quarantine

Our forty-seventh episode — “Tight Spaces” — talks about the ups and downs of recent online book events, as well as two novels that have recently appeared in English:

In this episode, we discuss an acclaimed novel set during the first Palestinian Intifada and one inspired by a tiny, legendary bookstore in Algiers.

We also talked through the awards ceremonies for this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction—which went to Abdelouahab Aissaoui’s The Spartan Court—and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award—which had winners in seven categories. Both usually have large awards ceremonies in Abu Dhabi around the time of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair; both, this year, had awards ceremonies on YouTube.

Khalifeh’s classic 1990 novel The Passage to the Plaza is newly out in English from Seagull Books, while Kaouther Adimi’s Our Riches, translated by Chris Andrews, is also newly out from  New Directions; it follows the story of Edmond Charlot  and Les Vraies Richesses bookshop in Algiers.

As part of the now-online Sant Jordi Literary Festival (April 23-25), MLQ also discussed the translation of Bab as-Saha, or The Passage to the Plaza (by Sahar Khalifeh), with Sawad Hussain, who has finally brought this classic into English. For those who missed it, the talk is also available on the ArabLit YouTube channel.

Watch the final day of the Sant Jordi Literary Festival at www.santjordinyc.org/live.