In our forty-ninth episode of Bulaq, we talk about a few new books — ones that provide a welcome escape, and ones that seem particularly daunting — and about how hard it is to write, read, think and imagine the future right now:

We started out this episode by reading from Noor Naga’s playful-philosophical novel-in-verse Washes, Prays, which was published this spring. You can also read more about it on Mada Masr and ArabLit.

More playful prose that provided a recent, much-needed escape was Impostures, al-Hariri’s classic Maqamat, many-Englished by Michael Cooperson and available now.

More difficult to pick up right now was Aziz Binebine’s Tazmamort récit, a prison memoir that recently appeared in English as Tazmamart, translated by Lulu Norman. His brother Mahi Binebine’s The King’s Fool is forthcoming in Ben Faccini’s translation in August.

We had different feelings about reading coronavirus art, journals, and poetry online.

Ursula had enjoyed Alessandro Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi, a classic of Italian literature that recounts a 17th century plague in Milan, while MLQ found Mazen Kerbaj’s coronavirus diaries, online at kerbajdiaries.com, about as much contact with the virus-writing as she could handle.

We ended on a positive by talking about the Arabic Translation Challenge, which we hope you’ve already seen.

You can listen to the episode through Sowt, our podcast platform, or through the app of your choice.

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