Launch of ‘Once Upon a Time in Aleppo’

Today — Thursday, October 1, 2020 — at 4 p.m. EDT, 9 p.m. BST, and 10 p.m. Cairo, Norbert Hirschhorn and Fouad M. Fouad will launch the co-translated collection Once Upon a Time in Aleppo:

The event, “Poems to Live for: Session 6,” is supported by the Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine.

Syrian poet-physician Fouad M. Fouad and his family left their city of Aleppo in 2012 and took refuge in Lebanon, where Fouad now teaches at the American University of Beirut. The poems in this book, co-translated with fellow poet and physician Norbert Hirschhorn, are of witness.

Fouad M. Fouad has published five volumes of poetry in Arabic; several of his poems have appeared in translation, including in ArabLit Quarterly’s Winter/Spring 2019 issue, where they were paired with a discussion between author and translator.

Norbert Hirschhorn is also a poet-physician; the most recent of his collections is Stone. Bread. Salt. (2018).

They will be joined at the event by by Dr Andi Dimitri, author of the collection Winter in Northern Iraq.

From ArabLit Quarterly:

Aleppo Diary

By Fouad M. Fouad

Translated by Fouad and Norbert Hirschhorn

Writing hurts.
The blood dripping down the t.v. screen poisons the air,
stains the couch with what looks like dried coffee. We touch, trembling,
afraid of infection.
Our backs bent as if descending to hell, red and brown rust spots
reflect on our faces.
We rub our heads, turn away,
and lick the salt from tears.
They who crawl from street to screen leave green traces on the tarmac,
which burst into bushes of basil.
They throw us a flower and die quickly
to spare us from shame.
Take off your shoes, walk on broken glass, for now you are in a sacred valley.

I sit on my balcony. Aleppo, spread before me, black and deserted. A clatter of dishes in the dark
means life does go on. No other sound save sporadic gunfire somewhere distant until a peculiar
whistle before the shell explodes. Someone leaves this earth with a dry throat. Aleppo before me
remains black, and still. Those huge shadows might be trees, or childhood goblins or black
vapors exhaled by women waiting for their children, they already numbers in a news bulletin.

Another version of “Aleppo Diary”:

On the Poetry Translation Centre website, translated by Samuel Wilder.


Norbert Hirschhorn’s Stephen Spender-commended Translation of Fouad M. Fouad’s “The King”