Friday Finds: Celebrating Iman Mersal

Yesterday, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award announced that Iman Mersal had won the 2021 literature award for her brilliant literary nonfiction, In the Footsteps of Enayat al-Zayyat:

The work has not yet appeared in English translation. You can get a glimpse of it at the Bulaq podcast (“Love and Silence: Rediscovering Enayat al-Zayyat”); it also recently appeared in Richard Jacquemond’s French translation. But there’s also much more of Mersal’s work to explore online.


Iman Mersal

She has a poetry collection forthcoming in English translation, currently titled The Threshold after one of Mersal’s signature poems. It promises to bring together work from across her four collections, including her most recent, Until I Give Up the Idea of Houses. It’s currently scheduled for Winter 2022. Five of Mersal’s poems appeared in Creswell’s translation in a recent issue of The Arkansas International:

Some things escaped me
Respect for Marx
It seems I inherit the dead
Black Fingers
Map Store

Other translations by Creswell, available online, include “I Dreamt of You,” “Evil,” “The Idea of Houses,” “Raising a Glass With an Arab Nationalist,” “The Window” and “A Celebration.” Mersal’s poetry also appears in the new collection Home: New Arabic Poems.


An earlier collection of Mersal’s work appeared in Khaled Mattawa’s translation in 2008, in These Are Not Oranges, My Love. Eight of her poems appear in Words Without Borders, in Mattawa’s translation:

Things Elude Me
I Look Around Me
Sometimes Wisdom Possesses Me
He Marks the Weak Point
In Perfect Happiness
I Have A Musical Name


Her “How to Find Your Mother In Her Portrait,” translated by Robin Moger, appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review, excerpted from her How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts, translated by Moger.

The excerpt is available online; it opens: “When my mother died in the mid-seventies, her only extant portrait took on a greater significance.”

Other translations by Moger include Mersal’s essay “One of us comes out from the other,” on the poet Saniya Salih.


Finally, you can watch Iman read her poem “It Seems I Inherit the Dead“ in her Edmonton home, and see her roll her eyes at the very end.