Friday Finds: The Words Without Borders Mauritania Issue

Scholar and translator July Blalack edited the most recent issue of Words Without Borders, which brings together fiction and poetry from Mauritania:

As Blalack writes in her introduction, when the film based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantánamo Diary came out in 2015, there were only three books written by Mauritanian authors available in English. Blalack adds: “The number of Mauritanian works which had been translated into other languages or won regional literary awards could be counted on one hand. However, the world literature market’s lack of interest in Mauritania—a country simultaneously Arab, West African, Saharan, and Sahelian—does not reflect its overall literary vitality.”

There are seven different authors featured in the special section, translated from Arabic and from French, writing in widely different genres and styles; their work provides visions of Mauritania both future and past, future fiction, ironic time-travel fiction, historical fiction set in the seventeenth century, and tersely expressive poetry.

Outsider Mode, by Ahmed Isselmou

“The central server is under attack and receiving commands to self-destruct.”

Translated from Arabic by Katharine Halls

The Forsaken, by Aichetou

Listen, all of you, to what will later be said of the Forsaken by one of their descendants.

Translated from French by Edward Gauvin

Adabai, by Cheikh Nouh

Their nayffara is a flutelike instrument heavy with history, deeply immersed in sorrow.

Translated from Arabic by Sawad Hussain

You Will Tell Them, by Mariem Mint Derwich

You will say to them that she sleeps in the calabash of worlds

Translated from French by Emma Ramadan

A Tactical Alliance, by Mamadou Kalidou Ba

Depleted as they were, they realized that they had to either team up or go under.

Translated from French by Ros Schwartz

Say to the Tomb, by Bios Diallo

Here the poem ends

Translated from French by Emma Ramadan

Barzakh: The Land of In-between, by Moussa Ould Ebnou

“What you are witnessing is the last face of the Earth.”

Translated from Arabic by July Blalack