Preview: Translations, Quotes from Authors in ‘Arabic Literature in Berlin’ Discussion

The panel “Arabic Literature in Berlin” is the kickoff event for the 2021 BILA HUDOOD: Arabic Literature Everywhere digital festival, supported by the Royal Society for Literature. Get a preview of works by the participating authors, translators, and publishers:

Katharine Halls

Arabic-English translator Katharine Halls will chair our panel on “Arabic Literature in Berlin.” More of her work can be found at

Read: Katharine Halls’ translation of Adania Shibli’s ‘Living Safely’, Kunsthalle Wien

To get away from the dense city centre, with its unhealthy and unsafe atmosphere, and searching for some calm and serenity, he moved to this distant, isolated house on the northernmost fringes of the city, near the river.

Read: Katharine Halls’ translation of Houneida Jrad’s ‘A Meeting in Reality and Imagination’, Popula, 2019.

Look around you. You’ll see that ambient white light which is the sound of each soul whispering to the souls around it. That’s where we begin.

Read: Katharine Halls’ translation of Mortada Gzar’s ‘Don’t Put Your Elephant In Your Luggage’, Newfound, 2017.

At arrivals at O’Hare, a man opened his bag at customs, and a large black elephant stepped out.

Haytham El-Wardany

Egyptian writer Haytham El-Wardany will join us for the panel. He has two books in English translation: How to Disappear, translated by Robin Moger and Jennifer Peterson, and The Book of Sleep, translated by Robin Moger.

Read: What Happens When We Sleep?, translated by Robin Moger

An excerpt from El-Wardany’s The Book of Sleep, which draws on philosophy, poetry, and narrative to interrogate the nature of sleep.

Read: Fragments from the ‘Book of Sleep,’ translated by Robin Moger

“And just as we are transformed into things during sleep, so the things in our rooms transform into beings other than those we know. They lose their passivity and gradually return to themselves.”

Read: “True Fables,” translated by Nariman Youssef

“The story goes that one day a cigarette lighter spoke. “I am the fire, and you are the murderers,” it said. But nobody listened.”

Interview: El Wardany on Sleep as the First Stage of Rebirth

“It’s true that the book isn’t about the revolution and its defeat but it is haunted by the political through the discussion of sleep and its attempt to escape the conventional portrayal of sleep as a surrender, a laziness, an anti-activity.”

Liwaa Yazji

Syrian playwright, filmmaker, and poet Liwaa Yazji will join us for the panel. Her play Goats has been translated to English by Katharine Halls.

Read: “Waiting for the Guests,” translated by Elisabeth Jaquette.

The events in this one-act play take place in a one-story house with simple, modern decor in a city in Syria in 2014.

Watch: “Goats,” translated by Katharine Halls.

“As the coffins pile up in a small town in Syria, a party leader decides to offer a goat for each martyred son. A father learns the hard way about the surreal reality of politics, war, martyrdom, and life.” A staged reading, directed by Zishan Ugurlu.

Sandra Hetzl

German translator and publisher Sandra Hetzl will also join our panel. More of her work can be found at

Read Sandra Hetzl’s translation: “Wie die deutsche Sprache erfunden wurde,“ by Rasha Abbas.

Watch: Translating Arabic Literature in Europe, LAF debate at the Literary Translation Centre, London Book Fair 2021, available through the LBF website.


Register for the event at