Today, on the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, we have put together a list of new releases that are hot, fast, and short (and sometimes funny), with an emphasis on collections.
Blood Feast: The Complete Short Stories of Malika Moustadraf, by Malika Moustadraf, tr. Alice Guthrie (Feminist Press, Saqi Books)
This collection brings together fresh, sometimes raunchy, often gritty short stories by cult-classic “rebel realist” author Malika Moustadraf (1969–2006), one of “Morocco’s foremost writers of life on the margins.” The short stories are sensitively translated by Alice Guthrie, who shares an afterword on her process, which she also talked about on the BULAQ podcast. Note that the UK edition is titled Something Strange, Like Hunger.
Also: If you’ve already read & loved this collection, try Najwa Binshatwan’s Catalogue of a Private Life, tr. Sawad Hussain.
Animals in Our Days, Mohamed Makhzangi, tr. Chip Rossetti (Syracuse University Press)
For those who are interested in non-human life — and in displacing the anthropocentric — Egyptian author Mohamed Makhzangi’s Animals in Our Days brings together a wide variety of compelling portraits of the relationship between human and non-human lives. The animals in this collection must grapple with war, just as the humans in the collection must grapple with the eerie strangeness of animal behaviors. Also read a Q&A with translator Chip Rossetti.
Also: If you’ve already read & loved this collection, try Kalila and Dimna, edited by Michael Fishbein, translated by Michael Fishbein and James E. Montgomery.
Thunderbird: Book One, by Sonia Nimr. tr. M Lynx Qualey (University of Texas Press)
If you have a reader in the house aged 8-14 — especially one who is already out of school for the summer — this first book in a fast-paced time-travel fantasy trilogy could make a great read-along for adult and child. If not, the book is fun for adults, too. The series centers on Noor, a young orphaned Palestinian girl who starts in the present and must go back in time to get four magical bird feathers and save the world. Helped by a djinn cat and children who look identical to Noor, and who each have one of the bird’s powers, in this first volume Noor begins her journey through space and time. The second volume will be out in the fall. You can also listen to an episode of BULAQ on the book.
Also: If you’ve already read & loved this book, get the FOLK issue of ArabLit Quarterly and read more folk-inspired storytelling, including short stories by Sonia Nimr and Sonia Suleiman, and the delightful graphic novel by Zainab Almahdi.
You’ll also want Djamila Morani’s The Djinn’s Apple, tr. Sawad Hussain, when it comes out next year.
Kalīlah and Dimnah, by Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, edited by Michael Fishbein, translated by Michael Fishbein and James E. Montgomery (Library of Arabic Literature)
Another animal-focused collection, this collection was designed both for readers’ moral betterment and their entertainment. The stories, which originated in the Sanskrit Panchatantra and Mahabharata, were adapted, augmented, and translated into Arabic by the scholar and state official Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ in the eighth century. They are translated into an entertaining English by Michael Fishbein and James Montgomery. You can also read an excerpt on the LAL website: “The Tale of Two Jackals.”
Also: If you’ve already read & loved this book, get some more moral (and amoral) entertainments in al-Jawbari’s Book of Charlatans, edited and translated by Humphrey Davies.
You Can Be the Last Leaf, Maya Abu al-Hayyat, tr. Fady Joudah (Milkweed)
Abu al-Hayyat’s poetry doesn’t turn away from sins, ugly secrets, or “videos of slaughtered children / and children who will be kidnapped / from their magical smiles tomorrow”[.] But she also insists on this laughter that is both a delight and a weapon, a source of knowledge and a force so powerful it can break her ribs and gash public decency. Read poems by Maya Abu al-Hayyat in Joudah’s translation at Asymptote, The Baffler, and ArabLit.
Also: If you’ve already read & loved this book, then pre-order a copy of Zeina Hashem Beck’s O, out next month from Penguin Random.
This is the only novel on the list, but it was written to be serialized, so you can also take each chapter as a short, hot, fast segment that stands all on its own. Ihsan Abdel Kouddous was one of the most popular writers of twentieth century Egypt, publishing more than sixty books, many of which were adapted to film. If you missed the launch event with Abdel Kouddous’s grandson, the journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous, you can watch it on YouTube.
Also: If you already read & loved this book, then we’d like to recommend Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, whose work is not yet in translation. But you also might read Naguib Mahfouz’s The Thief and the Dogs, tr. Trevor LeGassick and M.M. Badawi.
Catalogue of a Private Life, by Najwa Binshatwan, tr. Sawad Hussain (Dedalus Books)
This fantastical short-story collection shows Binshatwan’s range: from realism to folktales to fantasy, from darkness to laughter–often in the span of a sentence. The collection includes a range of Libyan characters who act absurdly in an absurd world, in a delightful translation by Sawad Hussain. You can read Binshatwan’s “Portrait of a Libyan Scream” on the newly re-launched Words Without Borders; it’s also translated by Sawad Hussain.
Also: If you’ve already read & enjoyed this collection and Malika Moustadraf’s Blood Feast, then have you read Mazen Maarouf’s Jokes for the Gunman, tr. Jonathan Wright?
ArabLit Quarterly’s Summer 2022 issue, THE JOKE, ed. Anam Zafar
Naturally, we think our summer issue makes ideal summer reading, particularly for those who either like to laugh or like to think about the nature of humor. Or, of course, for both. With work by Sanaa Al Ali, Muhammad Zafzaf, Basma Nsour, Zuheir Karim, Mazen Kerbaj, Alaa Murad, and more.
Also: If you’ve already read & enjoyed this issue, then we recommend our CRIME issue from Summer 2020.