Lit & Found: An Excerpt from Hawra Nadawi’s ‘Qismet’

Born in Baghdad and raised in Denmark, Hawra Nadawi left university at age 20 to write her first novel, Under the Copenhagen Sky, which was published in 2011. It was the only book by a woman writer longlisted for the 2012 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Her second novel, Qismet, was published in 2017. Both novels, as the postscript on Y’alla notes, deal with themes of identity and alienation.

The journal, which just brought out its second issue, published an excerpt from the novel in Alice Guthrie’s translation.

The first chapter opens:

The regulars of the riverside café told of how they spotted Qismet that night when she came hurrying along the riverside path, accompanied by a two-year-old girl and a baby. They said they could tell she was not in her right mind when they saw her stand at the river’s edge and take off her shoes and then her abaya, clearly revealing the swell of her heavily pregnant belly, now covered only by her simple striped robe. Some of the café customers shook off their late-night stupor at this, and paid her their full attention. But she was fast: without giving them so much as a moment to ask what she was doing she simply threw the infant into the river and then – while the late-nighters were still stunned, before any of them had thought to rush towards her – she had thrown the toddler and herself into the water too. 

Read the whole excerpt on Y’alla.

Read another excerpt of the novel at The Markaz Review, also in Alice Guthrie’s translation.

A chapter of Under the Copenhagen Sky appears in Banipal issue 44 in Robin Moger’s translation.

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