Coming in October: Iman Mersal, Bushra al-Maqtari & more

Book publication dates shift, and thus we are supplementing the annual list of forthcoming literature in translation with monthly lists, which we hope are more accurate. If you know of other works forthcoming this month, please add them in the comments or email us at info@arablit.org.

Waiting for the Past, by Hadiya Hussein, tr. Barbara Romaine

From the publisher: “Hadiya Hussein’s poignant 2017 novel plunges readers into a haunting and powerful story of resilience. Set at the end of Saddam Hussein’s brutal reign, the novel follows Narjis, a young Iraqi woman, on her quest to discover what has become of the man she loves.”

The Secret of the Morisco, by Mohammed AlAjmi, tr. Christiaan James

From the publisher: “The Secret of the Morisco is a picaresque tale of Robert, a young Englishman taken captive by the Spanish Armada in the 17th century, as he sails home after procuring an Arabic printing press in the Netherlands. Thrown into prison for nothing more than his own bad luck, Robert befriends a Christianised Moor, Yusuf, who cautiously recounts the story of his family’s flight from Spain following the Edict of Expulsion in 1609 and divulges the existence of lost Arabic manuscripts, setting Robert off on an adventure taking him from Spain to Holland, Italy, and Ottoman Syria in search of the invaluable trove.”

What Have You Left Behind?, by Bushra al-Maqtari, tr. Sawad Hussain

From the publisher: “In 2015, a year after it started, Bushra al-Maqtari decided to document the suffering of civilians in the Yemeni Civil War, which has killed over 350,000 people according to the UN. Inspired by the work of Svetlana Alexievich, she spent two years visiting different parts of the country, putting her life at risk by speaking with her compatriots, and gathered over 400 testimonies, a selection of which appear in What Have You Left Behind? Purposefully alternating between accounts from the victims of the Houthi militia and those of the Saudi-led coalition, al-Maqtari highlights the disillusionment and anguish felt by those trapped in a war outside of their own making. As difficult to read as it is to put down, this unvarnished chronicle of the conflict serves as a vital reminder of the scale of the human tragedy behind the headlines, and offers a searing condemnation of the international community’s complicity in the war’s continuation.”

The Threshold, by Iman Mersal, tr. Robyn Creswell

From the publisher: “The Threshold gathers poems from Mersal’s first four collections of poetry: A Dark Alley Suitable for Dance Lessons (1995), Walking as Long as Possible (1997), Alternative Geography (2006), and Until I Give Up the Idea of Home (2013). Taken together, these works chart a poetic itinerary from defiance and antagonism to the establishment of a new, self-created sensibility. At their center is the poet: indefatigably intelligent, funny, flawed, and impossible to pin down. As she writes, ‘I’m pretty sure / my self-exposures / are for me to hide behind.'”

The Stone Serpent by Nouri Al-Jarrah, tr. Catherine Cobham

From the publisher: “Syrian poet Nouri al-Jarrah brings to life a story that can never again be lost in time after a single line in Aramaic on a tombstone fired his imagination. This inspiring epic poem awakens two extraordinary lovers, Barates, a Syrian from Palmyra, and Regina, the Celtic slave he freed and married, from where they have lain at rest beside Hadrian’s Wall for eighteen centuries, and tells their unique story. Barates’ elegy to his beloved wife, who died young at 30, is, however, not about mythologising history. With the poet himself an exile in Britain for 40 years from his birthplace of Damascus, the poem forges new connections with today, linking al-Jarrah’s personal journey with that of his ancient forebear Barates, who resisted slavery with love. Barates’ Eastern song also questions whether the young Celtic fighters, the Tattooed Ones, were really barbarians, as they emerged from forest mists to defend their hills and rivers and their way of life from the Romans, and died or lay wounded at the twisting stone serpent that was Hadrian’s Wall.

Leonie Rau

One thought on “Coming in October: Iman Mersal, Bushra al-Maqtari & more

  1. An impressive collection of worthy works! Homage to Arab writers who continue to produce under duress and against wicked odds.

Comments are closed.