New Releases for May 2023: Satire, Poetry, and a Classic Book on Monasteries

Shalash the Iraqi
, by Shalash, tr. Luke Leafgren (And Other Stories)

From the publisher: “Populated by a cast of imagined con artists, holy fools, drag queens, and partisans – as well as some very factual politicians, priests, and generals – this is a novel whose only peers are Lazarillo de TormesDon QuixoteTristram Shandy, and Catch-22.

“Never written to be published, all but lost save for those disintegrating printouts treasured by its devotees, Shalash the Iraqi is here presented in its first authorized translation, with the blessing and commentary of ‘Shalash’ himself.”

Listen to an episode of BULAQ that focuses on this book: “Looking Back from Iraq.”

Read an excerpt.

More on this book tomorrow on ArabLit.

I Will Not Fold These Maps, by Mona Kareem, tr. Sara Elkamel (Poetry Translation Centre)

From the publisher: “Mona Kareem is a stateless poet, born in Kuwait, whose work has been internationally acclaimed for its power and immediacy ever since she published her first collection at the age of 14. Her writing comes out of the experience of growing up with ‘Bidoon’ status (from ‘bidoon jinsiya’ or ‘without nationality’); an Arab minority denied Kuwaiti citizenship rights, who were categorised as ‘illegal residents’ and stripped of their access to employment, education, social welfare and official documentation a year before her birth.

“Her poems are surreal, relying heavily on vivid metaphors, often to bridge the gap between the self and what lies outside the self. They enact a boundless porosity between the body, nature, and the material world. Kareem plays with language to explore the infinite depths of human experience and identity. These poems, with dates, times and places obscured, present us with new maps of precarious, unstable, and permeable geopolitics. Kareem delineates ‘rupture’ as a facet of the migrant’s experience.”

Sign up for our online launch event May 14.

The Book of Monasteries, by al-Shābushtī, tr. Hilary Kilpatrick (Library of Arabic Literature)

From the publisher: “Each section in this anthology covers a specific monastery, beginning with a discussion of its location and the reason for its name. Al-Shābushtī presents poems, anecdotes, and historical reports related to each. He selects heroic and spectacular incidents, illustrations of caliphal extravagance, and events that gave rise to memorable verse. Important political personalities and events that were indirectly linked with monasteries also appear in the collection, as do scenes of festive court life and gruesome murders. Al-Shābushtī uses these accounts not to teach history but to offer a meditation on the splendor of Abbasid culture as well as moral and philosophical lessons: the ephemerality of power; the virtues of generosity and tolerance; the effectiveness of eloquence in prose and poetry; the fleeting nature of pleasure and beauty. Translated into English for the first time, The Book of Monasteries offers an entertaining panorama of religious, political, and literary life during the Abbasid era.”

Buland Al-Ḥaidari and Modern Iraqi Poetry: Selected Poems, by Buland Al-Ḥaidari, tr. ‘Abdulwāḥid Lu’lu’a (University of Notre Dame Press)

From the publisher: “Buland Al-Ḥaidari might fairly be considered the fourth pillar holding up the dome of modern Arabic poetry. Alongside his famous contemporaries Nāzik al-Malā’ika, Badre Shākir Al-Sayyāb, and ‘Abdulwahhāb Al-Bayyāti, Al-Ḥaidari likewise made significant contributions to the development of twentieth-century Arabic poetry, including the departure from the traditional use of two-hemistich verses in favor of what has been called the Arabic “free verse” form.

“A few of Al-Ḥaidari’s poems have been translated into English separately, but no book-length translation of his poetry has been published until now. In Buland Al-Ḥaidari and Modern Iraqi Poetry, ʻAbdulwāḥid Lu’lu’a translates eighty of Al-Ḥaidari’s most important poems, giving English-speaking readers access to this rich corpus. Lu’lu’a’s perceptive introduction acquaints readers with the contours of Al-Ḥaidari’s life and situates his work in the context of modern Arabic poetry. The translated pieces not only illustrate the depth of Al-Ḥaidari’s poetic imagination but also showcase the development of his style, from the youthful romanticism of his first collection Clay Throb (1946) to the detached pessimism of his Songs of the Dead City (1951). Selections are also included from his later collections Steps in Exile(1965), The Journey of Yellow Letters (1968), and Songs of the Tired Guard (1977). These poems paint a vivid picture of the literary and poetic atmosphere in Baghdad and Iraq from the mid-1940s to the close of the twentieth century.”

Translated from French

The Postman of Abruzzo, by Venus Khoury-Ghata, tr. Teresa Lavender Fagan (Seagull Books)

From the publisher: “Following the path of her late geneticist husband, Laure arrives in the town of Malaterra in the harsh mountains of Abruzzo in Italy, where her husband was studying the close-knit Albanian inhabitants. At first an intruder, she is gradually accepted by the population, which is made up of amusing, eccentric characters. Among them: Helena, who hanged her dishonored daughter from the fig tree in her garden, and who has been waiting for thirty years with her gun for her daughter’s rapist to return; the Kosovar, a distrusted bookseller languishing in his dusty shop; Mourad, the baker, who proposes marriage to Laure and every other woman who enters his bakery; and Yussuf, the postman, who makes his rounds even if there is no mail to deliver. We also meet the unfortunate assailant who returns from his exile to reclaim and restore his family home. With humor and compassion, this book brings to life the inhabitants of a small, remote town in the mountains of Abruzzo.”

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