After Postponed Launch of Arabic Poetry Anthology in Berlin, Editor Pulls Back

On October 5 of this year, Ghayath Almadhoun says, Haus für Poesie Berlin organizers sent him an email. In it, they told the Palestinian-Syrian poet that they were pleased that several contributors to the recently published anthology Kontinentaldrift – Das Arabische Europa had agreed to take part in the book’s launch event on December 11th. The event would be hosted by one of the collection’s translators, they wrote, and they expected that he — as the main editor of the anthology — would also join them on stage to talk about the book. The message ended with a note saying that the organizers would let him know about a detailed schedule for the evening closer to the date.

Two days later, the deadly Hamas attack was launched on southern Israel. And five days after that, on October 12, Almadhoun said he got a note from the organizers that said: “we just had our final quarter budget controlling and we’ve run into some end of year-issues. We will need to cancel several performances with higher costs planned for November and December. So unfortunately, the presentation of Arabisches Europa also cannot take place as planned.”

Over email, the Haus für Poesie’s Katharina Schultens told ArabLit that “our final quarter budget controlling made it necessary to postpone the launch event until January – as well as, for the same reason, three other events.”

However, the timing of the message — as well as a previous request to add an anti-BDS clause into the authors’ contracts, and editorial decisions that Almadhoun felt excised poems that spoke to or about Palestine — were too much for Almadhoun. On Instagram, he announced the event would not take place. Although organizers later clarified that they meant to postpone and not cancel, he told ArabLit over the phone, “I will not hold the event.”

This postponement comes at a time when cancellations or postponements of Palestinian or Palestinian-supporting artists and writers have been occurring around the world. In addition to Adania Shibli’s award ceremony and her event at the Frankfurt Book Fair, there was the postponement of a conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen at 92NY in New York City, for his signing of a petition in support of a ceasefire and BDS; the pulling of ads on NPR for Nathan Thrall’s book, A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: A Palestine Story; and the cancellation of a talk in Berlin for Palestinian artist Emily Jacir.

The Arabic poetry anthology in German translation, published by Verlag das Wunderhorn in collaboration with the Haus für Poesie in September, includes work by Ahmad Yamani, Aïcha Arnaout, Aref Hamza, Carol Sansour, Duna Ghali, Faraj Bayrakdar, Fatena Al Ghorra, Galal Alahmadi, Golan Haji, Hala Mohammad, Issa Makhlouf, Khder Alaghaa, Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry, Lamia Macadam, Lina Tibi, Lukman Derky, Maram Al Masri, Marwan Ali, Mazen Maarouf, Nada Menzalji, Raed Wahesh, Rasha Alqasim, Rasha Habbal, Rim Najmi, Safaa Fathy, Samer Abu Hawwash, Salah Faik, Souzan Ali, Somaya El Sousi, Samar Diab, and Zahra Yousri.

Almadhoun says he is still happy with the anthology, which is available from Verlag das Wunderhorn.