Avery Farmer

Four Minutes At Rodney’s


Shakespeare and Company bookstore

I tucked my hands into the pockets of my cardigan and pulled it around me in a hug as I set out for my walk. The sun was low in the west, the air nippy. I wandered into Central Square just as the City Hall clock above me struck seven. Crossing the street, past the noisy tavern on the left of the sidewalk, and people enjoying conversations and dinner al fresco on the right, I arrived at Rodney’s. The bookstore is an institution in Cambridge, MA. It sells used and rare books with a fast-changing inventory. I made a beeline for the New to Rodney’s table in the center of the store.

Four Minutes At Rodney’s

I Am the Fire Starter: an Interview with Haidar Haidar


Translated by RAED RAFEI

Haidar Haidar Headshot

Nothing parallels the effect left by the nightmarish atmospheres in the writings of Haidar Haidar. His novels and stories drill deep into our illusory serenity: a serenity we often use to trick ourselves into continuing our lives even when surrounded by death, destruction and injustice. Despite changing times, Haidar has not been defeated by censorship—either imposed by others or himself. He has kept a fierce, critical distance from all sides: the dictatorship of the ruling regime in his country of Syria; the dictatorship of public taste and “conventions”; the oppression of dogmatic ideology and the ruling party; the tyranny of power derived from religion. The literary “School of Haidar Haidar” is not dystopian but one that considers our reality to be far more miserable than any dystopia. Art is realized through the transformation of this reality from inside out, and by directly confronting decay with creative and avant-garde writing forms.

Haidar Haidar was born in the village of Hussein al-Baher on the Syrian coast. He taught Arabic in Annaba, Algeria, then settled in Beirut where he worked in publishing. At the start of the Lebanese civil war he joined the Palestinian resistance movement—when the resistance left Beirut in 1982, he moved to Cyprus to work as a Culture Editor of Al Mawqef al-Arabi (The Arab Stance) and Sawt al Bilad (The Voice of the Homeland). In 1985, Haidar Haidar returned to his hometown, and has remained there since. He has written seventeen books of fiction, short fiction, essay, and biography. His short story “The Silence of Fire” appears in Issue 17 of The Common.

Hisham Bustani, Arabic Fiction Editor of The Common, spoke with Haidar this year about nightmare visions, Palestinian resistance, the migrations that have carried Haidar “through deserts, cities and seas” back to childhood, and “boldness… always boldness.” This interview is translated from the Arabic by Raed Rafei.


I Am the Fire Starter: an Interview with Haidar Haidar

September 2019 Poetry Feature: From CROWN DECLINE


This month we present selections from CROWN DECLINE, by TC contributors John Kinsella and Don Share.

Table of Contents:

  • Crown Decline, #55-62 (DS and JK)
  • I Had That Dream Already (DS)
  • And Counting (JK)
  • Authors’ Statement


From CROWN DECLINE (Odd numbers by Kinsella; even numbers by Share)


In a state of loss
I try to ‘Kick Out the Jams’
But am left sore-toed.
Which doesn’t mean I’ve lost faith —
To the contrary. Come on!

September 2019 Poetry Feature: From CROWN DECLINE

About the Muses


Some say three, others nine. Varro claimed
one was born of water, another played daylight

like wind, invisible as the airs on Caliban’s isle.
A third made a home of the human voice singing.

Dear Hesiod, perhaps it wasn’t the Muses
you glimpsed on sodden farm fields:

barefoot, sopping wet—
but just a few village girls and cousins.

About the Muses

Malibu Beach


—for my brother Joey

What if there were no light, he wondered. Just sound & scent owning the night, without the invasive

Surf Shop green neon, or PCH streetlamps glowering at everyone.
Their glint was wrong, false, while the waves sounded
like aloe on a burn, a quick fix.
Some blue & some red lights also flooded the water—flashed

Malibu Beach

To Be Led from Behind

Translated by ROBIN MOGER



I sprinted towards them as they battered away. Tried, but could not open the bolted door. I shouted out, called at the top of my voice for those around me to help, but to no avail. And when at last I despaired, and turned my back to come away, my head knocked against the wall of a water tank, greater still, shut fast against me. 


To Be Led from Behind

Death-Flavored Life: Two Stories

Translated by ALICE GUTHRIE


Absent Butterflies 

She takes off her clothes and covers her chilly, naked body with a heavyweight green gown. She steps into the white plastic slippers and gets up onto the birthing chair. She leans back, gulping hungrily at the air and mumbling a plea for help in the form of the Quranic ayahs she’s been told will ease the pain of her contractions: “When the earth is leveled out, casts out its contents, and becomes empty… casts out its contents and becomes empty… casts out….” Her words are silenced by a new contraction slamming into her from behind, then bursting out from the middle of her back and wrapping its monstrous arms around her, engulfing her, linking its hands under her belly and squeezing, clamping down, pushing down, down, down. She bites her bottom lip and clasps her hands over her chest. She digs the nails of her right hand hard into her left palm, streaming sweat, a tear escaping the corner of her eye. 

Death-Flavored Life: Two Stories