Blue Mountains


Dr. Nakajima had a poem in his head. It went something like, however far I go, blue mountains.

‘Ah,’ the Doctor thought, ‘I like the style of Taneda Santka. He is modern, yes, but his poems are easy enough to remember in volume. They are neat and simple and great for these summer days when the mountains grow taller on the horizon with every step. What a joy life is, when someone else puts words around it.’

Julia PikeBlue Mountains

An Untouched House

Excerpt from the novel by W. F. HERMANS
Translated from the Dutch by DAVID COLMER

Cover of An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans

I went out the back door, across the marble terrace and down into the garden, as I had done so many times before. I looked up at the two windows I had calculated as belonging to the locked room. There was nothing to see. As always, they were covered with blackout paper. Nothing had changed. Walking back and forth, I studied all of the protrusions on the back wall: window frames, downpipes. I couldn’t see any way of climbing up without a ladder. It wasn’t even possible to reach them from the window of another room.

Avery FarmerAn Untouched House

Reading Willow


My wife pointed out the willow tree on move-in day. The branches draped over a hill as round as my wife’s belly at seven months. We’d traded a West Coast high-rise for an East Coast village where the only thing to wake our baby would be other babies. We came to the city in our youth. And we left for our youth.

Whitney BrunoReading Willow

Excerpt from The Occasional Virgin

The Occasional Virgin coverBy HANAN AL-SHAYKH



The sea had depressed Huda ever since she was a schoolgirl, bent eagerly over a drawing of a Phoenician princess walking with her prince beside the sea, while their dog played with a shell. The creature that lived in the shell had dyed the dog’s mouth a purple color that clashed with the blue sea. She had written below the picture, ‘The color purple was discovered in the city of Tyre. Tyre is a Phoenician city situated on the Mediterranean Sea, like Beirut.’ Then she took her crayons and gave the prince and princess the most beautiful clothes, and colored the world around them like rainbows mingling with the blue of the sea, but instead of being happy that she had finished her homework, she felt a pain, different from when she had a toothache or grazed her knee: it began in her throat and descended into her belly, because the world and the colors she had drawn on the sheet of paper were what she longed for, unlike her house, empty of color and pictures and music. The pain attacked her throat and she felt as if she was suffocating because she would never walk by the sea like this prince and princess and their dog, never set eyes on its blueness or the lovely colors of the prince and princess’s clothes except in her dreams, and only then if she dreamt in color and not in black and white as usual.

Whitney BrunoExcerpt from The Occasional Virgin

The Slaves


At the borderland between the desert and the plains, Emirate of Transjordan, early twentieth century

 Two men sat near the round threshing floor in the western fields. Each with his rifle on his lap. “What a goddamn year,” Tafish said. He had a skull-like face. Small, sunken, deep-set eyes. Emaciated cheeks with protruding cheekbones. A broad forehead with dark blue veins at the sides. Skin like an aged tortoise. His hair and lower jaw were hidden behind a white keffiyeh, held in place by a black fleece cord around his head. His frame was tall, straight, lithe. He rubbed his nose with his hand, letting a low whistle out of his nostrils. By the time he lowered his hand, a pensive expression of disgust had formed on his face. Staring straight ahead, he spoke, as if to himself: “What a goddamn year.”

Isabel MeyersThe Slaves

After Creation, Before The Fall


Translated by ALICE GUTHRIE



As broken as a venial sin,

and as weary as the last to be created (or the first), 

he looked to the sky, now become his ground. 

Once he’d learned about naming and questioning, and saw what he saw of the blue corridors of space, he asked himself: 

I wonder what the Throne is?

Did the Throne of the Almighty exist before water, or arise after water? And what is water, anyway? 

Despairing, he smacked the trunk of the tree he was sitting under.

DoostiAfter Creation, Before The Fall

It Happens



I sit on my old chair, scatter my multicolored toys around me, and start watching evening cartoons on TV. Cool Pancho shoots off through the streets in his car, feeling awesome. He’d bought the car back from the old lady living next door. Never mind that he’d paid too much, more than two thousand pounds. No problem. He slows down, speeds up, and finally stops at the green fields to go for a stroll. The episode ends, but I stay glued to the television, waiting for my truly favorite cartoon: The Adventures of Zaina the Bee. Zaina is a menacing creature; she has no other business but instigating pranks on her friend Nahhul. Nahhul, for his part, has no choice but to come crawling back to his bully-of-a-buddy every time.

Sunna JuhnIt Happens