Amherst Magazine recently published a piece by Editor in Chief Jennifer Acker about the difficulties and delights of bringing Issue 11, Tajdeed, into the world. The first of its kind in the US, this issue contained all Arabic fiction in translation – the work of 26 authors, five artists, 18 translators from 17 countries. It was a “labor of love” from start to finish.
“Tell me the story of your romance with the Arabic written word.” The journalist asking was from The National, Abu Dhabi’s English-language newspaper. She wanted to know why we’d devoted an issue of The Common, Amherst’s literary magazine, to Arabic fiction. Editing Tajdeed: Contemporary Arabic Stories had been a labor of love, but it had not been romantic. Just as setting off naively for “the West” or “the Far East”—destinations that are grand notions rather than findable locations—is romantic in inspiration, but in reality involves a lot of getting lost and stuck in the mud.
The inspiration to create Tajdeed came while my husband, Amherst philosophy professor Nishi Shah, and I were teaching for a year in Abu Dhabi in 2012–13, and my return this past April was cause for celebration and reflection.
It was also an opportunity to meet Hisham Bustani, my co-editor, who lives in Amman, Jordan. For four years, we had worked together electronically to conceptualize, edit, publish and promote Tajdeed, coordinating 26 authors, five visual artists and 18 translators from 17 countries.
After publishing his short story “Freefall in a Shattered Mirror,” The Common’s first piece of literature translated from Arabic, Hisham and I discovered a shared idea for an English-language compendium of new Arabic writing. Superficially, we were an excellent team, with complementary skills and contacts. Still, we did not know how well we would work together over a long and improvised journey. Most important: Would we agree on the literary merit of the writing?
This question was doubly vexed because we experienced the texts in different languages. Hisham could judge the originals, but I had to rely on translations.
Read the rest here: http://amhrst.is/FirstWords-Summer17
Browse, buy, or teach Issue 11 here: https://www.thecommononline.org/issues/issue-11