Jennifer Acker Writes About Issue 11 in Amherst Magazine

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.

Jennifer Acker photo

“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.

Magazine Cover

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

Debbie WenJennifer Acker Writes About Issue 11 in Amherst Magazine

Related Posts

The Common logo (black box) in between POETRY and FEATURE, in white print on a light green background

November 2017 Poetry Feature

SEBASTIAN MATTHEWS
There’s something a little creepy about attending so completely, incessantly, to trauma. Something masochistic about it. But what was I supposed to do? I am a writer, a processor, a worrier. The first lines of a poem came to me in the ICU.

A field in Hunterdon County, NJ at sunset

Wisdom

HUGO DOS SANTOS
The trip is expensive and dangerous, and the job doesn’t wait so to return home is to lose the small steps that have already been taken and to leave again is to restart from scratch. The man doesn’t say this but he says it.

sky and house

The Sky in Ohio

MICHAEL BYERS
The house in Hewer was three stories, much larger than they needed, and full of odd vacancies, as though the Jenkinses, from whom Paul and his wife were subletting, had planned to be away much longer than a single semester.