All posts tagged: Arabic Fiction

I Am the Fire Starter: an Interview with Haidar Haidar

HISHAM BUSTANI interviews 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.

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I Am the Fire Starter: an Interview with Haidar Haidar
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The Memoirs of Cinderella’s Slipper

 By SHAHLA AL-UJAYLI 

Translated by ALICE GUTHRIE

 

The uniformed conscript led the way, bearing aloft, on a small pink velvet cushion, a shabby-looking woman’s shoe. The leather was faded, stretched, and torn. Part of the sole had come off, and the heel had been roughly hammered back on with protruding nails. None of the repairs that had obviously been carried out in an attempt to restore the shoe’s former glory had succeeded. Behind the conscript came the cavalry, weaving their way through the houses of the city, searching for a woman’s foot to fit the shoe.

The Memoirs of Cinderella’s Slipper
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و

By COLETTE BAHNA 

Translated by ROBIN MOGER

Once I’d been stripped and forced to stand naked before the gaze of the military medical examination board, for the purposes of identifying any defects that might prevent me receiving the honor of being conscripted, the examiner seated on the right-hand end of the bench rose, approached me, and circled me three times, inspecting every inch of the body before him, then turned back to his fellow board members and, stroking my ear with a disconcerting delicacy, said, “Sound. Big ears.” 

و
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Frozen: Three Stories

By IBRAHIM SAMUEL 

Translated by MAIA TABET 

The Long Winter  

“They’re here” she was about to scream, bolting uprighther heart pounding in her chest. It was as if a snake had brushed against her bare skin under the comforter. He snatched his arms away from where they lay against her neck and her cleavage. They were both naked: beads of sweat quivered on the hairs of his broad chestand her breasts trembled over the volcano that had erupted in her heart. 

Frozen: Three Stories
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We Write Our Own Past: 10 Questions with Elias Farkouh

Elias Farkouh’s short story “A Man I Don’t Know” was among the most viscerally engaging pieces in The Common’s Issue 15 portfolio of Arabic fiction from Jordan. A prize-winning writer and translator who has earned accolades for short fiction collections and novels, Farkouh is interviewed by The Common interns Whitney Bruno, Avery Farmer, and Isabel Meyers, who discuss fear, translation, and formal construction with Farkouh. This is the second of two interviews conducted by the summer interns; the first was with Haifa’ Abul-Nadi.

We Write Our Own Past: 10 Questions with Elias Farkouh
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The Slaves

By GHALIB HALASA
Translated by THORAYA EL-RAYYES


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.”

The Slaves
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After Creation, Before The Fall

By MUFLEH AL-ODWAN

Translated by ALICE GUTHRIE

 

Adam

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.

After Creation, Before The Fall
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It Happens

By JAMILA AMAIREH
Translated by THORAYA EL-RAYYES

1

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.

It Happens
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