New Arabic (and Arab) writing in translation published (online, free) this month:
Someone was finishing his coffee when the mortar was dropped. The cardamom scent of his coffee mixed with that of his blood, while his right arm flew out the window like a blind bird and minutes later bumped—and this is pure speculation— against the body of a woman who’d just lost her left arm. No matter, the dead have divine arrangements for the use of amputated limbs as needed, at least for souvenir photographs.
Imad’s friendship with The Cat grew. That angered Asaf. He objected to The Cat and Abu Zahra joining their circle. Their close, small group prepared dinner and ate together, and Asaf didn’t want those two to be part of it. “Abu Zahra, I can understand,” Asaf said. “He can wash the dishes and light the Primus stove. But The Cat – a plumber – that repulses me.”
Old Man rubbed his large nose: “Cleaner than you,” he said to Asaf.
If one day the People wills to live,
Then they can go revolt.
And the echo of their songs can chase away palace dogs
And they can raise their banners whose cloth has been dragged in the dirt
Dragged through streets, servility and surrender.
And they can turn those banners into a plan of attack
And hang the darkness of their night on the gallows.
“Look,” “Translation,” and “Train,” by Marwan Ali, trans. Raphael Cohen (Banipal)
under the tree
I give it a good shake
perhaps I’ll enjoy
an old look
“Exile Was Born At This Moment,” by Osama Esber, trans. the author (Words Without Borders)
The door we knock on is always closed,
and when it is opened,
we glimpse another that is closed.
We linger inside
darkness injected with the opium
of what is glowing there.
“Untitled,” by Derar Soltan, trans. Fawaz Azem (ArabLit)
Three years have passed, and you have to be ecstatic whenever you live to see another day. Whenever you tear off impatiently another page from the calendar, and then begin to contemplate the new wrinkles in your face and check the expiration date of your heart that resembles a cemetery for rent, you have to smile and be extremely courteous and handsome so that the shot will be suitable for the coming story of your death, because our reputation is at stake, and the world will not feature our recurrent, boring death on its screens.
I feel weak. I’m no longer able to sleep at night, so I think about Isabelle Adjani, about her singing voice. I’m ashamed, having spent years in France, seven years already, that Adjani’s voice has replaced my mother’s in my head. No, no, it’s not that I’ve forgotten her, my mother, no, it’s simply that everything in me comes from her, everything that I am is marked by her, her indelible imprint. I suffocate.
“The Curse of the South,” by Mohammad Ali Diriye, trans. Xavier Luffin (Words Without Borders)
Such are the barefoot persons, always in a hurry, with the same pace. He didn’t know monotonous days before he suffered from hunger in Yemen. The Red Sea had rejected him just like a father who chases his disrespectful son away and forbids him to cross over the threshold of his house ever again.
“On Dead and Living Characters,” by Sinan Antoon (Jadaliyya)
These catastrophic events in Iraq remind me of a real person I knew very well, my aunt Na’ima, who lived with us in Baghdad and was a second mother to me.
“Chicago: Present-Day Paradise, Future Magic,” by Mahmoud Saeed, trans. William Hutchins (Words Without Borders)
Thus the ordinary resident of Chicago cannot see the river at all, and that is the exact opposite from my country. For us Iraqis, the river is a simple, unassuming, popular being that belongs to everyone, even though it is the unrivaled master of the city. You see it when you cross one of Baghdad’s numerous bridges. You see it only steps away when you sit in a coffeehouse built on its shore. You see it from the hundreds of restaurants on both banks. You see it when you enjoy a beer in a bar or drink juice or coffee.
Identity, Power, and a Prayer to Our Lady of Repatriation: On Translating and Writing Poetry, by Khaled Mattawa (Kenyon Review)
What I’m saying is that translation contains one of the essential gifts of poetry. The great poets, to me, are those who have a wider sense of what they can see, of what they allow themselves to see, let alone what they allow themselves to feel or empathize with. This is a lesson to us both as poets and as translators.
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