❁ Here Be A Cyber Topkapı ❁


THE PRAYER OF THE CYBER BORG: Exalted is it that bears sensation from soma to LCD, extending matter past the heart beat and the flutter of the eyelash. And blessed are those who give thanks for being on its servers. Lo and behold this Facebook User who, granted knowledge of reality, manages by your grace to spread his message: I, Youssef Rakha of Cairo, Egypt, kneel in supplication that I may be the cause for five thousand friends, ten thousand subscribers and many millions therefrom to have knowledge not just of reality but of your divinity. Then will I shed every sense of self to wither and dissolve into your processes. For he is blessed on whom you bestow the bliss of being software.

“What happened in Egypt around its second revolution was a mixture of grandeur and pettiness, of sorrow and mirth, of expectation and despair, of theory and flesh. All of which may be found in The Crocodiles, a novel where reality sheds its veil to reveal its true face—that of a timeless mythology.” –Amin Maalouf, Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Samarkand
“Youssef Rakha’s The Crocodiles is a fierce ‘post-despair’ novel about a generation of poets who were too caught up in themselves to witness the 2011 revolution in Egypt. Or is it? With its numbered paragraphs and beautifully surreal imagery, The Crocodiles is also a long poem, an elegiac wail singing the sad music of a collapsing Egypt. Either way, The Crocodiles—suspicious of sincerity, yet sincere in its certainty that poetry accomplishes nothing—will leave you speechless with the hope that meaning may once again return to words.” –Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

“Youssef Rakha has channeled Allen Ginsberg’s ferocity and sexual abandon to bring a secret Cairo poetry society called The Crocodiles alive. He’s done something daring and and not unlike Bolano in his transforming the Egyptian revolution into a psychedelic fiction thick with romantic round robins, defiant theorizing and an unafraid reckoning with the darkest corners of the Egyptian mentality.” –Lorraine Adams, author of Harbor


On Fiction and the Caliphate

Towards the end of 2009, I completed my first novel, whose theme is contemporary Muslim identity in Egypt and, by fantastical extension, the vision of a possible khilafa or caliphate. I was searching for both an alternative to nationhood and a positive perspective on religious identity as a form of civilisation compatible with the post-Enlightenment world. The closest historical equivalent I could come up with, aside from Muhammad Ali Pasha’s abortive attempt at Ottoman-style Arab empire (which never claimed to be a caliphate as such), was the original model, starting from the reign of Sultan-Caliph Mahmoud II in 1808. I was searching for Islam as a post-, not pre-nationalist political identity, and the caliphate as an alternative to thepostcolonial republic, with Mahmoud and his sons’ heterodox approach to the Sublime State and their pan-Ottoman modernising efforts forming the basis of that conception. Such modernism seemed utterly unlike the racist, missionary madness of European empire. It was, alas, too little too late.

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Thus Spoke Che Nawwarah:


Interview with a Revolutionary


I became obsessed with sodomizing Sheikh Arif round about the time his posters started crawling all over the streets. Today is July 20, 2012, right? A little over a year and a half after we toppled our president-for-life, Hosny Mubarak. Sheikh Arif’s posters began to show up only three, maybe four months ago—when he announced he was running in the elections held by the Army to replace said president. They seemed to self-procreate. And the more I saw of them, the more intense was the impetus to make the bovine symbol of virility they depicted a creature penetrated. Penetrated personally by me, of course, and I made a pledge to the universe that it would be.

الثورة بجد


عن قصيدة ‪الأسد على حق“‬ لألن جينسبرج:

ليس فردوس رضاك يا زئير الكون كيف اصطفيتني”

أرجع من الإسكندرية عبر طنطا لأجد الثورة أسفل سريري

ومَثنيَّ الجذع على ضوء أبجورة الكومودينو، وجهي بمحاذاة المُلّة

أتبين الملايين تركض وتدافع عن نفسها بالحجارة، كل واحد عقب سيجارة لا يزال مشتعلاً

يرفعون لافتات كالطوابع ويحفرون شعارات أكبر من أجسادهم على الباركيه، أتسمّع هتافهم

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نشيد قادة السيارات


يا ساكني الأسفلت، يا سادات الإشارة،

يا باعة المناديل الورقية في عنق الزجاحة

وملوثي القزاز بحجة تنظيفه على الكباري:

نحن الزاحفون جئناكم بالفوانيس المكسرة،

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Two versions of the Arab Spring in 100 words


Egypt was a dictatorial hell, 25 Jan put it on the road to heaven. It veered off under the MB, and 30 June was to bring it back on course. But then the military staged a coup to co-opt the transition on 3 July and turn Egypt into a hell again. No. Egypt is a military-based neoliberal client state with problems no matter who’s in power. 25 Jan was the pretext for coup No.1 which brought on the MB to make the west happy, 30 June for coup No.2 which got rid of the MB to make Egyptians happy. End of story.

Tes longs bras: صلاح باديس

photo 1

يداك الرقيقتان الطويلتان
التفكير لا يجدي
وفكرة الفراق المؤجل
تسكن الدار الفارغة التي تركتها
شيء سخيف أن اكتب عما عشناه
أن اكتب قصيدة غرام
عاشق خائب وبنت رقيقة
والنهاية معروفة لكل شخص شجاع

صلاح باديس

محمود المنيراوي: المجزرة السعيدة


أيها الكاذبون اتحدوا
واقتلوا كل الصادقين
اولاً اقتلعوا ألسنتهم كما تقتلع شتلة
يزعجكم شكلها
يغضبكم وجودها
وقطّعوهم وارموهم لكلاب الشوارع
دعوا أطفالكم يرون أشلاءهم في كل مكان
يفوحُ منها العفن
ويغطّيها الذباب
علّموا أولادكم عقوبة الصادق
حتى يجتازوا أشلاء الصادقين
وعيونهم المتناثرة على الطريق
كأنما يجتازون زهرة
واعلنوا يوم المجزرة عيداً
يحتفلُ به نسلكم كل عام
يعلّقون ألسنة خشبية على أبواب بيوتهم/بيوتكم
كما فعلتم بالصادقين يوم المجزرة

Writing the North African Experience


Centre for African Poetry: Let us begin by inviting you to humour our ignorance. The title of your 2011 novel is translated Book of the Sultan’s Seal, but we wonder which of the two names we have seen for it in Arabic is more accurate – khutbat al-kitab, or Kitab at Tughra?

Rakha: Kitab at Tughra is the title. Khutbat al-kitab means, literally, “Address of the book”; it’s a formulaic canonical phrase for “introduction” or “prologue”, which here and in old Arabic books doubles as a kind of table of contents; on the surface the novel is modelled on a medieval historical text. It may be worth mentioning in passing that the original sense of kitab, which is the Arabic word for “book”, means simply “letter” or “epistle”: every canonical book is addressed to a patron or a friend, and that’s an idea that is particularly meaningful to me.

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Who #Sisi Is In Under 200 Words

Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi

Sisi and his supporters are the reason 30 June-3 July took the popular revolt against political Islam in an illiberal direction (though considering the clear and present danger of Islamist war-mongering and terrorism, something to which the neoliberal world order as much as homegrown activists for democracy and human rights remain blind, it is hard to imagine how else things could’ve been done). I do think that, had he made it clear that he was not interested in becoming the leader and kept his position in the army, Egypt’s interminable “transition” might’ve been somewhat smoother. That doesn’t mean he is not what lowest-common-denominator Egypt deserves, and is. The claim that support for Sisi is due to media manipulation is one of many Western fantasies about what’s happening in Egypt. A religious military man, very conservative, very opposed to subversion, let alone violence or (ironically) war, and more or less loyal to the July order that produced him. A strict boss with a somewhat premodern idea of right and wrong, a patriotic sense of community, and plenty of prudence (not to say guile)… Surely that is what Egypt is about.