Author: Youssef Rakha

About Youssef Rakha

THE SULTAN′S SEAL ؏ (Arabic) Literature, Journalism, and Photo Art ؏ Everything without a name is (c) Youssef Rakha

صلاح باديس: قبعة جاك كوستو الحمراء تكسرُ روتين سمكة

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الأسماك أشدُّ المخلوقات حزنا على الأرض
آه… بل تحت الماء، و لنقل في الكون.
الأسماك أشد حزنا منّي، وأنا جالس أمام شاشة الحاسوب
الأسماك مدفونة بالحياة للأبد،
ذيلها لا يتوقف عن الحركة وتغير اتجاهها باستمرار
لا تدري أين تذهب.

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مريم الفرجاني: انسحاب

الولع بكل ما لا تدركه يدك
موعد مستاء مع الوقت ومنه
تليه محاولة أولى فاشلة للانتحار شنقا
على جذع نبتة هشة
محاولة تتلاشى مع أول أهداب الضوء
فتجلس في إحدى حدائق الملل
وتبتسم مفكرا
“الذكاء مقياس الاكتئاب
والاكتئاب مقياس المدينة
والمدينة مقياسك.”

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My Censorship, Your Bigotry

repost from arablit.wordpress.com

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So I’m on the podium. Marcia [Lynx Qualey] has handed me the mike, and my thousands-strong and well-informed American audience is rapt. (I would begin by asking them to please think of me as a sand nigger rather than “a writer of color”, because the latter is significantly more offensive, but knowing how much they obsess about race, I’d rather not distract them from what I have to say.) Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the thing:

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Hoarseness: A Legend of Contemporary Cairo

The White Review

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U. Mubarak

It kind of grows out of traffic. The staccato hiss of an exhaust pipe begins to sound like record scratching. Skidding and braking, the vehicles resume their car horn concerto. Braying, bawling, crashing, farting, fortissimo hustling cut in. Then comes the imperious vroom of a makana – the Arabic corruption of the Italian word for ‘machine’ – as a motorcycle is called on the streets of Cairo…

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Jassmi, Take Three

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When a UAE-based Palestinian friend sends me a link to the Emirati singer Hussein Al-Jassmi’s hit Boshret khair (or “Good Tidings”), I wonder what she finds remarkable about the video. After Tesslam el ayadi (or “Saved be the hands”), Boshret khair — written by the mainstream lyricist Ayman Bahgat Qamar and composed by the notoriously anti-“revolution”, conspiracy-theorising musician Amr Mustafa — is the second and by far the more tasteful anthem of 30 June-3 July 2013. Its aim is to encourage a high turnout in the presidential elections, to bolster up the legitimacy of the current democratic process.

Quoting the lyrics, “Don’t begrudge [Egypt] your vote,” my friend turns out to be taken with the irony of Egyptians being urged onto the ballots by a citizen in a country where no voting is allowed whatsoever. She seems to find dark humour in the fact.

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Silk: Robin Moger’s Translation (and Voice)

Side Window

Side Window

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The worms were there waiting the day we set out
With our luggage lighter than plastic
And hearts beating for the unknown.

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Cairo in Indigo: the Photo Poem (without the Photos)

Hipstamatic makes no sense.
In the idle grip of suspended motion—
endless traffic in stasis,
prosthetic limbs scratching against car doors—
what’s the use of predefined filters pretending to be the aesthetic technology of not much earlier times?
You want to play with the beasts.
Soul splashed on the asphalt, to dream your own dreams,
imagination feeding like ruminants.

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حرير: قصيدة جديدة

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كانت الديدان في انتظارنا يوم انطلقنا
بعتادنا الأخف من البلاستك
وقلوبنا تخفق للمجهول.
خلف اللافتات التي أبينا أن تدلنا
وفي كل محطاتنا المرتجلة
كانت الديدان تعرّي أشجاراً صغيرة
لم ننتبه لوجودها في الفراغات.

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مريم الفرجاني: رسالة رقم عين

Windscreen Again

Windscreen Again


“ماذا عن الشك؟”
واحد من أسئلة بعدد جرعات أدب الإرهاق التي تناولتها قبل نهاية المساء.
من الجائز أن العقل ليس وسيلة للتفكير بقدر ما هو وسيلة لرد الفعل. أو بالأحرى، من المريح أن يكون كذلك، وأن نُختزَل في ذاكرة لردود أفعال.
ذاكرة معظم صورها مهتزة، لا لضبابية خطوطها وإنما لتفاوت أبعادها.

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RT @sultans_seal: Tweets through a glass pane

@Sultans_Seal

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If not being allowed to have strong opinions is not I’m not sure what is

Western outrage at ‘s treatment of continues to shock and awe me. Where do you get off, people?

People who see the west as an end in itself are the mirror image of people who see it as the source of all evil

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Two versions of the Arab Spring in 100 words

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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

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يداك الرقيقتان الطويلتان
تتعبانني
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
يقرأني

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

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Writing the North African Experience

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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

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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.