أحمد الحادقة: كلهم أحد

Bieke Depoorter. EGYPT. Cairo. 2012. From the series "In Between". Source: magnumphotos.com

Bieke Depoorter. Cairo. 2012. From the series “In Between”. Source: magnumphotos.com

أن تجلس في هذه البقعة، نعم هي ليست خارج المدينة، لكن أن تجلس فيها وترى السيارات عن بُعد، ليس من أعلى مكعب كملايين المكعبات لكن من أُفُق  السيارات نفسها، إحساس جديد في هذه المدينة. أن تشعر أن نسبة من يراقبونك أقل من المعتاد ولو لفترة وجيزة، إحساس طالما افتقدته في المدينة المخصية هذه: مدينة بلا خصوصية على الإطلاق.

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A Kind of Linguistic Caliphate: In Conversation with Hilary Plum

A CONVERSATION WITH YOUSSEF RAKHA

I first learned of Youssef Rakha’s work in June 2011, when Anton Shammas wrote me with an unprecedentedly urgent recommendation. I was an editor with Interlink Publishing, which has been publishing Arabic literature in translation since 1987: here was a writer who, as Shammas would later put it, with his debut novel had claimed “an immediate spot at the Hall of Fame of modern Arabic literature.” With The Book of the Sultan’s Seal, Rakha has, in Shammas’s words, “[realized] at long last, one of the dreams of modern Arabic novelists since the mid nineteenth century: to formulate a seamless style of modern narration that places the novel in the world.” The Book of the Sultan’s Seal (Kitab at-Tughra) had been published in February 2011, coincident with the beginning of revolution in Cairo, and over the following years, as I awaited its translation with the impatience the monolingual are doomed to endure, rumors of the novel continually, insistently arrived. I can only suggest that the anticipation I felt then is the anticipation literature in English does not yet know it has been feeling, the lack from which it’s been suffering, and which these two novels will answer in force.
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In one of those lucky moments when publishing just gets things right, this winter offers readers in English Rakha’s first two novels at once: The Book of the Sultan’s Seal, translated by Paul Starkey and published by Interlink, and The Crocodiles, translated by Robin Moger and published by Seven Stories. Sultan’s Seal moves us exhilaratingly through the Cairo of 2007, city of post-9/11 Islam, sweeping through centuries of Arab and Ottoman history and into a future of Rakha’s own invention. The Crocodiles takes us up to the brink of 2011, spinning the history of a secret poetry society in Cairo, gorgeous in its fury, hope, and despair. Rakha’s arrival in English constitutes an event. It’s been my pleasure to speak with Youssef about his work.

مو مصراتي: وحش الفاك يو

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Kossommak (“Your Mama’s Cunt”), digital art. By Youssef Rakha.

لا يعتبر ريكي نفسه عنصرياً. بالطبع، أنتم تعرفون معنى مصطلح العنصرية، وبطبيعة الحال، سنضعها في قاموسنا الدماغي تحت خانة الشر أو المصطلحات العيبية كما يحدث في الجملة التي تلي جملة وضعت فيها هذه الكلمة في وسائل الميديا. ريكي لم يكن يعتبر نفسه عنصرياً، وما يدفعنا للجزم بذلك، أنه مثلي ومثلك ومثل الكثيرين أيضاً، حين يقرأ هذا المصطلح أو يسمعه، يسارع بوضعه مباشرة تحت خانة الشر والمصطلحات العيبية.

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Roma, February 2015 ● روما، فبراير ٢٠١٥

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أن تشم البرتقال: جواب من كارول صنصور

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It seems I have disrupted your version of things: Jennifer Coard addresses her train conductor

On (a small group of) men (who are very unhappy), on (the) racism, misogyny (which they visit daily upon women in their sights), in which I shouldn’t have to say that I am a woman of colour

I should, no one should, have to dress, act, or speak in a manner which pleases ‘You’ in order to be treated equitably by you as you perform your job.

Those that are anti-respectability politics need not be against respectful. That is what I am. For respect. I was raised to be so. And time and time again it seems to be perceived by others as soft, until it’s not. I’m not supposed to disagree with you. Ever. Time and again it is perceived as disrespecting your desire to project a very monolithic angry persona of ‘all black people.’

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Who the F*** Is Charlie

The mere idea of contributing to the Charlie Hebdo colloquy is a problem. It’s a problem because, whether as a public tragedy or a defense of creative freedom, the incident was blown out of all proportion. It’s a problem because it’s been a moralistic free-for-all: to express solidarity is to omit context, to forego the meaning of your relation to the “slain” object of consensus, to become a hashtag. It’s a problem above all because it turns a small-scale crime of little significance outside France into a cultural trope.

Charlie Hebdo is not about the senseless (or else the political) killing of one party by another. It’s about a Platonic evil called Islam encroaching on the  peaceful, beneficent world order created and maintained by the post-Christian west. Defending the latter against the former, commentators not only presume what will sooner or later reduce to the racial superiority of the victim. They also misrepresent the perpetrator as an alien force independent of that order.

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