Author: Youssef Rakha

About Youssef Rakha

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

Qaf

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When the bomb-scarred man started undressing, I hadn’t had time to reflect on ending up alone in a shelter pod with him. It occurs to me now that it should’ve disturbed me: a mutant undressing for no apparent reason in what was after all a public space. Perhaps the shock of being caught in the cross-radiation overshadowed the incongruity of the scene. Perhaps the air-base city of Ibra, the capital of Dun, seemed like a place where even stranger things could happen.

I remember thinking there would be no way out of the pod until who knew when but that my communication chip was connected and that I was safe for now. I remember thinking I should’ve heeded the warning not to travel here, even if it was only for an hour. I remember thinking I was lucky not to belong in this part of the world.

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The Seven Qualities of the Arab Intellectual

As the Conscience of the Nation, even though it is never clear which Nation, the Arab Intellectual bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. Here, transforming his Seven States as photographed in 2005, are Seven of the Qualities that help him survive in a world that remains forever beneath him:

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في العامية يقال ‘مْبَحّرْ’ بدل ‘تائه’، ربما اشتقت من بحر | صلاح باديس

ضجر البواخر

الفشل هو زيارة المنطقة السوداء داخل رأسك، أين رميت كل ما هو منبوذ ومستبعد حدوثه، الأشياء المشوهة والمؤلمة والتي لم تفكر يوما في مواجهتها.
الفشل أن تكتب هذا (عشرون عاما – وحدة مبكرة تؤنسها كتب وعلب سجائر متزايدة – روح في مركب أشخاص رحلوا – مؤخرات مدورة – عمل مؤقت لحلم مؤجل وأوهام كثيرة لتقبل الحياة) قبل حدوثه بعام،
تكتشف أن سقف خيالك سقوط مؤجل ولاشيء غير ذلك.

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I Shall Call Myself Alice

The Importance of Being Lars

Nymphomaniac’s Message for the Arab Spring

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As an Arab you’re probably expecting me to lay into Nymphomaniac. It’s a film that must seem, if not offensive to my cultural sensibility, then irritatingly irrelevant to the poverty, underdevelopment, and upheaval that surround my life.

In most cases dropping the word “white” in the same paragraph as “Islam’s respect for women” is all it would take to slam Lars von Trier in this context. It would be a politically correct slur, too. I could even draw on Edward Said’s hallowed legacy to point out that the only time non-Europeans appear in over four hours of action, they’re portrayed as dumb sex tools. Not only self-indulgent and obscene but also Orientalist, etc..

But the truth is I actively delighted in Nymphomaniac, and I didn’t have to stop being an Arab for that to happen. To be accurate I should say I would’ve welcomed a von Trier film anyway, but this one showed up when it was needed—and it duly exploded on arrival.

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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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By Youssef Rakha.


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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