… behemoth beards bereft of all mustachios

And then the baby begins to sway. The ghost whirr of the AC dying hard in our ears, we’ve grown paralytically hot in the living room, some whiff of something gunpowder-like coming through the window, and all of life suddenly, wrongfully without power. Somewhere not far mephitic men with weapons must be raising those black flags marked with the statement of the faith in white rudimentary abjad, behemoth beards bereft of all mustachios, shrieking their support for the President of the Second Republic. Before long, enraged guevaras will be heading straight for the fuckers.

Continue reading

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 the postcolonial 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.

Continue reading

حديث محمد فرج في السفير

محمد فرج: ما يكتبه ليس أدب رحلات ولكنه سياحة روحية في الأماكن
يوسف رخا: ما يسمّونه الانفجار الروائي أنتج كتابات لا تمتّ للجنس الروائي


استطاع يوسف رخا أن يصنع شكلاً جديداً ومغايراً لأدب الرحلات عبر ثلاثة كتب، صدر أحدثها مؤخراً تحت عنوان «شمال القاهرة، غرب الفلبين.. أسفار في العالم العربي» عن دار رياض الريس للكتب والنشر. بدأ مشروع يوسف رخا مع بيروت عندما قام بزيارتها في الذكرى الثلاثين للحرب الأهلية وكتب كتابه الاول «بيروت شي محل» 2006، بعد بيروت كانت رحلته إلى تونس ثم كتابه «بورقيبة على مضض..عشرة أيام في تونس» 2008 ثم الكتاب الأخير الذي شمل رحلات عدة الى المغرب وتونس ولبنان والامارات وايضاً القاهرة. عبر لغة متوترة ذات جمل قصيرة تلغرافية، تقدّم قراءة للمكان ولتاريخه القديم وحالته الآنية وايضاً ترصد حالة الرواي الذي هو عربي يلتقي بعرب آخرين لتظهر من خلال هذا اللقاء أسئلة كثيرة تشغل يوسف عبر كتبه الثلاثة أسئلة متعلقة بالهوية والقومية والشتات العربي والتاريخ وكيفية رؤيتنا الحالية له وايضاً كيفية تعاملنا اليومي معه.

استمر في القراءة

Sound and vision

Time stopped at Cassells hotel in Abu Dhabi on Friday. It was a fleeting impression, but haunting. The photographer had positioned the three musicians in dramatic formation on the stairs to shoot them with their instruments: Tarek Banzi hugging an Iraqi-made oud; Julia Banzi flaunting a stately flamenco guitar; and Charlie Bisharat balancing the smallest instrument yet, a violin, on his shoulder.

Thus arrayed while the camera click-clicked, occasionally pitting its flash against the sunlit window to one side, the three musicians started, reflexively, indolently, to play. It happened without so much as a nod to each other, evidently without thinking: the auditory equivalent of doodling, but with three distinct hands on the same scrap of paper. And while it lasted, in a very real way, time stopped.

Continue reading