يوسف رخا: العربي أسفل الصفحة
Born, raised and based in Cairo, Youssef Rakha is a novelist, poet, essayist, literary critic, journalist, photographer, devoted husband and besotted father of three. He’s been at the cutting edge of contemporary Arabic writing since 2005. More recently he has turned to English, his other “native” tongue, in the hope of bringing post-millennial Cairo into the larger conversation.
He is represented by Felicity Trew at Caroline Sheldon agency.
A graduate of Hull University, England, Youssef juggles his writing with various responsibilities at the Cairo-based English-language Al-Ahram Weekly and edits this site. He also posts more or less regularly to this blog. Two of his three Arabic novels, The Book of the Sultan’s Seal and The Crocodiles, appeared in English in 2015.
His writing is featured in a wide variety of outlets including Aeon Magazine, Asymptote, The Atlantic, BOMB, Guernica, The Kenyon Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, McSweeney’s, The New York Times, Parnassus: Poetry in Review and The White Review. He has been translated into Italian, French, German, Polish and Slovak. He was among the 39 best Arab writers under 40 selected for the Hay Festival Beirut39 Festival in 2010, and his first novel, The Book of the Sultan’s Seal, won the 2015 Banipal Seif Ghobash Prize for Paul Starkey’s translation.
Youssef has been interviewed by Music and Literature, Qantara.de, Reuters, Words Without Borders and Brian Whitaker, among others.
Youssef’s exhibition “Cairo-Alexandria/Berlin” was held at the Geothe Institute in 2006, and he has since published photo stories on Panorama Mada Masr and Mashalla News as well as individual images on F-Stop Magazine and P1xels, among other outlets, providing cover art for his and other books. Ongoing photo work can be seen on The Cairo Project.
I finished your magnum opus two days ago, with tears in my eyes, and I’ve been intoxicated since, in the most Faridian sense of the word. Among other things, no one (REPEAT: NO ONE) has ever written so wondrously about love and sex in Arabic the way you did in the last two chapters of the novel, i.e. — making the Arabic language make love as it has never done before. Ibn al Farid should feel so comfortable, and so privileged, and so sexy in your company.
But that’s not your major achievement, No Sir. You managed to write a perfect (REPEAT: PERFECT) Arabic novel, on so many levels. Very few writers have done that, and to enter the Hall of Fame with a first novel is nothing short of miraculous. Your meticulous attention to what turns a text into a stunning novel is absolutely amazing, and your masterful control of all the aspects of your text is something that should be taught in writing programs.
But above all, I think, your major achievement is in being what Foucault would call “a discourse initiator” — someone who single handedly changes a discipline, and in this case the discipline of the Arabic novel. You are my al Jabarti of the Arabic novel.
— Anton Shammas in a private e-mail
“Two novels in translation by the Egyptian writer Youssef Rakha have just come out in English, and this will, I believe, prove to have been a real event.” —Hilary Plum, author of They Dragged Them through the Streets
“Joyce has Dublin; Modiano has Paris; Rakha has Cairo.” —Georgia de Chamberet
“Essential reading for our turbulent times.” —Booklist
“Youssef Rakha’s The Book of the Sultan’s Seal gave him an immediate spot in the Hall of Fame of modern Arabic literature: a stunning achievement for a first novel.” —Anton Shammas again
“Rakha’s books are an education.” —Seth Messinger
“Youssef Rakha employs classical Arabic literary strategies in service of the most postmodern of narratives. [The Book of the Sultan’s Seal] is a brilliant novel from an exciting new writer.” —Kazim Ali, author of Bright Felon
“It is this intent seriousness of purpose, driven by the fierce, forensic intelligence behind it, that lifts [The Crocodiles] above much contemporary western writing.”—Niall Griffiths, The New Welsh Review
“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
“The Crocodiles is also a long poem, an elegiac wail singing the sad music of a collapsing Egypt.” —Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?
“In poet/journalist Rakha’s brilliant novel the numbered paragraphs read like prose poems and flow like the best fiction.” —Library Journal