محمود المنيراوي: المجزرة السعيدة

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Alex Webb, from “The Suffering of Light” (Aperture and Magnum Photos, 2011). Source: americanphotomag.com

أيها الكاذبون اتحدوا
واقتلوا كل الصادقين
اولاً اقتلعوا ألسنتهم كما تقتلع شتلة
يزعجكم شكلها
يغضبكم وجودها
وقطّعوهم وارموهم لكلاب الشوارع
دعوا أطفالكم يرون أشلاءهم في كل مكان
يفوحُ منها العفن
ويغطّيها الذباب
علّموا أولادكم عقوبة الصادق
حتى يجتازوا أشلاء الصادقين
وعيونهم المتناثرة على الطريق
كأنما يجتازون زهرة
واعلنوا يوم المجزرة عيداً
يحتفلُ به نسلكم كل عام
يعلّقون ألسنة خشبية على أبواب بيوتهم/بيوتكم
كما فعلتم بالصادقين يوم المجزرة

Writing the North African Experience: Interview with Youssef Rakha

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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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Imogen Lambert: “They tweeted martyrdom with lattes”

 

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By Youssef Rakha

 

Tower of Babel

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined…

Night bites my shoulder. I turn to you, through a nylon window

To a state of limbo, there on a map

Under rivers of paper

We never drown, gazing on bridges

Night hugged my waist, like my mother, wailing

Where are our parents?

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Youssef Rakha: On Fiction and the Caliphate

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By Youssef Rakha

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.

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