Youssef Rakha: Nawwah

Youssef Rakha, Masr Station, 2007

And verily We had empowered them with that wherewith We have not empowered you, and had assigned them ears and eyes and hearts—Quran, xlvi, 26

My instructions are to deliver the corpse to Nastassja Kinsky. We are to meet at nine tomorrow morning in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel, just off the seashore in downtown Alexandria. The corpse is a lightweight microelectronic bolt that looks like a miniature coffin; Nastassja Kinsky is an agent of the Plant. If I revealed what the Plant is, I would die.

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I Saw a Man Hugging a Fridge: Twelve Poems by Youssef Rakha in Robin Moger’s Translation

Eikoh Hosoe, Kamaitachi No. 31, 1968. Source: michaelhoppengallery.com

First song of autumn

Joy of my days, come

watch me run

I’ve bought white shoes

and see-through eagle’s wings

I am the clarinet’s mouth

and you the ransomed player

Kneel and guzzle me, set

the sea’s taste in my throat

and make my breast a wave

upon whose mane the sun

sows jewels

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الأسد على حق: ألن جينسبرج ترجمة يوسف رخا

Allen Ginsberg at Human Be-In 1967 (Album cover for Dharma Lion), uncredited. Source: heal1.bandcamp.com

كن صامتًا من أجلي، أيها الإله المتأمل
 
عدت إلى بيتي لأجد في الصالة أسدًا 
وهرعت إلى بئر السلم أصرخ: أسد! أسد
السكرتيرتان الجارتان، عقصت كل منهما شعرها الأدكن. وبصفقة ارتدت نافذتهما مقفلة
أسرعت إلى بيت أهلي في باتيرسون، ومكثت نهارين    

هاتفت طبيبي النفسي، تلميذ رايخ 
كان قد حرمني من الجلسات عقابًا على التحشيش 
حصل” – هكذا لهثت في أذنه – “في صالة بيتي أسد.”    
للأسف، لا مجال للمناقشة،وضع السماعة 

استمر في القراءة

Youssef Rakha: Where the Persians Perished

The men sent to attack the Ammonians, started from Thebes, having guides with them, and may be clearly traced as far as the city Oasis, which is inhabited by Samians, said to be of the tribe Aeschrionia. The place is distant from Thebes seven days’ journey across the sand, and is called in our tongue “the Island of the Blessed.” Thus far the army is known to have made its way; but thenceforth nothing is to be heard of them, except what the Ammonians, and those who get their knowledge from them, report. It is certain they neither reached the Ammonians, nor even came back to Egypt.

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Shipping Traffic: Youssef Rakha in Robin Moger’s Translation

The grey ships come from the north,

The snow-white ships come from the pole,

The ships of the south are all broken down.

O Harbourmaster sitting on the cloudbanks,

O Harbourmaster walking on the water,

Tell those leaping on the equator line

How their flesh might turn to wood,

How their bones might turn to steel,

Until from out their bodies comes a ship

Its black pushing through the swell.

Youssef Rakha: The Postmuslim

A. Abbas, Pakistan, 1988. Source: magnumphotos.com

Return of the Prodigal Muslim

Everybody knows the Enlightenment is dying. I don’t mean in the hells from which people board immigrant boats. It was never very alive here in the first place. I mean in the heavens to which the boat people seek suicidal access.

They end up drowning less for the love of the Postchristian West, it would seem, than out of despair with the Muslim East. Blame politics and economics, for sure. But could it be that all three phenomena – despair, poverty and dictatorship – are rooted in the same cultural impasse?

Today Brexits, Trumps and, let us not forget, the Islamic Invasion of Europe are spelling an Endarkenment all across the North, confining progressive and egalitarian principles to intensive care units. And I’m wondering what that could mean for despairing Muslims in the South.

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Youssef Rakha: Revolution’s Residue

I had my camera when I went out to demonstrate on Friday, January 28, the climax of the Egyptian revolution (January 25-February 11, 2011). I was on the streets for over twelve hours but I took only two pictures; they were to sit for years on my hard drive, unedited and undisplayed: my only trophies from the revolution. Unlike the majority of “Arab Spring revolutionaries”, from the moment Tahrir Square was occupied in the small hours of Saturday, January 29 and until the long-time president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, I felt that I couldn’t photograph and protest at the same time, that to be photographing would render my presence in the protests insincere and that the protests were about more important things than photography.

At the same time the figures and the faces that I saw daily in and around the protests, and which belonged to both “revolutionaries” and “counterrevolutionaries”, imprinted themselves on my mind more forcefully than ever before: sullen and despairing men, slim women in high heels and children everywhere.

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