Bola Opaleke: Three Poems

Nun raising Ra, from Book of the Dead of Anhai, BC 1050. Source: Wikipedia

 

A metaphor for darkness

 

A people seized the sun, somewhere 

in Africa. They sprinkle it into the sea

& there, let it simmer into ordinary sizzles,

coiled with bones of broken men; 

burnt men who, at first, refused to be boiled. 

The sweat & the green tears of cuffed women,

at dawn, rise & roar into different images

not known to the purple sky above. It becomes

Niger & Nile. So it seems: the sun that left never left.

 

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Youssef Rakha: The Strange Case of the Novelist from Egypt

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By Youssef Rakha

About mid-way through his Nobel Prize lecture, read by Mohamed Salmawy at the Swedish Academy in 1988, the acknowledged father of the Arabic novel Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) made the point that Europeans “may be wondering: This man coming from the third world, how did he find the peace of mind to write stories?” It’s a remark that has remained with me, not so much because it implies, absurdly, that no one from a third-world country is supposed to have either peace or mind enough for literature—it particularly annoys me when, addressing his European audience, Mahfouz goes on to say they’re “perfectly right” to be posing that question—but because this presumption of deprivation or lack, of writing being something over and above ordinary living and working, seems in a way to underlie the Egyptian novelist’s collective self-image. And, especially now that Egypt is barely surviving institutional collapse and civil conflict—something that despite war, regime change, and the turn of the millennium, never happened during the 94 years of Mahfouz’s life—as a person who lives in Cairo and writes novels in Arabic, it is an idea I am somehow expected to have about myself.

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