Hilary Plum: Lions

Saul Leiter, Barbara, 1951. Source: designobserver.com

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The long fact of the turned face is named faith.

Through the tall windows opposing the tapestries

that depict the gaze of the lion, low hills with dark cows

remain far. A pheasant plump in the dirt, a voice saying you,

and modern angles guide us into the room where we were

never again, as in the absence of any machine a man

watches the ball propelled down the lane toward him

then bends, pins in hand. I hear his regular breath.

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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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