Mother Tongues: Uyghurland & Like a New Sun

Poetry’s July/August 2016 double issue features my essay on the work of the seven indigenous Mexican poets included in Víctor Terán and David Shook’s anthology ‘Like a New Sun’, which also discusses the poems of Ahmatjan Osman, whose ‘Uyghurland, the Farthest Exile’ is the first volume of Uyghur poetry to appear in English. Read the essay here.

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Ribka Sibhatu’s ‘In Lampedusa’

The latest issue of Modern Poetry in Translation, ‘The Great Flight’, which focuses on refugee poetry, features my translation of Ribka Sibhatu’s poem ‘In Lampedusa’, which is also accompanied by a podcast. Ribka’s poem was based on the events which transpired on the night of October 3, 2013, when a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Ribka met with one of the survivors and wrote this poem as part of her activism on behalf of refugees from East Africa and elsewhere. In exile from her native country for over thirty years, Ribka has become one of Eritrea’s most prominent voices.
Lampedusa
MPT SpringRibkha Sibhatu

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Swimmers: Issue One

I was overjoyed to see some of my poems appear in the inaugural pamphlets issued by Swimmers, a London-based publishing project which grew out of a series of readings and performances. This first installment also features an insert by Ned Scott and an essay by Kayo Chingonyi entitled ‘Worrying the [blood]line of British Poetry’, which can be downloaded here.

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Tyrants’ Rants: The Dictator’s Last Night

Last week’s issue of the New Statesman featured my review of Yasmina Khadra’s The Dictator’s Last Night (Gallic Books, 2015). “The Brotherly Leader easily could have made a fantastic character, but Khadra’s writing fails to exploit the premise and produce anything more than a superficial, psychotic rant […] The end result is a cross between Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Admiral General Aladeen, with neither the former’s psychological depth nor the latter’s crass, zany humour.” Read: Tyrants’ Rants.

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Gaddafi

 

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The Sons of Hate: Rashid Boudjedra’s The Funerals

The Sons of Hate, my afterword to the forthcoming translation of Rashid Boudjedra’s The Funerals, which is set in Algiers during the civil war of the 1990s, has been published in PN Review’s January-February 2016 issue. From the opening paragraph: “Algeria is the oldest concentration camp in the world. Arguably, its inhabitants haven’t felt truly free since 1829, a year before the French began their brutal occupation – marking the first time a Western power had invaded the region since the Crusades – which would last until 1962, at which point the country passed into the hands of a military junta, most of whose members had once served in the French colonial army. Many of those individuals are still in power today, and nothing, it seems, has managed to push them off their impregnable perch. As of March 2015 – four years and three months since Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, unleashing waves of unrest that toppled six dictators (including Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak), ignited two civil wars and sparked major protests in ten countries – Algeria’s FLN1 government looks more secure than ever. Now headed by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was ‘elected’ in 1999, but who disappeared from public view after suffering a stroke in 2013, the FLN maintains a tight grip, largely abetted by the fact that every form of uprising since the ‘Arab Spring’ has only heaped untold miseries on the once hopeful citizens of those oppressed countries. Although the Algerian government projects an image of stability – having successfully convinced its people that it is the only bulwark standing in the way of the sort of chaos that has recently plunged Libya and Syria into anarchy – Algerians often erect barricades and burn tires in their desperate attempts to draw…”

The FuneralsPNR

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Adam O’Riordan at McNally Jackson Books

Very excited to read alongside my friend Adam O’Riordan when he celebrates the US edition of his fantastic debut, In The Flesh (Norton, 2015). The event will take place at McNally Jackson Books on Monday, December 28, 2015 – 7:00pm to 8:30pm.AOR Reading

 

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The Day the Renaissance Was Saved

Melville House has just published my translation of Niccolò Capponi’s The Day the Renaissance Was Saved. Click here to read an excerpt from the introduction on their website. “More than just an ‘histoire bataille’ (though it does bring to life an extraordinary 15th century battle in which Italy’s principal powers came to a ferocious head) and more than an account of a Da Vinci masterpiece that spent centuries hiding in plain sight (though it’s got that, too)—it’s also a panorama of a pivotal moment in Western history, and the cultural, political, and religious forces that ushered in the age of the Renaissance.”

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Anghiari detail

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Primo Levi’s Poetry: Jonathan Galassi

On December 15, I had the pleasure of hosting Jonathan Galassi at an event held at NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò to discuss Primo Levi’s poetry. Having already translated Giacomo Leopardi and Eugenio Montale, Galassi contributed his new versions of Levi’s poetry to Liveright’s monumental Complete Works of Primo Levi. Many thanks to the Centro Primo Levi NY for their outstanding series of events timed to celebrate the Complete Works. The recording is available below.

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Joseph Roth’s Children of the World

The Paris Review Daily recently published my short piece on Joseph Roth’s The Hotel Years: Wanderings in Europe Between the Wars. From the opening paragraph: “‘I am a hotel citizen,’ Joseph Roth declared in one of the newspaper dispatches anthologized in The Hotel Years, ‘a hotel patriot.’ It’s easy to see why: Red Joseph was nothing if not a cosmopolitan humanist, and the hotel was his natural habitat. ‘The guests come from all over the world,’ he explains: ‘Continents and seas, islands, peninsulas and ships, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists are all represented in this hotel. The cashier adds, subtracts, counts and cheats in many languages, and changes every currency. Freed from the constriction of patriotism, from the blinkers of national feeling, slightly on holiday from the rigidity of love of land, people seem to come together here and at least appear to be what they should always be: children of the world.’” Click here to read the rest.

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Political Voices from the Maghreb

I guest-edited a special section for the November 2015 issue of World Literature Today. ‘Political Voices from the Maghreb’ features work by Rashid Boudjedra (b. 1941), Matoub Lounès (1956–1998), and Ahmed Bouanani (1938–2011). From the introductory note: “Throughout their lives, the three authors represented in this mini-feature never shied away from controversies and as a result paid a dear price for their politics: Bouanani’s oeuvre has been largely forgotten, Lounès was murdered by extremists, while Boudjedra has spent much of his life either in exile or under police protection. From Lounès’s biting political songs to Bouanani’s surrealist poems and Boudjedra’s hallucinatory novels, these artists dedicated their immense talents to fighting against the twin legacies that arguably played the largest part in shaping the North African countries of Algeria and Morocco over the past century: French colonialism and Saudi-sponsored Islamic extremism.” Click here to read it.

 
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‘An Island of Strangers’ & Brooklyn Book Festival

My poem ‘An Island of Strangers’ appeared in Issue 10 of The Yellow Nib, a poetry journal produced in association with The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Belfast. I also recently read alongside fellow poets included in Carcanet’s New Poetries VI anthology at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, one of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s ‘Bookend events’. David Wheatley reviewed the anthology in The Guardian. Click here to read the review.

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Émile Zola’s Money

Alma Classics will publish my translation of Émile Zola’s L’argent in May 2016. “Now bankrupt after some failed gambles, Aristide Saccard, the former kingpin of the Paris Stock Exchange, desperately wants to get back to the top of the financial pile. When his powerful brother, the government minister Eugène Rougon, refuses to help him, he forms a partnership with the engineer Hamelin and founds the Banque Universelle, which speculates on public works in the Middle East. But as his greed and desire to outplay his rivals gets the better of him, the dashing and ruthless Saccard perilously begins to inflate the value of his enterprise using rumour, intrigue, financial manipulation and all the other tricks in the book. Inspired by real events and meticulously researched by Zola, Money is, in the wake of recent financial scandals, an all-too-topical exploration of the dynamics of greed, the excesses of capitalism and its dangerous relationship with politics and the press.”

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Welcome to Earth: Cuba’s ‘Special Period’

My review of Yoss’s A Planet for Rent was published in the September 14-21 issue of The Nation. Click here to read it. From the opening paragraph: “The best science-fiction writers are the peripheral prophets of literature—outsiders who persuade us to explore an often uncomfortable vision of the future that shows us not only what might be, but also what should never be allowed to happen, thereby freeing our imaginations from the shackles of our blind rush toward so-called progress. One such prophet lives 90 miles off the coast of Florida, in Havana, and goes by the name of Yoss. In A Planet for Rent, translated from the Spanish by David Frye, which is set, a little too closely for comfort, sometime in the 21st century, Earth is about to face total collapse, but luckily for humans, this hasn’t gone unnoticed: ‘The minds of the galaxy had been keeping an eye on humans for thousands of years. Without interfering. Waiting until they were mature enough to be adopted by the great galactic family. But when the total destruction of Earth seemed inevitable, they broke their own rules and jumped in to stop it.’”

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‘How The West Was Lost’: On William Vollmann

My review of William Vollmann’s latest novel, The Dying Grass (Viking, 2015), was published in this week’s issue of the New Statesman. Click here to read: How The West Was Lost. From the opening paragraph: “In 1835, President Andrew Jackson wrote to the Seminole tribes of Florida, or his ‘children’, as he called them: ‘The white people are settling around you. The game has disappeared from your country. Your people are poor and hungry . . . I tell you that you must go and that you will go.'”.

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Boyd Tonkin reviews The Confines of the Shadow

Boyd Tonkin gave Alessandro Spina’s The Confines of the Shadow a glowing review in The Independent. Click here to read it. From its opening paragraphs: “‘Civilisation,’ muses the fretful wife of an Italian governor in early-1920s Libya, means no more than ‘the rubble on which others will build another edifice once they’ve reconquered their freedom’. Even if they did not take place mostly in Benghazi, these tales of an Arab land under European rule would still have a salutary relevance today. Whatever happens in the Westernised city, ‘a graceful little fable fenced off from the outside world’, in the desert hinterland, tribal traditions that ‘nobody could uproot’ hold firm. Cameron, Sarkozy and their allies could have profitably read these stories of colonial hubris and nemesis in Libya before they ousted Gaddafi.”

Spina

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PEN Poetry Series: Abdellatif Laâbi

This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Abdellatif Laâbi, excerpted from the forthcoming Selected Poems of Abdellatif Laâbi (Carcanet, 2016), a recent winner of English PEN’s ‘Writers in Translation’ award. The PEN Poetry Series is edited by Danniel Schoonebeek, along with a rotating team of guest editors.

PEN America

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Mick Imlah: Selected Prose

Peter Lang will publish Mick Imlah’s Selected Prose on July 31. Collecting 25 years of outstanding literary journalism, the volume includes essays on Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, W. B. Yeats, Edwin Muir, Ian Hamilton, Seamus Heaney and Douglas Dunn, to name only a few. As Theresa Muñoz wrote in the Scottish Review of Books, the book features “the cream of Imlah’s prose” and “a triptych of his critical voice: a series of literary musings, followed by essays on rugby and cricket and ending with the poet’s own gently self-deprecating remarks in a brief interview with Oxford Poetry.” The launch will be held at University College London’s English Department Common Room on Tuesday 22nd September, 7pm, where Alan Hollinghurst and Lindsay Duguid will celebrate the launch of the Selected Prose alongside the project’s co-editor, Robert Selby.

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Tahar Ben Jelloun’s The Happy Marriage

Melville House will publish my translation of Tahar Ben Jelloun’s The Happy Marriage in January 2016. In the author’s words, The Happy Marriage is “the story of a conjugal catastrophe set in Morocco. A famous painter finds himself unable to paint after suffering a stroke which he blames on his wife. The novel is divided into two parts. In the first half, the painter tells his story, while the second half is devoted to his wife’s perspective.” Ben Jelloun, who was the first writer from North Africa to be awarded the Prix Goncourt, for his novel The Sacred Night, wrote a very interesting piece in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks entitled ‘For French Muslims, a Moment of Truth’ for the New York Times.

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The French Bartleby: Jean Dézert

Wakefield Press will publish my translation of Jean de la Ville de Mirmont’s The Sundays of Jean Dézert in Spring 2016. From the publisher’s listing: “Before his death at the age of 27 on the front lines of World War I, Jean de la Ville de Mirmont (1886–1914) left behind one undisputed classic, an understated tale of urban solitude and alienation that outlines the crushing mediocrity of bureaucratic existence. Through his strangely psychogeographical efforts at injecting some content into his life by structuring his days off through a rigorous use of advertising flyers, the character of Jean Dézert emerges as something of a French counterpart to Herman Melville’s own rebel bureaucrat, Bartleby the Scrivener.”

Les dimanches de Jean Dézert

Jean de la Ville de Mirmont

 

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PEN Award for Selected Poems of Abdellatif Laâbi

Over the past four years, I have translated the work of Morocco’s greatest living poet, Abdellatif Laâbi, including his debut collection, The Rule of Barbarism (Pirogue Poets Series, 2012), his autobiography, The Bottom of the Jar (Archipelago Books, 2013), and a chapbook of his later lyrics, Poems (Poetry Translation Centre, 2013). In 2016, Carcanet will publish his Selected Poems, a comprehensive overlook of Laâbi’s poetry from the late 1960s to the 2010s, with a special emphasis on his prison writings from 1972 to 1980, when he was was incarcerated for his peaceful activism against the repressive regime of Hassan II. This Selected recently won a PEN Translates award from English PEN, alongside works by Alain Mabanckou and Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Click here to read the press release. Excerpts from the book are forthcoming in Asymptote, Modern Poetry In Translation, and PN Review. Another translation, ‘Life’, was published in the latest issue of The Manhattan Review and nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize.Selected Poems

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‘New Oil, Old Lamps’ in The Chimurenga Chronic

The March 2015 issue of The Chimurenga Chronic, produced in collaboration with Kwani?, features an essay of mine, ‘New Oil, Old Lamps’, which analyzes how the politics of oil grease the cogs of the Arab Gulf’s new cultural initiatives; this issue also includes my translation of Olivier Vallée’s essay ‘Kadhafi: Le dernier roi d’Afrique/Gaddafi: The Last King of Africa’, which discusses the Brother Guide’s meddling in sub-Saharan politics, which ironically later helped bring about his downfall – as well as a review of K. Anis Ahmed’s Good Night, Mr. Kissinger (Unnamed Press, 2014). Much to look forward to in this new issue, which “presents a New Cartography for Africa”. As the editors write: “The eight maps we’ve commissioned thus far are the following: ‘secret countries’ (Greater Somalia, Royal Bafokeng Nation etc.); Gaddafi’s financial and military network; soft power (foreign cultural agencies; the entertainment complex and its relationship with the trendy notion of ‘Africa Rising’); new trade routes; water conflicts (tied to land and water grabs); neopats and repats (new and returning migrants from the West and Asia); who fights Africa’s wars (the fiction of national armies and various players in armed conflicts).”

Chronic March 2015

 

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‘Dhaka Stories’: Tales from Bangladesh

My review of K. Anis Ahmed’s Good Night, Mr. Kissinger (Unnamed Press, 2014), a riveting collection of short stories, has been published in this week’s edition of The Nation. Click here to read it. From the essay: “To borrow from James Baldwin, it is precisely books such as Good Night, Mr. Kissinger: And Other Stories that help expose the lie of the West’s pretended humanism—embodied, predictably, by Henry Kissinger.”

Good Night Mr Kissinger

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The Post-Šalamunian Period

The Post-Šalamunian Period, my tribute to Tomaž Šalamun, was published in The Paris Review Daily. Although he is no longer with us, his opus will continue to enrich the English language. Over the next three years, Black Ocean will publish three new collections: Justice (trans. Michael Thomas Taren, 2015), Andes (trans. Jeffrey Young & Katarina Vladimirov Young, 2016) and Druids (trans. Sonja Kravanja, 2017). On February 3rd, ‘I am the Water’, a marathon-reading from his works will be held at the Mini Teater theatre (Križevniška 1) in Ljubljana and simultaneously webcast all over the planet, from 15.00 to 24.00 PM CET.

At the Spier Poetry Festival 2013 Photo Retha Ferguson

 

 

 

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Hemingway Grant 2014 for Prime Cuts

My translation of Mohamed Nedali’s Morceaux de choix: les amours d’un apprenti boucher/Prime Cuts: The Life & Loves of an Apprentice Butcher, was selected as one of the recipients of the Fall 2014 Hemingway Grants by the French Embassy in the US. The translation will be published by Ohio University Press in April 2016.

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Letter from Morocco: ‘The Sceptre & The Pen’

My ‘Letter from Morocco: The Sceptre & The Pen’, has been published in the December 2014 issue of The Caravan. The piece discusses the kleptocratic reign of Mohamed VI as well as the work of Mohamed Nedali, the author of Prime Cuts: The Life & Loves of an Apprentice Butcher, which I am currently translating into English. Nedali also recently made a surprise appearance in Anna Della Subin’s fine piece, ‘The Library at Dar Al-Ma’mûn’.

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Honoré de Balzac on the misery of interns

The New Statesman published a piece by Philip Maughan on my translation of Honoré de Balzac’s The Physiology of the Employee (Wakefield Press, 2014). Click here to read it. The article features an excerpt from my introductory essay, as well as from Chapter VII of the book, which is on ‘The Intern’. In the book, Balzac notes that “there are two types of interns: poor ones and rich ones. The poor intern has pockets full of hope and needs a permanent position; the rich intern is unmotivated and wants for nothing.” This piece was later republished in The New Republic.

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Dar al-Ma’mûn: Mohamed Nedali

I spent September 2014 in residence at Dar al-Ma’mûn in Marrakech, translating Mohamed Nedali’s Morceaux de choix/Prime Cuts, which J.M.G. Le Clézio selected as the winner of the Prix Grand Atlas in 2005. On Saturday September 27th, Mohamed and I appeared at Le 18, an arts space in the medina of Marrakech, to read from Morceaux de choix/Prime Cuts in both languages and exchange some thoughts on our work, in a conversation moderated by Juan Asís Palao Gómez, a fellow translator and the librarian of Dar al-Ma’mûn. Click here to download the recording of the excerpt read in English. The event celebrated the 10th anniversary of Prime Cuts, as well as the publication of Mohamed’s sixth novel, Le Jardin des pleurs/The Garden of Tears (Éditions de l’Aube, 2014).

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The Young Maronite: Benghazi, 1912

Darf Publishers will be issuing Volume 1 of my translation of Alessandro Spina’s Libyan epic, The Confines of the Shadow, in February 2015. This installment comprises the novels The Young Maronite, The Marriage of Omar and The Nocturnal VisitorClick here to read a short excerpt from The Young Maronite, which begins in 1912, after the Italian army prised the coasts of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica away from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Described by the literary press as the “Italian Joseph Conrad” and “a 20th century Balzac”, Spina’s novels constitute one of the greatest indictments against European colonialism and jingoism, and are a moving tribute to the Mediterranean’s golden era of cosmopolitanism. I also wrote a short piece for Africa Is A Country on Spina.

The Confines of the Shadow

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‘How African Spirits Were Born’: Fables

The September 2014 issue of World Literature Today includes three fables by Ribkha Sibhatu translated by me. Click here to read them. The fables are excerpted from L’esatto numero delle stelle (Sinnos, 2012).

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Alessandro Spina’s The Confines of the Shadow

The Nation has published my essay, ‘Spina’s Shadow. Click here to read the piece.

Alessandro SpinaAlessandro Spina (1927-2013), a Syrian Maronite born in Benghazi, received the Bagutta Prize in 2007 for his 1280 page opus The Confines of the Shadow (I confini dell’ombra), a cycle of 11 historical novels charting the history of Libya from 1911 to the commercial exploitation of oil reserves in the 1960s. The first volume of my three-part translation of Spina’s epic, comprising the novels The Young Maronite, The Marriage of Omar and The Nocturnal Visitor, will be issued by Darf Publishers in early 2015.

The Nation

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Rashid Boudjedra’s Spring

I recently translated two excerpts from Rashid Boudjedra’s latest novel, Printemps (Grasset, 2014). The first was published in the June issue of Words Without Borders, while the second was featured in Banipal’s 50th issue. As a recent review in Jeune Afrique noted, Boudjedra’s Printemps refutes the notion that the events which transpired between 2010 and 2013 can be defined as a ‘revolution’, and instead sees them as a prelude to an ‘Islamist winter’.

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