54 episodes

BULAQ is a podcast about contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa. We talk about books written in Aleppo, Cairo, Marrakech and beyond. We look at the Arab region through the lens of literature, and we look at literature -- what it does, why it matters, how it relates to society and history and politics -- from the point of view of this part of the world. BULAQ is hosted by Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey and co-produced by Sowt.

BULAQ | بولاق Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey

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    • 5.0, 2 Ratings

BULAQ is a podcast about contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa. We talk about books written in Aleppo, Cairo, Marrakech and beyond. We look at the Arab region through the lens of literature, and we look at literature -- what it does, why it matters, how it relates to society and history and politics -- from the point of view of this part of the world. BULAQ is hosted by Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey and co-produced by Sowt.

    Kitchen Talk

    Kitchen Talk

    In this episode we explore the relationship between cooking and writing. With special guest Anny Gaul, we talk about the origins of national dishes such as couscous and koshary; medieval Arabic cook books; and representations of kitchens and cooking in Egyptian literature. 

    Show Notes:

    Anny Gaul’s writing and recipes, including the one on “bad translations” of hummus are online at cookingwithgaul.com. She wrote about Egyptian koshary as the dish we need right now for Eater. Her article on Abla Nazira’s famous cookbooks is here. Her analysis of the depictions of cooking, kitchens and happiness in Egyptian writing can be found in the anthology Insatiable Appetite: Food as Cultural Signifier in the Middle East and Beyond. The essay on couscous from which she reads at the beginning of the episode can be found in the last issue of Arab Lit Quarterly. 

    Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table: A Fourteenth-Century Egyptian Cookbook,  ed. and translated by Nawal Nasrallah and Scents and Flavors: A Syrian Cookbook, tr. Charles Perry, are both out in paperback this year. 

    Many adapted recipes are available at Nawal Nasrallah’s website, nawalcooking.blogspot.com.

    The Library of Arabic Literature offers free Arabic-only PDFs of their works, including Scents and Flavors. 

    This episode mentions the Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim’s Zaat, in which the kitchen is a site of mishaps, set-backs and middle-class aspirations. 

    Here are links to further recent writing in Arabic on food: 

    CIC Collective Workshop, Taste of Letters

    A historical essay in the Al Jazeera Culture Section

    Novelist Nael El Toukhy in Mada Masr 

    An essay on food in Ottoman era poetry

    • 1 hr
    Locked-In Lit

    Locked-In Lit

    We talk about a few new books — ones that provide a welcome escape, and ones that seem particularly daunting — and about how hard it is to write, read, think and imagine the future right now.

     

    Show Notes:

    Noor Naga's novel-in-verse Washes, Prays was published this spring. You can read more about it on Mada Masr and ArabLit.

    Aziz Binebine's Tazmamart, Cellule 10 recently appeared in English as Tazmamart, translated by Lulu Norman. His brother Mahi Binebine's The King's Fool is forthcoming in Ben Faccini's translation in August.

    Impostures is al-Hariri's classic Maqamat, many-Englished by Michael Cooperson and available now.

    Mazen Kerbaj's coronavirus diaries are online at kerbajdiaries.com.

    Alessandro Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi is a classic of Italian literature and recounts a 17th century plague in Milan. 

    There has also been a fair amount of quarantine writing, such as the NYRB’s Pandemic Journal. The Point is publishing a series of articles on what we watch and read during quarantine. 

    Repression in Egypt continues even with covid-19. Alaa Abdel-Fattah went on a month-long hunger strike, Mada Masr editor Lina Attallah was detained and released on bail, and the latest to be targeted were a couple young (and apolitical) TikTok stars. 

    New Arabic Translation Challenges are published each Tuesday with roundups on Saturday. Details here or by following #ArabicTranslationChallenge on Twitter.

    • 53 min
    Cold Trail

    Cold Trail

    In 1993, the Egyptian poet and writer Iman Mersal picked up an unknown novel by a forgotten writer from the 60s. And so began her long wanderings in search of Enayat El Zayat. El Zayat killed herself in 1963, four years before her book “Love and Silence” was finally published. Mersal’s portrait of El Zayat is a remarkable work of research, empathy and imagination. 

    Show Notes: 

    This episode focuses on Iman Mersal’s In the Footsteps of Enayat al-Zayyat (في أثر عنايات الزيات), published by Kotob Khan Books in late 2019.

    The author Enayat al-Zayyat (1936-63) finished one novel, which was published in 1967. 

    Love and Silence ‫(الحب و الصمت) ‬ was recently republished and is available on Google Play.

    Al-Zayyat was also working on a second novel, based around the German Egyptologist Ludwig Keimar; you can read Isolde Lehnert on Keimar.

    • 49 min
    Tight Spaces

    Tight Spaces

    We discuss an acclaimed novel set during the first Palestinian Intifada and one inspired by a tiny, legendary bookstore in Algiers. 

    Show Notes:

    This year, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction—which went to Abdelouahab Aissaoui’s The Spartan Court—and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award—which had winners in seven categories—both had awards ceremonies on YouTube. 

    MLQ will also participate in the now-online Sant Jordi Literary Festival (April 23-25), having recorded discussions with Elisabeth Jaquette about her translation of The Frightened Ones (by Dima Wannous) and Sawad Hussain about her translation of Bab as-Saha, or The Passage to the Plaza (by Sahar Khalifeh). 

    Khalifeh’s classic 1990 novel The Passage to the Plaza is newly out in English from Seagull Books.

    Kaouther Adimi's Our Riches, translated by Chris Andrews, is also newly out from  New Directions; it follows the story of Edmond Charlot  and Les Vraies Richesses bookshop in Algiers.

    • 56 min
    Sentence to Hope

    Sentence to Hope

    We spend most of this episode discussing the work and life of the Syrian playwright Sa’dallah Wannous, and how strongly it relates to repression, resistance and art in the Arab region today.

    SHOW NOTES:


    A new Sa’dallah Wannous reader,Sentence to Hope(ed. and trans. Robert Myers and Nada Saab) brings together four translations of plays as well as essays by and interviews with the great Syrian playwright (1941-1996).


    Read more about reading Wannous in Syria in Matthew McNaught’s  essay “Yarmouk Miniatures” and about Arwa Salih and the Arab left to which he belonged in Ursula’s “Lessons of Defeat: Testimonies of the Arab left.”


    The founder of Egypt’s Dar Tanmia Bookshop and Publishing, Khaled Lutfi, was sentenced to five years in a military trial at the beginning of February. A statement of support for Lutfi has been circulating online, in Arabic and English.


    The Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji currently lives in the US after serving two years in jail on indecency charges.


    The photographer we mention is Mohamed Abu Zeid – Shawkan – who should never have been jailed in the first place and is currently being held unlawfully beyond his release date.

    • 1 hr
    A Woman Shaped by Fear

    A Woman Shaped by Fear

    We talk about the Syrian writer Dima Wannous’ haunting novel The Frightened Ones, translated by Elisabeth Jacquette. It’s a book about fear, panic and anxiety -- in one’s body and society, between generations and lovers -- that is also somehow a great pleasure to read.

    Show Notes:

    The Frightened Ones was shortlisted for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction; its English translation is now out in the UK and forthcoming in the US. 

    We discussed the work of Wannous’ father, the brilliant playwright Sa’adallah Wannous, in episode 28, “Sentenced to Hope.” 

    We mentioned concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in Egyptian prisons. Political prisoner Alaa Abdel Fattah wrote an essay on health and prison before the pandemic. 

    • 50 min

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