BULAQ is a book-centric podcast co-hosted by Ursula Lindsey (in Amman, Jordan) and M Lynx Qualey (in Rabat, Morocco). It focuses on Arabic literature in translation and is named after the first printing press established in Egypt in 1820. Produced by Sowt.
Should You Turn Down That Literary Award?
It’s literary prize season! When the Sawiris Cultural Awards were announced at the start of 2023, novelist Shady Lewis Botros turned his novel award down, launching a storm of criticism, defense, and discussion. Is it bad manners or good politics to turn down a prize? How do different prizes affect the literary landscape? How is the 2023 prize season shaping up?
Mada Masr published “A conversation with Shady Lewis Botros on the genealogy of literary refusal”
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction recently announced their 2023 longlist, with a historically high number of women writers (half).
Also in Jan 2023, Banipal Prize judges announced that two novels had won their 2022 prize. By coincidence, we did a joint episode on those two novels.
PEN America recently announced their lit-prize longlists. Iman Mersal’s The Threshold, translated by Robyn Creswell, made the poetry-in-translation longlist.
In December 2022, Fatima Qandil’s Empty Cages won the Naguib Mahfouz medal, and she said it was the first time she’d won a prize.
Getting Your Wish
Egyptian graphic novelist Deena Mohamed talks about her debut urban-fantasy trilogy Shubeik Lubeik (“Your Wish is My Command”). A product of playful self-translation, it’s coming to English as a single volume. It will be unbottled by Pantheon (US) and Granta (UK) on January 10, 2023.
While the US edition keeps the title “Shubeik Lubeik,” the UK edition will use a literal translation: “Your Wish Is My Command.”
Find more of Deena’s work at http://deenadraws.art and on Twitter and Instagram as @itsdeenasaur.
The Arabic originals were published by Dar Mahrousa and are available in the US through Maamoul Press.
Yasmin El-Rifae’s Radius
El-Rifae’s book Radius: A Story of Feminist Revolution tells the story of a movement that mobilized in Egypt to protect female protesters from mob sexual attacks in 2012 and 2013. Based on interviews with friends and comrades, the book explores memory, truth, gender, violence, political organizing, trauma, and possible futures.
You can order the book directly from @VersoBooks.
Read an excerpt at Granta.
The book launches October 24 in New York City; there will also be events in Philadelphia and D.C.
Follow Yasmin for updates about more events at @yasminelrifae.
More writing by Yasmin El-Rifae is available on Mada Masr.
1001 Nights: A Never Ending Story
In this sponsored episode, we talk to Sheikh Zayed Book Award winner Dr. Muhsin Al-Musawi about his life-long scholarship on the 1001 Nights.
This podcast is produced in collaboration with the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is one of the Arab world’s most prestigious literary prizes, showcasing the stimulating and ambitious work of writers, translators, researchers, academics and publishers advancing Arab literature and culture around the globe.
Today’s guest, Professor Muhsin Al-Musawi, was awarded the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in 2022 in the category of “Arab Culture in Other Languages,” for his book “The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures.” Al-Musawi is a professor of classical and modern Arabic literature, comparative and cultural studies at Columbia University. He is the author of 39 books and the editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature.
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award Translation Grant is open all year round, with funding available for titles that have won or been shortlisted for an award in the Children’s Literature and Literature categories. Publishers outside the Arab world are eligible to apply - find out more on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award website at: zayedaward.ae
Professor Al-Musawi’s biography and a description of his book can be found on the SZBA website.
End of Summer Reading
We’re back to talk about books we read over the summer and books we’re looking forward to this fall. Including poetry from Iman Mersal, Hadiya Hussein’s novel about looking for a lover disappeared in Saddam’s Iraq, and Mohamed Alnaas’ novel about the pressure to be a certain type of Libyan man.
Show Notes:Iman Mersal’s The Threshold, trans. Robyn Creswell, is a selection from four of her poetry collections, forthcoming from McMillan. Hadiya Hussein’s Waiting For The Past, trans. Barbara Romaine, is forthcoming from Syracuse Press. Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table, by Mohamed Alnaas, won the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
The Interesting Case of a Saudi Novel
In Aziz Muhammad’s The Critical Case of a Man Named K, an unnamed narrator is diagnosed with leukemia. His 40-week journal, shaped by his readings of Kafka, Thomas Mann, Ernest Hemingway and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, sarcastically and movingly documents his alienation from his body, his surroundings and even, eventually, from books.
An interview with translator Humphrey Davies.
We also talked about a few other works where protagonists are diagnosed with cancer:Shahla Ujayli’s A Sky So Close to Us, translated by Michelle Hartman (Interlink Books); Radwa Ashour’s Heavier than Radwa (Dar Al Shorouk), although this is a memoir; Haifa al-Bitar’s A Woman of This Modern Age (Dar Saqi); Hassan Daoud’s No Road to Paradise, translated by Marilyn Booth (Hoopoe Fiction).
We also mention some Saudi books that have won awards or attracted international attention, such as Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea and The Dove’s Necklace by Raja Alem.
Great Literature Podcast!
This show really is for anyone interested in literature. The 'Book Club' series is off to a great start!
Indispensable for anyone interested in the modern Arab world or in world literature. The hosts are up to the task of contextualising the works and authors. I’m always so happy to find a new episode. Small note on the May 7, 2020 episode: the person referred to as having written the script for the film Uridu Hallan , Hosn Shah, is a woman. Not Hasan.
What a gem
I'm always pleased with myself when I come across little unknown gems like this podcast. What a delight to listen to two smart women talk about books on a subject for which I've always had an interest yet know so little. Thank you, Bulaq, for bringing something new to the english-speaking book podcast world!