mourid barghouti, i was born there, i was born here

ولدت هناك، ولدت هنا   مريد البرغوثي

This is the front cover of my very own copy of Mourid Barghouti’s latest book I was Born There, I was Born Here, published by Riad El-Rayyes Books in May 2009. In Nablus you can pick up a cheaper pirate copy, but this one is the original with an embossed cover from Dar al Shourouk in Ramallah again.

I excuse my own excitement because I remember when Mourid first mentioned that he was writing this and have been waiting impatiently for its account of the period post 1996 when he was first able to return home -as recounted in the classic I Saw Ramallah- all the way up to and beyond the 2006 elections.

At this stage my Arabic makes reading this very slow work indeed, so I’m glad that Humphrey Davies has been appointed translator of the book and that the American University of Cairo Press [AUC] are scheduling the English translation for November 2011. I know that Bloomsbury were anticipating publishing the book in the UK and will update on both fronts when I receive confirmations. [Yes! Fall 2011 is the scheduled publication date for both.]

Meanwhile, there’s an intriguing 2000-word blog on the book, a first English language review including quite extensive translated passages, here, which I recommend to you.

Finally, given the familial dimension of this book -Mourid visits the alleys and suqs of al Qds/Jerusalem as well as the village of his young life Deir Ghassanah with son and poet Tamim- I can’t resist sharing my pleasure at seeing that novelist, academic, wife and mother Radwa Ashour has a newly translated novel, Spectres [Atyaf], forthcoming from Arabia Books [UK], who have a page here. I hope this will mark the beginning of good translations of all her works into English. In any case the arrival of this one is a major event.

Riad El-Rayyes Books [Arabic] website is here.

AUC Press is here.

Arabia Books here.

Nur Elmessiri article on Radwa’s Atyaf/Spectres in Al Ahram [1999] here.

My earlier post on Mourid’s Midnight and Other Poems, which Radwa translated -and for which I wrote the Introduction– is here.

‘Mourid and Tamim Barghouti with Ahdaf Soueif’ event at the Southbank Centre London, Saturday November 6th is here.

ghassan kanafani ‘men in the sun’; brilliant writing [not] banned in the uk

Wondering about Kanafani’s book today, I checked yet again to see if it’s in print at all and specifically in the UK. (Updated links Mar2018)

I was wrong to describe it [earlier] as out of print, since it’s available in the US from Lynne Rienner Publishers here. LRP do have a London office too; the two Kanafani books I link to below are available from their UK distributors here. [I’m correcting my original post which criticised the lack of an equivalent British publisher. Does it matter in our cowardly new world? I think it does actually, yes.]

Men in the Sun [Rijal fi-al-shams [1962/3] was one of the first books by a Palestinian writer I read; entry point, beginning. I admired it first time up but wasn’t able to get a real hold on it or place it in a wider [Palestinian] literature.

I expect that this is a common experience in general, although if Mourid Barghouti‘s classic memoir I Saw Ramallah is a similar entry point for many today -as anecdotal experience suggests- the effect will also differ. MB’s book is more self-contained in this sense, its brilliant opening chapter The Bridge carries the voice of these men in the sun [amongst many others and much else] back home. Readers familiar with both will, I hope, forgive the purposive crudity of such an analogy.

I re-read Men in the Sun recently in a slim and very simply produced Heinemann/Three Continents Press edition [it first arrived in English in American University of Cairo Press, AUC, whose excellent back- and ongoing list is emerging through the wonderful Arabia Books in the UK] I was almost shocked by just how good it is; beautifully spare prose, precise and haunting altogether and, so far as I can tell, very well translated by Hilary Kilpatrick.

So why did I have to rely on the British Library to read it? I ask the question still even though my persisting with it did elicit a link to its blameless distributor in London through its entirely admirable publisher based in Boulder, Colorado. I leave it to you to decide or tell me whether it makes any difference…

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