Friday, March 30, 2007

Translation Done!

Yay! I'm finished translating Hassan Daoud's novel, The Year of the Revolutionary New Bread-making Machine. I need to go through and make sure it's all kosher/halal, but otherwise, the actual translating work is through! Whew. Here's the publisher's blurb for the book, which makes it sound a lot more serious than it is:
Abu Ali and his brother have just moved to bustling 1960s Beirut. They spend their days sitting in the sun outside their traditional bakery, chatting with customers.

For the men working inside the bakery life is starkly different. Working endless shifts in the furious heat of the old bread oven, they fantasize about escape. Mohammed sings all day long in his beautiful tenor voice, while the others lean exhausted on sacks of flour and dream of becoming wrestlers.

When the brothers acquire their revolutionary new bread-making machine, the workers struggle to adapt to the new conditions, and one by one their dreams fade into oblivion ...

A poignant, wry portrait of a 1960s Beirut as it burgeons into the future.
You can get a copy in October...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In Case You Missed It...

You can check out the Palestinian poets on NewsHour here. It's a badass segment.

Thanks Selina for the link!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Early Spring and that Life-is-Not-So-Real Feeling

It's warm in my house. I went through and pushed the windows up, getting spider webs on my hands. The unseasonable warmth reminds me of dreams: it feels unreal, yet it cloaks me. My son is patient when I climb up to my writing nook to translate. I asked him yesterday what he thought my second novel should be about. He rolled his eyes and gave me the same answer he gave last time: it should be about a single mom, and written in journal-format. I roll my eyes too: I don't like that idea. I'm 140 pages into my short story collection, yet already I am thinking about the next book. I had a surreal moment this afternoon when I looked up from typing and noticed I was on page 130 on someone else's novel. If only writing one's own novel was easy as translating, I sometimes think, then decide, Nah. It wouldn't feel real.

Picture at left of a lego street taken at "Brick Bash" last Saturday. I wonder if little lego people get road rage...

"Sewage Tsunami"

Nine dead and scores injured when a reservoir collapsed and flooded Um Nasser, a Bedouin village in Gaza, with sewage. Contact UNRWA to see how you can help: 212 963 2255, 212 963 1234


The RAWI 2007 Conference-- Writing While Arab: Politics, Hyphens, and Homelands-- is happening in Dearborn this May, 17-20. Please go, attend panels, see readings and performances, and be generally interested...even if you live in NY, Chicago, or Toronto.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

School Girl Demonstration, 3/18/2006, Nablus

This image makes my heart race. The word at the bottom of the home-made sign on the right: Hope.

AP/Majdi Mohammed

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poet Taha Muhammad Ali

Revered Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali will be featured on NewsHour with Lehrer tonight, March 22, as part of PBS's poetry/words in conflict series. Be sure to check it out.

Also, please read So What, a new translation of his works from Copper Canyon Press.

I'm going to set my DVR now...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fat Rant

Someone needs to make an action figure out of this chick. I fucking love her.

*~Thanks to Elka for link!~*

Road Trip!

The PEN World Voices Fest has been announced: this year's theme is "Home & Away" (awesome!) with 162 writers from 45 countries, including Yasmina Khadra, Pico Iyer, and Saadi Youssef (I have to say, I wish they'd invited more women writers to this). Some highlights:

  • "Town Hall Readings: Writing Home," where Don DeLillo, Nobel Prize-winner Nadine Gordimer, Steve Martin, and Salman Rushdie join other U.S. and international voices to explore the idea of home (Wednesday, April 25)
  • "An Evening with The Moth," where one of the city's hippest literary series takes on the festival theme through storytelling by authors such as Neil Gaiman and Pico Iyer, with Jonathan Ames as the M.C. (Thursday, April 26)
  • "A Believer Nighttime Event," featuring a performance by Miranda July and a "Writer Speed Date Session" with four World Voices authors (Saturday, April 28)
  • "The PEN Cabaret," bringing together musician and poet Patti Smith, playwright Sam Shepard, poet Saul Williams and other special guests at the Bowery Ballroom (Saturday, April 28)

  • I'll be there.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    My favorite thing about translating

    is that now, I can read Arabic just as fast as English. I've been sad that my eye doesn't pick Arabic words up as quickly when it sweeps a page the way it does English words. Now it does! Also, I love when I get to translate something funny my own way...

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Egyptian Cinema Centennial

    From El-Ahram:
    Cinema is an expression of modernity, and the decrease in the attention dedicated to the cinema as part of the national Egyptian culture is an indication of the crisis of modernity in Egypt. The size of the celebration of the anniversary or any occasion is no proof of regression, rather that Egypt is the only country in the world which produced over 3,000 feature films, and almost as many short films, yet remains without a cinematheque where at least one copy of each of them can be found, even if such copies will be on VHS or DVD.
    I don't know what is more tragic: the above quoted paragraph, or the fact that the new Alexandria Library does not have access to a 35mm projector.

    Go here for a list of the top 100 Egyptian films in order of production.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Public Outcry sometimes Works

    From BBC: Hamas Reverse on Schoolbook Ban

    (Thanks to Selina for link)

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Hello Kids

    In the coming three weeks, I have to:

    Hand in my manuscript
    Finish translating a novel
    Write a 20-page paper
    Hand in two grant proposals
    Oh... and care for my child and my sick cat

    Posting will be light...

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Burn Bird, Burn Again?

    I woke up to the distressing news that the Palestinian ministry was planning to burn copies of Speak Bird, Speak Again, the most comprehensive and priceless collection of Palestinian oral folktales. I literally shook and cried when I read the news: the collection is the most convincing plea for justice and nationhood in Palestine; it brings together folktales from all the lost villages and the ones that remain; from men and women who are no longer alive or able to tell the tale. Anyone who disbelieves in the Palestinian right to a nation or to return would have their hearts turned by reading the book. Besides all that, it's an anthropological and folk treasure: a trove of oral stories and a delightful entertainment.

    Then, I read that the decision was not made out of the blue, but that shipments of the book had arrived at a school and that officials there were shocked by the sexual content (there are three sexual references in the book, and they're hilarious) and the "foul language." Here is the minister of education's reply: "the book ... arrived in the schools without our knowledge, and so, the ministry's office is still checking the issue... the book is written in an informal language, which is inappropriate to be taught at schools, as schools teach the formal Arabic only. Furthermore, the book includes filthy expressions, which we can not afford to accept in our schools, and so it is being withdrawn from the libraries only."

    Oh. Right. Library bans. Well, looks like Palestinian kids and American kids have a lot in common.

    In any case, I urge you all to buy it and read it, and in the case that it does get burned or banned in Palestine, to take copies of it with you the next time you travel there. The volume is tangible proof of Palestinians' history and humanity, something they are robbed of daily, and to take it away seems the cruelest of punishments.

    You can read a selection of the tales here (scroll down over the intro).

    Buy it here through UC Press, and here through Amazon.

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    It's Here!

    What a pleasant surprise to come home from AWP and find the new anthology, Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers in my mail box. It's a gorgeous volume, with work by under-read international writers from 20 countries, each introduced by authors like Anton Shammas, Ha Jin, Ahdaf Soueif, Aleksander Hemon, Cynthia Ozick, Francine Prose, Naguib Mahfouz, and more. My translation of Iraqi writer Jabbar Yassin Hussin's story, a riff on Avveroes, is in it with an introduction by Alberto Manguel. Get a copy today.

    "Pieces of flesh and the remains of books were scattered everywhere"

    What if this had happened at AWP instead of at an Iraqi book market?

    Friday, March 02, 2007

    "What's the difference between Arabs in the Middle East and Arab Americans?" and other retarded questions

    The panel went really well! Most of the questions afterwards were great, so it isn't entirely fair to title this post in this way, but it's fun.

    I spoke about recent Arab American fiction, my own publishing process, and the dearth of Arab American bildungsromans, a lack I hope to remedy soon (How Franzen of me to talk about a problem and offer my work as a solution. Ha!).

    Khaled Mattawa and Hayan Charara, two of my favorite guys and Arab American poets, hung out afterwards:
    hayan and khaled

    It was wonderful...