Monday, October 26, 2009

prof avi shlaim's economist interview & review

the Economist website's intro to the audio interview with Prof Avi Shlaim of St Antony's College, Oxford:
Avi Shlaim on Israel and Palestine
Allocating responsibility
A noted Israeli revisionist historian calls Israel the stumbling block to peace since 1967.

In addition Prof Shlaim's latest book, 'Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations', published by Verso, is reviewed in the Economist.

Monday, October 19, 2009

arab women's association (awa) gaza fundraiser

British artists join the call to ‘Let Gaza Live!’
Susannah Tarbush

The ‘Let Gaza Live!’ cultural evening held in London at the Royal Geographical Society’s Ondaatje Theatre last week, was an opportunity for musicians, actors and authors to express their solidarity with the people of Gaza.

The fundraiser, organized by the Arab Women’s Association (AWA) with the support of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), was attended by several hundred people. All proceeds went to the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip and the AWA Fund for Gaza.

Dr Mona el-Farra, deputy director of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip, was to have been the special guest. But the continuing Israeli sealing off of Gaza prevented her from traveling, and her daughter Basma Ghalayini read the speech on her behalf.

In her speech Dr el-Farra stated: “Israel’s massive onslaught on the people of the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009 and its subsequent tightening of its blockade have rendered us unable to trade and unable to move.”

Reconstruction is impossible without the basic building materials that Israel refuses to allow in, and the closures are “pushing life in Gaza to the point of collapse”. She spoke of the “daily pain, grief and deprivation of 1.5 million people living under total siege.”

There is a lack of electricity and safe drinking water, and “our health system is breaking down at a time when we have greatest need of it.” More than 45 percent of children under the age of five suffer from iron deficiency anemia

More optimistically, Dr el-Farra observed that “people are also determined to overcome their pain and to rebuild their lives. Every day I see the extraordinary determination of people to survive, against all the odds.”

The compere of the evening was the writer, journalist and activist Victoria Brittain. Introductory words came from the AWA Vice-Chair Pauline Khazen, who said: “We are here to support Gaza. Do I need to tell you about the Gaza Strip, which Israel has turned into an outdoor detention center?”

The evening’s cultural program was organized and produced by the Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster Reem Kelani [pictured top]. Accompanied by David Beebee on piano, Ryan Trebilcock on double bass and Milo Fell on drums, Reem gave a searing performance of her setting to music of “Mawwaal” by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who died last August. At the end of the evening she sang with much spirit, and audience participation, the Palestinian national anthem “Mawtini”.

Brittain read the lyrics of “Mawwaal” in English translation. She also read the poem “I was already dead” by another outstanding Palestinian poet – the late Mu’in Bseiso, whom she described as “a great child of Gaza”.

A recording of singer-songwriter Reverend Garth Hewitt, a PSC patron, performing “From The Broken Heart of Gaza (Father Musallam’s letter)”, was played to a slide show of images from Gaza. Hewitt was inspired to write the song by an open letter that Father Manuel Musallam, the Parish priest of Gaza, wrote to the to the wider Church last January.

The renowned Jewish musician and protest song writer Leon Rosselson performed “Song of the Olive Tree”. The song was written after “I saw in the main street of the very large settlement of Maale Adumim east of Jerusalem a row of ancient olive trees. All of them had been uprooted from Palestinian land and replanted there.”

The musician, composer and improviser Camilla Saunders played her piano composition “Unbinding”, dedicated “to all those who are oppressed and dispossessed, especially the Palestinians.” She has given music workshops to schoolchildren in West Bank refugee camps.

Father and son Bill and Alfie Horrocks sang unaccompanied “Iman”, their tribute to Iman Darwish Al-Hams a 13-year-old girl killed in Gaza in 2004 by an Israeli soldier who allegedly continued to fire at her as she lay wounded on the ground.

The actors Corin Redgrave and his wife Kika Markham [pictured below], with David Beebee on piano, read “Letter from Gaza” by Ghassan Kanafani. Kanafani, along with his young niece, was killed in Beirut in 1972 when Israeli intelligence agency Mossad planted a bomb in his car.

Dr Shelagh Weir gave an informative and evocative presentation on “Textiles, Costumes and Embroidery of the Gaza area.” Weir, a former curator at the British Museum, has organized three exhibitions and written several books on Palestine textiles and costume.

She said: “I want to remember some positive and beautiful things about the Gaza area,” and pointed out that before the 1948 nakba, textile production was one of the most important handicrafts in Palestine. The largest weaving center was Majdal, just north of Gaza. Most of the population fled to Gaza, and Majdal became the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Dr Weir showed examples of the beautiful fabrics produced by weavers of Gaza and south-west Palestine. The fabrics and embroidery used for wedding trousseaux are particularly splendid.

She stressed: “Costume, textiles and embroidery have always been incredibly important in Palestine for symbolizing not only your regional and your village identity but also, as politics came more to the fore, your Palestinian identity” Despite the destruction of villages, their former inhabitants and their descendants continued to wear and produce their local village costumes, even after decades living in refugee camps.

The evening included a talk by investigative food journalist Joanna Blythman, the author of several prizewinning books. Blythman argues that “boycotting Israeli produce gives us all a way in our daily lives to register our ongoing disapproval of Israel’s behavior in Gaza and treatment of the Palestinian people in general.”

She highlighted one of the main concerns over Israeli food exports: that Israel is labeling the produce of illegal Israeli settlements as “West Bank”. This “deliberate deception” misleads those UK consumers who wish to support the Palestinians into thinking the produce is Palestinian. “To put it at its most pejorative, the fertile Jordan valley is land stolen by Israel from Palestine, so arguably its agricultural products are stolen goods.”

In July Blythman traveled to the West Bank with a Fairtrade Foundation delegation to meet Palestinians farmers and research an article for Observer Food Monthly. “I came back gripped by a burning sense of injustice at the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians ... It became clear to me that Palestine is a beautifully and deeply productive land with a highly skilled farming tradition,” she said.

Blythman called on consumers to stop buying Israeli produce, to put pressure on supermarkets to stop stocking Israeli produce, and to “buy as much Palestinian olive oil and as many Palestinian foods as you can possibly eat.”
Saudi Gazette
October 19 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

demo over israeli settlement produce in sainsbury's

From International Solidarity Movement:
Activists occupy British supermarket in opposition to the sale of settlement produce
Posted on: October 14, 2009 ShareThis
ISM London

11 October 2009

On 11th October 2009, a swarm of activists descended upon Sainsbury’s on Cromwell Street, West London to highlight the sale of Israeli and illegal Settlement produce by both Sainsbury’s and other major supermarket chains. Coming from a diverse range of campaign organisations, around 40 activists stood in solidarity with the Palestinian call for a global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Entering the store, protestors held up an array of settlement and Israeli produce demanding that the supermarkets put a halt to their sale and reminding consumers of their capacity to effect change by not buying these goods.

Popping up a tent and claiming it to be an “Israeli Settlement”, the actions demonstrated the ridiculous ease at which Israeli Settlements pop up around the West Bank, protected by the military and evicting Palestinians from their land and homes.

They proceded to chant against the occupation and the sale of Israeli goods, following this they went on a tour of the store so that all staff and customers were made aware of Sainsbury’s role in supporting illegal settlements. Handing out leaflets and engaging with customers, many of which were supportive, the actions communicated the need for greater citizen action.

Management and security were keen to encourage the protestors to leave but with no success. After twenty minutes within the store, demonstrators left of their own accord, clapping hands and chanting “Free Free Palestine”, feeling that their efforts had been succesful in communicating to the store and the general public.

Police arrived soon after and despite a brief interaction with protestors there were no arrests and no signs of aggression.

Activists then left the scene and were followed for some time afterwards, however no further action by the police was taken.


This non-violent initiative seeks to challenge the economic and political infrastructure that supports the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Similar to the efforts against Apartheid South Africa, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign hopes to undermine the apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza whereby checkpoints, Israel only roads and the Apartheid all segregate and impoverish Palestinians. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, over 60% of Palestinians live below the poverty line, and in Gaza the figure sits at 70%.

Illegal Israeli Settlement produce is on sale in most of the high street supermarket chains, including Tesco’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Marks and Spencers, and Asda as well as Sainsbury’s. According to the 2004 judgement by the International Court of Justice, Settlements are illegal and in violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Sale of produce from these Settlements reinforce their existence and financially contribute to Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and violent oppression of Palestinians themselves.

This mass action follows a number of smaller protests that have taken place across in London and across the UK which make explicit public opposition to the sale of Settlement goods in British stores. It also follows the September 2009 decision by the Trade Union Congress to commit to building a mass boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

iraqi author hassan blasim's book of stories launched in london 23 oct

Comma Press launches
The Madman of Freedom Square
by Hassan Blasim

Friday 23rd October 7pm
Calder Bookshop.
51 The Cut,
London SE1 8LF

Admission Free. All Welcome

Celebrating a unique short story collection from a young filmmaker, writer and refugee of the Iraq War. Hassan's debut collection is a dark excursion into the chaos of contemporary Baghdad, an allegorical snapshot of recent Iraqi history (spanning over twenty years from the Iran-Iraq War through to the Occupation), and a rare critique of the refugee experience in Europe.

"At first you receive it with the kind of shocked applause you’d award a fairly transgressive stand-up. You’re quite elated. Then you stop reading it at bedtime. At his best Blasim produces a corrosive mixture of broken lyricism, bitter irony & hyper-realism which topples into the fantastic & the quotidian in the same reading moment." - M John Harrison

'The Madman of Freedom Square' has been selected to receive financial assistance from English PEN's Writers in Translation programme, supported by Bloomberg.

Comma Press

Comma's previous titles include 'Madinah: City Stories from the Middle East' edited by the Lebanese poet, translator and journalist Joumana Haddad.

Monday, October 12, 2009

bloomsbury qatar foundation publishing

British-Qatari publishing venture gathers pace
Susannah Tarbush

A year after independent London publisher Bloomsbury and the Qatar Foundation signed an agreement to set up Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP), the joint venture is gathering momentum. A few days ago BQFP published its first catalogue, with a strong list of books in Arabic and English.

BQFP’s Consultant Publisher Andy Smart told Saudi Gazette that the joint venture has so far focused mainly on fiction for adults and children. By the end of the year its list will expand to include adult non-fiction, monographs and academic books; further down the line it is to add school and university textbooks.

Bloomsbury’s highest-profile activity in Qatar so far was the launch on 1 October, in partnership with the Qatar Financial Centre, of the free access online financial resource It includes contributions from 300 of the world’s leading financial practitioners and others on the crucial issues facing finance managers and executives. QFINANCE is also available as an annually-updated reference book, which BQFP will publish in the Middle East.

Bloomsbury has enjoyed much success in its 23-year history, especially with J K Rowling’s extraordinarily lucrative Harry Potter series. But the ending of the Harry Potter series has been one reason for a decline in Bloomsbury’s profit, which in the first half of this year were down to £1.8 million, from £3.5 million in the same period of 2008.

Bloomsbury has sought to diversify into more stable sources of profit, and it described the formation of BQFP as “an important strategic partnership”. The BQFP agreement initially operates from October 2008 to June 2014, with a contract value of £7.55mn.

Smart says that BQFP is “unique in lots of ways”. It is a publisher that publishes in both Arabic and English equally, and it has the advantage of being a joint venture involving a very well-established publisher in London.

Another special feature is that it has two budget lines: the publishing side, and the “community development” side. An early appointment by BQFP was that of its reading and writing development director, Mohana Rajakumar.

BQFP’s first step in encouraging young readers and writers was organizing the first World Book Day Qatar on April 23 this year, in collaboration with Qatar University and UK World Book Day. To mark the day BQFP published its first book: a dual Arabic-English edition of Bloomsbury’s best-selling children’s picture book “The Selfish Crocodile” by Faustin Charles, illustrated by Michael Terry. There were readings from the book at events in local schools, and children were able to take copies home with them.

One way in which BQFP is nurturing new writing in Qatar and the region is by holding writing workshops in Arabic and English. “We hope to have an interactive BQFP website up and running by the end of the year” says Smart. As well as articles and coverage of events, it will include forums and blogs.

At the forthcoming Qatar Book Fair from 30 December to 9 January, BQFP is planning a venue known as “The Tent”, where kids will work with writers and illustrators to create their own books in English and Arabic. BQFP will also organize activities in poetry for young people at the Fair.

The Bloomsbury Qatar Literary Salon founded by BQFP in London and Qatar has proved to be a hit with attendees. The salon’s inaugural meeting was held in London on 30 July with Egyptian-British novelist Ahdaf Soueif, a Bloomsbury author, as the guest interviewee.

The second salon took place in Doha on 9 September at the BQFP villa in Education City. It took the form of an iftar with readings in Arabic and English by three local poets: Abdullah Salem, Maryam al-Subaiey and Rana al-Tonsi.

Last Wednesday the third salon, featuring the Lebanese novelist, short story writer and dramatist Hanan Al-Shaykh [pictured], was held at the House of St Barnabus in Soho, central London. Bloomsbury has published several of Al-Shaykh’s novels and recently issued her frank and moving memoir “The Locust and the Bird: My Mother’s Story”.

Al-Shaykh has clearly inherited the storytelling gifts of her late mother Kamila, and she captivated the audience with her perceptiveness and humor. As at the inaugural salon, the interviewer was Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts.

Bloomsbury founder and chief executive Nigel Newton introduced the salon, and Andy Smart gave a welcoming address in fluent Arabic. Bloomsbury's editor-in-chief Alexandra Pringle was also present.

A major highlight of the newly-published BQPF catalogue is the anthology “Beirut 39: New Writing from the Arab World”, in English and Arabic editions. The book is edited by Iraqi writer Samuel Shimon, deputy editor of Banipal magazine, and has an introduction by the acclaimed Lebanese author Amin Maalouf.

The anthology is published in association with Beirut World Book Capital and the Hay Festival. The Beirut 39 project involves a panel of judges selecting the 39 most interesting Arab writers aged 39 or less from more than 350 submissions.

Another BQFP title that is bound to arouse much interest is the English translation of “The American Granddaughter” by the Baghdad-born writer and journalist Inaam Kachachi [pictured], who now lives in Paris. The novel was one of the six novels shortlisted for the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), known as the Arabic Booker

“Murad Murad” by Palestinian Suad Amiry, author of “Sharon and My Mother –in-Law: Ramallah Diaries”, is an intriguing-sounding true account of how Amiry disguised herself as a man and illegally crossed the border into Israel to seek work in Tel Aviv.

BQFP’s children’s titles include three books in English from the “Hey Fafa!” series, written by Egyptian Rania Amin and illustrated by Mohamed Sayed. Among the Arabic children’s titles is a translation of “Eliza and the Moonchild” written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark and translated by Mahmoud Gaafar.

For Arabic-reading young adults there is a translation of “Where the Streets Had a Name” by lawyer Randa Abdel-Fattah [pictured] born in Australia to Egyptian-Palestinian parents. This book is highly topical given recent events: a 13-year-old Palestinian girl believes a handful of earth from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save the grandmother’s life, and she is determined to get there despite the wall, checkpoints and other hazards of West Bank life..

Sunday, October 11, 2009

arto tunçboyacıyan - zetuni zar

Zetuni Zar: composed by the great Armenian composer and percussionist, Arto Tuncboyaciyan - from the soundtrack of the film ‘Voyage en Armenie’.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

hanan al-shaykh guests at bloomsbury qatar literary salon

Hanan Al-Shaykh

L to R: back - Alexandra Pringle, Hanan Al-Shaykh; front - Andy Smart, Nigel Newton

The third Bloomsbury Qatar Literary Salon - which featured Lebanese novelist, short story writers and dramatist Hanan Al-Shaykh - held at the House of St Barnabus at 1 Greek Street in Soho, central London.As at the inaugural meeting of the salon held in the same venue on 30th July, at which the guest interviewee was Egyptian-British novelist Ahdaf Soueif, the interviewer was Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts.

The salon was established by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP),which was launched at last year's Frankfurt Book Fair as a partnership between Bloomsbury Publishing and the Qatar Foundation.

The evening was introduced by Bloomsbury founder and chief executive Nigel Newton. BQFP's consultant publisher Andy Smith then surprised the audience by giving a welcoming address in Arabic. Bloomsbury's editor-in-chief Alexandra Pringle, one of the legends of British publishing (her career started at women's publisher Virago in 1978), was also present.

The second salon was held in Doha on 9th September at the BQFP villa at Education City. It took the form of an iftar and a reading by local Arabic poets.

[more to follow...]

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

awa's gaza fundraiser in London 9 October

from the Arab Women's Association:

“Thousands of families across the Gaza Strip lack food and shelter; schools and hospitals have been destroyed; children are suffering from malnutrition and have been scarred psychologically, if not wounded physically. The AWA has long supported us in Gaza; I hope that the British public will help them to help us in our hour of need.” Dr. Mona el-Farra, public health physician from Gaza.

The evening’s varied programme will focus on the indigenous culture in Gaza, with contributions by Corin Redgrave and Kika Markham, eye-witness accounts by Dr. el-Farra and moving songs by Leon Rosselson, Garth Hewitt and Reem Kelani".




Let Gaza Live
An evening of culture in support of Gaza Friday 9th October 2009.
Venue: Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR.

Tickets £35 & £50 - For reserved front row seats £80. Cash bar is available. All proceeds will be donated to the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip and the Arab Women’s Association Fund for Gaza..


The programme:

- Report from Gaza: Dr. Mona Al-Farra
- Special Guests: Corin Redgrave & Kika Markham, Ghassan Kanafani’s Letter from Gaza
- Compère: Victoria Brittain

- Shelagh Weir, Textiles, Costumes & Embroidery of the Gaza area
- Joanna Blythman, Food & Palestine
- Garth Hewitt, The Broken Heart of Gaza
- Leon Rosselson, Song of the Olive Tree
- Camilla Saunders, “Unbinding” - Piano for Gaza
- Bill & Alfie Horrocks, In Memory of Iman from Gaza
- Reem Kelani, Songs from Palestine

For details and bookings, please contact:
Ms. Shereen Nannis on 07977 146 349 or
We kindly urge our close members & friends to support us in part sponsoring this event and/or to purchase the £80 tickets to help us maximise fundraising.

This event is supported by Palestine Solidarity Campaign

AWA is a UK registered charity number 29 22 72 Registered Address: 515 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street, London W1B 5TF

Shereen Nannis
515 Linen Hall
162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TF
Tel: 020 7039 0182
Fax: 020 7039 0183

cover of Shelagh Weir's latest book on Palestinian embroidery

Monday, October 05, 2009

lse's 'transit tehran'

LSE (London School of Economics & Political Science) Arts has launched a Transit Tehran: Art and Documentary from Iran programme of events, running from 28 September to 6 November.

On Wednesday 7th Oct there is a reception hosted by Prof Sarah Worthington with a talk by the exhibition's curator, Middle Eastern culture dynamo Malu Halasa. Halasa is co-editor, with Maziar Bahari, of the handsome pictures and text book "Transit Tehran: Young Iran and Its Inspirations" (pictured above) published in the UK earlier this year by Garnet Publishing.

The Transit Tehran events include the film "Tehran Has No More Pomegranates" (14th Oct), a lecture by Halasa on Young Iran: Pictures, politics and stories (19th Oct) and the documentaries "Online Ayatollah" and "Countdown" (21st Oct). Details are in the calendar on the LSE arts website.

nabil saleh's novel 'the curse of ezekiel'

Lebanese novelist recreates Alexander the Great’s siege of Tyre
by Susannah Tarbush

In his new novel “The Curse of Ezekiel,” published by Quartet Books of London, the Lebanese novelist and lawyer Nabil Saleh transports the reader to Alexander the Great’s siege of the Phoenician coastal city of Tyre in 332 BC.

At that time, Tyre was the largest and most prominent Phoenician city-state. Much of its wealth was derived from the purple dye produced from the shell of the Murex sea snail. Today, Tyre – or Sour – is a city on the southern coast of Lebanon, rich in archeological remains.

Alexander’s seven-month siege of Tyre took place in the context of his campaigns against the Persians. Sidon surrendered to Alexander, but its rival neighbor Tyre held out. Tyre was located on an island opposite the abandoned mainland city of Old Tyre, and was defended by high walls. Alexander faced the problem that he had no fleet to call on, while Tyre had ships. Unable to attack by sea he drew up an audacious plan to build a causeway from the mainland.

The Tyrians attacked Alexander’s forces repeatedly during the siege, but were finally overcome. Alexander by now had backing from ships from Cyprus, and from Sidon and other Phoenician cities that had switched allegiance from the Persians.

“The Curse of Ezekiel” is Saleh’s fifth novel to explore Lebanese history. Saleh told Saudi Gazette that one reason for choosing to write about Alexander’s siege is that although it is “a very interesting period, very little has been written on it, even in Lebanon.”
In addition, the Phoenicians have tended to get a “bad press” in Lebanon, but this has now changed. Saleh explains that during the French mandate imposed on Lebanon after the First World War, the French encouraged the idea that Lebanese Christians had Phoenician rather than Arab roots. This was part of the colonizing power’s ploy to divide and rule the population, and to counter ideas of Arab unity. In recent years however there has been a growing appreciation of Lebanon’s Phoenician past.
Saleh sees something “fantastic” in the Phoenicians’ ability to create a kind of commercial empire by founding trading posts and settlements throughout the Mediterranean world. The civilization of the Phoenicians endured for hundreds of years because “they created mutual interests in trade, exchange and barter with the inhabitants of their settlements and trading posts.”
He contrasts this with “an empire that works to enforce its will by force. When there is a one-way interest only, it doesn’t last.”

Saleh has lived since 1977 in London, where he works as a lawyer, arbitrator and writer. His first two books were not novels. “The General Principles of Saudi Arabian and Omani Company Laws (statutes and shari’a)” was published by Namara in 1981. It was followed in 1986 by “Unlawful Gain and Legitimate Profit in Islamic Law: Riba, Gharar and Islamic Banking” (Cambridge University Press, re-published by Graham and Trotman in 1992).
Saleh intended his third book to be another factual work on law, but instead found himself writing his first novel “The Qadi and the Fortune Teller” (Quartet, 1996). The novel takes the form of the diary of a Muslim judge in Ottoman Beirut in 1843. It was re-published in 2008 by American publisher Interlink.
Once Saleh had started writing historical fiction set in Lebanon, there was no stopping him.
His second novel “Outremer” (1999) portrays the Levant in the 13th century, when it was under European control. The action of “Open House” (2001) takes place in Second World War Beirut. “Red Anemone” (Tamyras 2004), set in the city of Byblos in 1935, is based on the legend of Venus and Adonis.
The central character of “The Curse of Ezekiel” is a wealthy young Tyrian, Bomilcar, who leads a pleasure-filled life following the death of his father. He is an insider of the circles around Azemilk, King of Tyre.
When news reaches Tyre that Alexander has defeated the Persian King Darius at the Battle of Issus in southern Anatolia, the city’s elite has to decide how to react, especially given Alexander’s reputation for extracting bloody retribution. A wealthy ship-owner, Chelbes, advocates a simple switch from paying tribute to the Persians to paying it to Alexander, but others oppose such appeasement and are in favor of resistance.
The rivalry between Tyre and Sidon is an axis of the novel. After Alexander subdues Sidon, he allows his general Hephaestion to choose who should be crowned King of Sidon. Hephaestion selects a noble-blooded farmer, Abdalonymus.
Abdalonymus’s daughter Chiboulet is a beautiful young widow with whom Bomilcar falls in love when he meets her at the healing temple of Eshmun near Sidon. Bomilcar rescues Chiboulet from the evil designs of a priest at the temple, but the priest is killed in the struggle and Bomilcar and his new love must flee.
Bomilcar’s mother Inat at first opposes a union between her son and Chiboulet on the grounds that the young woman’s father is a mere farmer. But after Abdalonymus is crowned King of Sidon, he considers Bomilcar an unsuitable suitor for his daughter. It seems that the personal and political pressures on the couple will drive them apart.
Saleh is an unpretentious writer, with an emphasis on the story rather than on literary style, and the novel is lively and entertaining. He recreates a fascinating period of history, and furnishes the narrative with much authentic detail.
He describes how Alexander’s forces built the causeway from stones ripped from the buildings of Old Tyre, and wood from the forests of Mount Libanus. The Tyrians constructed skiffs and attacked the construction workers with arrows and javelins.

The workers were unable to build the causeway right up the walls of Tyre, as there the waters plunge to a depth of 600 feet. To overcome this problem Alexander ordered two siege towers to be taken to the causeway. When completed, they were taller than the city walls, and the range of their artillery had been doubled through the use of springs made of twisted animal tendons.
Saleh is now working on his sixth novel, and has moved beyond Lebanon to Baghdad in the ninth century AD when it was capital of Abbasid Empire under the Caliph Al-Ma’mun.
Al-Ma’mun encouraged scholarship, initiating a drive to translate works of knowledge into Arabic and founding the “Bayt al-Hikma” (House of Wisdom).

Saudi Gazette 25 October 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

youssef ziedan's ipaf winner 'azazel' in translation deals

Further evidence of the role of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) in stimulating translation of Arabic fiction into other languages comes with a report from the Emirates News Agency WAM that translations of this year's winner "Azazel" (Beelzebub) by Egyptian novelist Youssef Ziedan are to be published in the UK and five other European countries, plus Indonesia, next year. IPAF is a prestigous literary prize, worth a total of $60,000 to the winner.

The foreign publication rights are handled by London-based literary agent Andrew Nurnberg Associates (ANA) International. ANA also handles foreign rights for Ziedan's fellow Egyptian author Bahaa Taher who won IPAF in 2008, its inaugural year, for his novel "Sunset Oasis". Sceptre, the literary imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, published the book in the UK last month in translation by Humphrey Davies. Taher recently made a joint appearance at the Frontline Club in London with Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury to discuss "Sunset Oasis" and Khoury's novel "Yalo".

The English translation of "Azazel", being done by Jonathan Wright, is to be published by Atlantic Books. The other European publishing deals for the book are in Germany (Luchterhand), Italy (Neri Pozza), Greece (Livanis), Bosnia and Croatia (Ljevak) and Romania (Trei). In Indonesia the novel will be published by Serambi.

IPAF, launched by the Emirates Foundation in association with the Booker Prize Foundation of London, has the sobriquet "the Arab Booker". The longlist for the 2010 award is due to be announced on November 17, and the shortlist on December 15. The winner will be announced in Abu Dhabi on March 2. The judging process has stirred up considerable controversy in the first two years of IPAF, and the same is likely to be true in the current round of assessment. In the previous two years the identity of the judges was not revealed until the shortlist was announced, so as to avoid any attempts at external pressurisation of the judges. The previous two shortlists confirmed the strong position of Lebanon in publishing fiction, and of Egypt in fiction writing.