Friday, March 30, 2012

Rabee Jaber's IPAF win opens new translation opportunities

Rabee Jaber receives the IPAF award from Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan MD of Emirates Foundation. On left of picture, Dr Khaled Hroub

Rabee Jaber’s IPAF win widens the Lebanese novelist’s translation and publishing horizons
by Susannah Tarbush

The announcement in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night that Lebanese writer Rabee Jaber had won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) for his novel The Druze of Belgrade is bound to intensify interest in his work among translators and publishers of Arabic literary fiction.

Laure Pécher, co-founder of the Paris-based literary agency Pierre Astier & Associés, which represents Jaber, says first offers for translation and publication of The Druze of Belgrade have come from publishers in three Balkan countries that were part of former Yugoslavia - Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. She adds: “We are now focusing on the UK, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil”.

The New York publisher New Directions has already signed up two of Jaber's other novels for publication in English translation. It may now seek to also acquire rights to The Druze of Belgrade. Editor-in-chief and publisher of New Directions Barbara Epler says she has asked Pierre Astier to see the IPAF-winning novel. “I hope to have a chance to consider that one as well, and perhaps we’ll be able to add that to our plans," she says.

The prize is worth a total of $60,000 to the winner – the $50,000 prize itself, plus the $10,000 that goes to each of the six shortlisted books. It is the Arab world’s most prestigious literary prize, and is often referred to as the Arabic Booker because while funded by the Emirates Foundation of Abu Dhabi it is run with support from the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

The Druze of Belgrade begins in the 1860s, following the war between Christians and Druze in Mount Lebanon. A Christian egg seller, Hanna Yaqoub, has the identity of a Druze fighter forced on him and is exiled with a group of Druze fighters. The book tells of his 12 years of imprisonment and his ordeals in Belgrade and elsewhere in the Balkans.

Jaber told the BBC World Service radio programme The Strand that although the novel is set in an Ottoman world that no longer exists, “at the same time it is this world that we are living in right now.” He cites the example of Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar, “the Butcher” who ruled Akka and then Beirut in the late 19th century. He kept prisoners in underground jails, anchoring them to the ground with iron fetters. He changed the chains only when new prisoners arrived, at which point he told guards to throw the old prisoners into the sea so the new ones could take their place. “Now this is the third world – it’s still going on one way or another,” Jaber said.

German was the first foreign language in which Jaber (under the name Rabi Jabir) was published when his 2002 novel Rahlat al-Gharnati (Journey of the Granadian) was published in 2005 by Verlag Hans Schiler under the title Die Reise des Granadiners translated by Nirmin Sharkawi and Claudia Ott.

Gallimard published Berytus Underground City in French translation by Simon Corthay and Charlotte Woillez as Berytus, Une Ville Sous Terre in 2009. Feltrinelli published America in Italian translation by E. Bartuli and H. Bahri last September, under the title Come fili di seta.

Jaber’s IIPAF win will encourage translators and publishers to assess the potential not only of The Druze of Belgrade, but also of other works in the (so far, and counting) 18-novel oeuvre of this amazingly prolific author whose first book appeared in 1992, the year he turned 20.

This was the second time Jaber had been shortlisted for the IPAF: his novel America was shortlisted in 2010. He has also received the accolade of being a Beirut39 author, one of the 39 authors aged 39 or less who were in 2009 selected by a jury as being particularly important. Beirut39 was a flagship project of Beirut UNESCO Book Capital 2009. An excerpt from America, translated by Marilyn Booth, appeared in Beirut 39: New Writing from the Arab World edited by Samuel Shimon (Bloomsbury 2010).

In addition to the IPAF cash prize, the IPAF award includes a guarantee that the winning novel will be translated and published in English. Although translations of some novels by Jaber (but not The Druze of Belgrade) have been published by French, Italian and German publishers, his work has yet to appear in English. No British publisher has yet reached a deal to publish any of Jaber’s work in translation.

New Directions of New York reached the first and only agreements so far to publish Jaber’s work in English with the signing up of two novels with translation by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. “We plan to publish The Mehlis Report this coming spring 2013 and then Berytus Underground City probably a year after that, allowing time for Kareem to translate that one for us as well,” says Barbara Epler. Berytus Underground City was first published in Arabic in 2005, and The Mehlis Report in 2006.

Jaber’s IPAF win is excellent news for his US publisher. “We are thrilled Rabee Jaber won the prize,” Epler says. “We think he richly deserves it but we also think this will be a great help here in bring his books with New Directions to the attention of reviewers, booksellers and readers.”

When it signed up its two Jaber novels, New Directions had “had an eye on Jaber for a while and had received a sample and summary of America from his distinguished agent Pierre Astier, whom we’ve known since he ran the terrific French publishing house Le Serpent a Plumes.”

Epler says: “We admired the writing very much, but New Directions tends to focus on what used to be called avant-garde or experimental fiction. While America has many excellent qualities, it seemed to us in many ways to be a strong traditional narrative. One of our editors, Jeffrey Yang, knows a young translator, Kareem James Abu-Zeid, and it somehow came up that we were interested in Jaber but hadn’t felt America was quite right for our somewhat narrow bailiwick. Kareem started raving about The Mehlis Report, and sent us in a very good sample and a convincing reader’s report describing the novel as a whole.” Friends of New Horizon at French publisher Gallimard had also spoken very highly of Jaber.

The central character of The Mehlis Report is a middle-aged architect Saman Yarid; the time is the period around the publication in October 2005 of the report by UN-appointed Detlev Mehlis into the car bombing that had killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri the previous February. Jaber weaves a complex narrative around his characters and Beirut itself that lends itself to multiple readings. Epler says: “The Mehlis Report is more than a realist novel, though tackling very real themes; it ventures into the land of the dead, where almost everyone is writing their memoirs.”

Epler adds: “Pierre has explained to me that in a broad sense Jaber works in two veins: one is the more experimental approach of The Mehlis Report and Berytus Underground City and the other is somewhat more traditional (and in that case historical) path of America. We decided, being very impressed with Jaber's writing, to acquire both The Mehlis Report and Berytus. Those are the two we now have under contract.”

Jaber, who studied physics at the American University of Beirut, combines his career as a novelist with that of a journalist and has been editor of leading pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat’s Afaq (meaning Horizons) section since 2001. He is an extraordinarily productive fiction writer. His novels have been published at the rate of almost one a year since his first novel Sayyid al-Atmah (Master of Darkness) was published in 1992. His most recent novel, Birds of the Holiday Inn, appeared last year.

Given Jabir’s rapidly growing and acclaimed oeuvre over the past two decade, it is surprising that his work has not so far been published in English translation apart from excerpts published in for example Banipal magazine. The extract from The Druze of Belgrade published in the most recent issue of Banipal, along with extracts from the other five novels shortlisted for IPAF, was translated by Nancy Roberts.

One wonders whether Jabir may prove to be like the famous Libyan novelist Ibrahim al-Koni in the sense of being an “under-translated” Arab author whose work suddenly catches on with English-language translators and publishers. Al-Koni is one of Libya's most celebrated authors, and has written more than 60 books but little of his work was translated before 2000. Since then a slew of his titles has appeared in English translation.

Kareem James Abu-Zeid has championed Jaber's writing for some time. In his reader's report to New Directions arguing that it should sign up The Mehlis Report he said: "As someone who has read many of the best Arabic novels of the past few years (and been offered the opportunity to translate some of them by various presses), I can say that Jaber is certainly one of the most talented...He is the single Arab author I am, personally, most excited about translating."

Egytpian-American Abu Zeid has emerged as one of the most talented of young Arabic-English literary translators in recent years. His translation of Sudanese novelist Tarek Eltayeb's Cities without Palms (American University in Cairo Press) was joint runner up for the Banipal Translation Prize in 2010. His translation of Eltayeb's The Palm House appeared was published this month by AUC Press and next month by Oxford University Press. He is now translating Moroccan writer Mohammed Achaari's IPAF 2011 co-winning novel The Arch and the Butterfly for Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP) with publication due in September.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

omar sabbagh squares up to his lebanese roots in 2nd poetry collection

The Lebanese-British poet Omar Sabbagh squares up to his Lebanese roots in his second collection from Cinnamon Press

English original of an article that appeared in Al-Hayat on 18 March 2012:
عمر صبّاغ شاعر بريطانيا اللبناني

الأحد, 18 مارس 2012
سوزانا طربوش

The article in Al-Hayat was accompanied by 3 translations of Sabbagh's poems into Arabic (the first-ever published English-Arabic renderings of Sabbagh's work) by the novelist, poet and Al-Hayat writer Jad El Hage (author of One Day in April ). The translated poems are On Lebanon (dedicated to Fouad Sanyoura), Poetry (dedicated to Maha Evers), and The Kindess of the Man (in memory of the poet's late maternal uncle Bisher Faris).

The 30-year-old Lebanese-British poet and scholar Dr Omar Sabbagh has in recent years won growing recognition as a distinctive and arresting voice on the British poetry scene. His poems have appeared many leading British poetry publications, and in September 2010 the Welsh independent publisher Cinnamon Press published his first collection “My Only Ever Oedipal Complaint” to critical acclaim. Now Cinnamon Press has published his second collection “The Square Root of Beirut” .

How does Dr Sabbagh view the second collection in comparison to the first? “I think my first book was an angry young man’s book - it was, quite literally, the objective correlative and transmogrification of a kind of felt misery, into measured words,” he says.

“I would say quite generally that my second book evinces, for all its remaining negativity, a certain extra factor of maturity and calm. In this second book if there is negative valency at any part, it is taken on board in a more ‘objective’ way, as an observer, or me a bit more able to stand outside myself. My tone or attitude –my stance towards the reader – is more resigned, more contemplative and at ease with evil, whether this latter be natural, circumstantial, purely psychological, or moral.”

“The Square Root of Beirut” carries praise on its back cover from Professor Roseanne Saad Khalaf, Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the American University of Beirut ( AUB). “Sabbagh’s distinctive voice is startling in its cool intelligence, deeply absorbing and provocative in its intensely complex love-hate fascination with his homeland, particularly Beirut, a seductive city of disturbing contradictions,” Khalaf writes.

Sabbagh says that on reading Khalaf’s comment “I realised that this book, to a certain extent at least, is like the first, which centred around parent-child relations, but writ large -- the city takes the place of parents.”

“The Square Root of Beirut” also has a highly favourable review on its cover from Patricia McCarthy, the editor of Agenda poetry journal. McCarthy writes: “Omar Sabbagh demonstrates how he has grown into his Arab/English voice, and found his own place in its archetypal, instinctive reaches. His ear is finely-tuned in these deft, incisive poems that shift between home and exile, love and death.”

She adds: “Each poem flows all of a piece, carrying its own alchemy, eroticism, and startling imagery, along with feeling thoughts, and thought-full feelings. Clever conceits, word play and large scope combine in this haunting, metaphysical, excitingly original collection.” Agenda’s book publishing arm Agenda Editions is due to publish Sabbagh’s third collection, “Waxed Mahogany”, by the end of this year.

Some of the 52 poems in Sabbagh’s second collection first appeared in magazines and online publications including Agenda, Envoi, Kenyon review online, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Reader, Stand and the Warwick Review. Three of the poems were published in Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature – proof that he is gaining a reputation not only as a British poet but also as an Arab poet, albeit one who writes in English.

Sabbagh was born in London in 1981 to Mohamad and Maha Sabbagh who had left Lebanon in 1975 and settled in the British capital. Sabbagh’s parents returned to live in Beirut some five years ago. Omar was awarded his PhD at Kings College, London University, a year ago for a thesis on the subject of Narrative and Time in the writings of Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad. He is currently spending a year as a visiting assistant professor teaching creative writing and English literature at AUB.

The new collection is dedicated to the memory of Omar’s maternal grandmother Sabiha Faris and of his uncle Bisher Faris, who died within a week of each other in summer 2010. “The four poems for my grandma and uncle are strategically in the centre of the collection,” says Sabbagh. The tender poem dedicated to his grandmother , entitled “A Rival to Incontinence”, finds the four-year old out walking with his grandmother: “Do you remember how we walked between the hedgerows / in the park, I at four aching to grow, you / aching at my aching?”

His uncle’s death leads to meditations on life and death and grief. The poem “A Day On” ends: “Death’s dance, / It’s grim ballet of breaking waves, / its slyly awful game with chance.”

Sabbagh thinks his literary side comes from his mother’s family, Faris. His mother’s father was Iraqi but she grew up in Lebanon and met Mohamad Sabbagh at AUB. Her mother Sabiha Faris taught children’s literature at AUB. Omar’s mother loves English literature, and she gave Omar him the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to read when he was 11. He says that even today, “my mother is my first editor”

His mother’s late brother Bisher was an economist who worked in the Saudi Finance Ministry. “He was a bachelor who thus lavished immense affection and kindness on all his nephews and nieces,” Sabbagh says. “I wear his purple scarf daily here, even if it clashes, to keep him close to my heart.”

Another of his uncles, Waddah Faris, was an art dealer and artist in Paris in the 1970s and 1980s. He now lives in Barcelona with his wife, the prominent Catalan artist Assumpcio Mateu with whom he has two children.

Some of the poems in “The Square Root of Beirut” are dedicated to his parents, jointly or singly, and to other family members. Other poems are dedicated to politician Fuad Siniora, psychiatrist George Resek, political activist and writer Tariq Ali and the psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips.

Sabbagh leads a life committed to poetry. Those on his poetry e-mailing list often receive one or more poems from him in a day, characteristically including the name of the bar, cafe or restaurant where they were written. He works with unusual speed. “I generally agree with Keats that poetry should come naturally or not at all...which is to say the most I ever spend on a poem is half an hour and I virtually never return to them. I write therefore 70 per cent rubbish, but feel this is necessary to produce that 30 per cent which is good.”

He adds: “I would say that the criticism a more senior poet than myself may make towards me is that my very fluency and embodied feel for the English language, sometimes makes me trust too much to talent and not enough to hard work.”

In terms of form, “I write what Goethe would call “bold writing”. I don’t use understatement like a lot of the cleverer sort of natively northern temperaments.” And “I believe that in so far as any real poetry is a confrontation with death, that all real poetry is actually about God.”

Sabbagh’s first collection was divided into two halves, the second of which consisted of 23 poems dedicated to a mysterious woman referred to only by the initial “C”. There are two poems dedicated to “C” in the second collection, entitled “First Bone” and “Sonnet of the (Latent) Stalker”.

Sabbagh compares the influence of “C” on his poetry to that of other women who have inspired a writer’s work. “C is my Beatrice (Dante), my Laura (Petrarch), my Dark Lady (Shakespeare), my Maud Gonne (Yeats), my Vera (Nabokov), my Asja (Walter Benjamin), my White Goddess (Robert Graves)... she represents the feminine for me, which is to say motherhood/matrix (how one is plugged into the earth), lust or, as well, the feminine side of me, what Jung would call my ‘anima’.”

Sabbagh did his first degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University. “C” is “based on a girl I espied in Oxford University’s Bodleian PPE reading room in autumn 1999 when I was 18 ...we talked maybe 4 or 5 times, me blushing and not being able to say anything beyond, say, ‘Hi, how are you?’” He adds: "I must stress ‘C’ signifies and is 'real' solely within a poetic perspective, rather than a realistic prosy one...that said, in many ways metaphors are more real than so-called reality.”
Susannah Tarbush

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

palestinian-us writer susan abulhawa tours jordan, qatar and abu dhabi with arabic version of 'mornings in jenin'

Susan Abulhawa

The Arabic translation of Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa's acclaimed debut novel Mornings in Jenin , (first published in English by Bloomsbury in 2010) is published this week by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP)as a paperback under the title Baynama Yanam Al Alam meaning "While the World Sleeps". To publicise the Arabic translation Abulhawa will be appearing at events in Jordan, Qatar and Abu Dhabi in the last week of this month. The publisher says: "This is our first major multi-country author tour we have arranged, so it is a milestone for BQFP."

The novel was translated by Samia Shanan. The title of the Arabic version is a translation of the title of the German translation of the novel, Während die Welt Schlief , published by Diana Verlag as a hardback in March 2011 and as a paperback next month. Explaining why the German rather than original English title was chosen as the basis of the Arabic title BQFP says: "The reason for choosing this title is that Jenin in Arabic means newborn which would sound strange. The German title therefore seemed to work better."The novel has so far been published in 22 countries including Norway, where it is a bestseller.

Susan Abulhawa's book tour begins on Sunday 25th March when she will appear in Amman, Jordan, at a 7pm event at the contemporary art space Makan , Building number 21, Nadim Al-Mallah Street, Jabal Al-Weibdeh,

On Tuesday 27th March in Qatar at 6.30 there is ‘An hour with Susan Abulhawa in collaboration with Fakhoora’ - an event in English with simultaneous translation. Location: Student Centre, Education City

Wednesday 28th March finds Abulhawa at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair where at 5.30pm she will take part in an event chaired by ADTV journalist Fatima Al Beloushi. On Thursday 29th March at 12.15pm in Abu Dhabi Abulhawa will take part in "Where the Heart is" - a panel discussion on how the idea of “home” affects writing - with cookbook writer Sally Butcher, travel writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith (travel writer) and poet Tishani Doshi.

Friday, March 09, 2012

marwan bishara presents his new book 'the invisible arab' at london's frontline club

The Nazareth-born Palestinian political sociologist Marwan Bishara has come to international attention in recent years as senior political analyst of the satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera English (AJE) and as editor and host of its flagship show Empire. Bishara, who lives in Paris, Washington DC and Doha, was at the Frontline Club in London on Tuesday night to discuss his new book The Invisible Arab: The Promise and Peril of the Arab Revolution (Nation Books, New York) in front of a packed-out audience. He discussed the book with BBC presenter and special correspondent Lyse Doucet, who has reported from several of the hotspots of Arab revolution over the past year. The discussion was followed by a Q & A session with the audience and a book signing.

Bishara has been a lecturer in International Relations at the American University of Paris and a fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He has written for numerous publications including the Guardian, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Newsweek, Le Monde and The Nation.

The event was sparky and punctuated by frequent laughter. But then humour has been a hallmark of the Arab revolutions. As Bishara writes in his book: “If, as one keen observer noted, every joke is a tiny revolution, the Arabs, and most notably the Egyptians, are revolutionaries par excellence.”

When asked by Doucet about the “Invisible Arab” of the title of his book Bishara explained there were two ways of looking at this, from the inside and the outside. “Within the Arab world those people who struggled over the last several decades for freedom and justice in their region, in their societies and their states, were made invisible in the rest of the society by dictators who wanted to make sure that those who had something to say did not say it. So the many thousands upon thousands of unionists, community organisers, human rights activists, and so on who struggled were imprisoned, tortured, censored and kept away from media – and there was nothing but state media anyway – or were sent to exile or to their deaths. So from within the Arab societies dictatorships made sure that those who had something to say were made invisible as much as possible.

“For the outside world, those very same people were also made invisible by an approach that saw the region through three prisms: energy security – the Arabs being those with their hands on the spigot so to speak - Israel’s security, and third and last the Arabs were seen as a threat to Western national security – hence terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and so on.” The Arabs, and especially the activists, were seen as unfriendly and as the enemy. “In so many ways because the region was seen from those three angles of national security, Israel security and energy security, the Arabs as human beings, as activists, as democrats, as human rights militants and so on were completely and utterly marginalised by Western leaders.”

But the West did like what he calls the "good Arabs" - young guys like Saif al-Islam Gaddafi who might for example use words like "awesome" and "cool". Bishara recalled an earlier event at the Frontline Club, a panel on the Arab uprisings held on 2 March 2011. Bishara's three fellow panellists on that occasion each gave Saif al-Islam the benefit of the doubt, and saw him as having been genuinely reform-minded. Bishara was the only panel member who strongly spoke out against Saif, saying he was neither good nor liberal but a “thug”, son of a dictator and, on the basis of his behaviour over the years, “like father like son”.

Recalling this earlier Fronline event he said Saif al-Islam might have spoken English, looked cool and been flamboyant, but he was nevertheless a “macho asshole”. But in the view of some in the West, the dictators generally were old fashioned "but the young dictators were wonderful – they were flamboyant, travelled round the world using their people’s fortunes – wasting them basically on parties and on paying call girls and so forth – and selling or giving out good contracts to Western companies by simply being invited to this and that.” They were routinely described as Western-educated "but mostly they stole the certificate or somehow got around it." The Gamal Mubaraks, the Saif al-Islams, and other young dictators or dictators-in-waiting were encouraged by the West and were seen as reformers. "There is nothing reforming about it at all except that they are more willing than their elders to speak of liberal, neo-liberal, politics with an American accent."

Bishara refers in his book to the young revolutionary Arabs as the "miracle generation" contrasting them with the "liberation generation" of the 1950s, the "defeated generation" of the 1970s and 1980s and the "lost generation" of the 1990s.

Marwan Bishara

The Invisible Arab is an essay, "a voyage in time and space" on the roots of many of the components of the Arab Spring. It is a reflection, its author writes, on "Arab defiance and hope against all odds; on how a new generation of Arabs overcame decades of fear, oppression, defiance and outright slaughter at the hands of some of the cruelest and bloodiest dictatorships of the twentieth century; on how the revolution exposed Western clichés about Arabs as neo-colonial farce, some of which were internalized by many of the West's 'good Arabs' over the decades."

He says that the revolution will ultimately be judged on how it scores with freedom and justice and on whether it can "pave the way for accommodating the various ideological, religious, political, and civic trends, as well as reconciling nationalism and Islam with democracy as the indispensable trinity of stability and progress in the Arab world." He observes that since the new Arab awakening started, the Egyptian and Tunisian “honeymoons” have given way to difficult and bloody confrontations in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. “It soon became clear that the swift beginnings of peaceful transition in Tunisia and Egypt were exceptions to the rule...” He acknowledges that the situation at the end of 2011 when his book went to press was fluid, and that future political storms could flood the Arab world with chaos. "However, I sincerely believe that the peoples of the region have made a decisive break with the past."

He writes that the Arab revolutions are motivated by an inclusive, pluralistic nationalism. The book assesses how the demographic "time bomb" has "proved to be the carrier of progress, unity, and freedom, how social networks of people have demanded social justice, and how new and satellite media intertwined to reconnect Arabs across borders, ethnicity, and religion."

Many concerns have been expressed about the course of the Arab revolutions more than one year after they erupted. Bishara used the example of an in-flight questionnaire, asking for passengers’ assessment of point of departure, point of arrival, service, stopovers, delays, convenience, and so on. "Revolutions cannot be judged that way," he said. There is no specific point of arrival, and it is not known how many bumpy rides there may be during the flight. To those who are dismayed that democracy still has not arrived he says "I am at least optimistic about the fact that we are breaking with the past and that there is a new generation that is promising, there are perils ahead, there are pitfalls on board, but it’s going to be up to this generation that made the revolutions possible to move their societies on the right track and in that way I’m optimistic."

There was considerable discussion on whether the uprisings in the Arab world could actually be called a revolution. Bishara said that at AJE there had been long discussions on what to call the phenomenon. “It’s not revolution in any historic context that we know and certainly not in an Arab Muslim context. So we are in a place where we have to have ijtihad – we have to interpret." What is revolutionary is that “there is a break with the past, there is a break with fear, there is a break with dictatorship but because this is not a totalitarian revolution they were not about to impose a new regime the morning after...What's incredible about the miracle generation is that actually they buy into this whole idea of pluralism, they take it seriously, they buy into this whole idea of opinion, and the other opinion, and freedom of expression and letting the people decide."

Asked about the apparent setbacks experienced by some women in the revolutions, for example in Egypt, he responded: “I don’t think Egyptian women or any other women in the Arab world today are less than what they were in 2010. I think they are far more than what they were. In principle, there was a far bigger role for the women in the revolution than there is generally speaking in society or in politics. Women played an indispensable role in the revolution; I think this will not go away. But this will not translate into equality and women being a forceful player in politics the morning after... And that’s where there’s a disappointment. In that sense I think women are more than in their rightful position to say, This is not fair."

He added: "I don’t think it’s the end of the road, i think women today are far more important because of the revolution and I think as time goes by they will prove to be, even within the Muslim Brotherhood, more powerful. The young women in the Muslim Brotherhood, I call them the Young Sisters of the Muslim Brotherhood, have become so vocal that even the older more cynical generation need to meet some of the stuff that they are saying because they are actually more in touch with the people than the old cynics... In a sense the unfairness is there, it is not as dramatic as it’s reported and I think it’s just fair but also practical for women to be playing a far greater role in the future of the Arab world".

On the question of the Palestinians and the Arab Spring Bishara said: “I think Palestine will suffer in the short term because Arabs are going to be preoccupied with themselves and they have a lot to be preoccupied by. But in the long term there will be fewer clients in the region, and more leaders representing people, and hence Israel will have more to reckon with.”

Some in the audience expressed worries about the possibility of an attack on Iran by Israel or the US or both. Bishara saw the scenario of possible war on Iran as an example of the regional old order and as “certainly in no way conducive to, or encouraging of, democratic peaceful changes in the Arab region." He was concerned that the question of Iran “will end up translating a lot of the good changes in the region to perhaps sectarian polarisation, and that is certainly the worst thing that could happen.”
Susannah Tarbush

Sunday, March 04, 2012

cinnamon press launches new anthologies of poets omar sabbagh, frank dullaghan & bill greenwell

Based on information from the Cinnamon Press website:

Poets Frank Dullaghan, Bill Greenwell, Omar Sabbagh

& their publisher Cinnamon Press

invite you to the launch of the poets' new anthologies:

Enough Light to See the Dark - Ringers - The Square Root of Beirut

Friday March 9th, 7.00 pm

The Poetry Cafe; 22 Betterton St; Covent Garden; London WC2H 9BX

Free event with bar


Saturday, March 03, 2012

village phone box reborn as a library

above: the event as reported in the Hunts Post, 7 March

Edward and Andrew Baily

On Thursday I travelled out of London to the Cambridgeshire village of Hemingford Abbots for the opening of the former BT phone box in the High Street in its new incarnation as a free 24-hour mini-library known as the Swap Box. March 1 was chosen as the date of the opening of as it was World Book Day. My twin uncles Edward and Andrew Baily had been given the honour of jointly cutting the red ribbon with two pairs of scissors. The event attracted much local interest: photographers present included representatives from the Hunts Post and Cambridge Evening News.

Edward and Andrew, who are poets and avid readers, have lived in the charming village dotted with thatched houses for nearly 40 years. They were also loyal long-time users of the phone box in the days before before their cottage was finally fitted with a BT landline.

a little light reading from the Swap Box

BT sold the phone box to the village for the princely sum of £1.00. After repainting, the box was fitted with shelves filled with books, magazines, DVDs, cassettes and videos donated by the villagers. The idea is that anyone who removes a book or other item replaces it with an item in similar condition, thereby keeping the stock ever replenished. The box remains unlocked 24/7.

The twins' initial donation to the Swap Box was the novel Fludd by Hilary Mantel and The Ringmaster by Morris West. A fellow villager had donated a run of paperbacks by Bernard Cornwell, author of books featuring Sharpe who was memorably portrayed by actor Sean Bean in a TV series. (The administrators of the Swap Box apparently at first thought on hearing of the donation of Cornwell books that it was a set of guide books and the like on Cornwall).

Edward and Andrew with Councillor Bates

A short speech was made at the ribbon cutting by councillor Ian Bates, of Huntingdonshire District Council who represents the Hemingfords and Fenstanton on Cambridgeshire County Council where he is cabinet member for growth and planning. He joked that when he had seen the twins' names he had thought of another Edward and Andrew: "we've got the royalty here at the moment!" He thanked the Village Hall committee: "A lot happens behind the scenes and they need to be thanked by the community for the work that they do not just today." He also thanked Edward and Andrew for agreeing the cut the ribbon and said "I am told that this used to be their phone - they've really claimed it back now. They used it for 35 years actually as their phone."

spread in the Village Hall

The ceremony was followed by tea and delectable homemade cakes in the large village hall which opened in 2004. I was struck again by the warmth of the community in Hemingford Abbots. There are village lunches in the Village Hall on the third Tuesday of every month except July and August, and art classes, yoga, whist drives and many other activities are also held there.
Susannah Tarbush

Polly Harper with the twins