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June 2005

The Road To Damascus

Syria today is better known for its poet in exile, Adonis-often mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize-than for its writers in residence. Yet it is home to one of the oldest and most complex artistic cultures in the Middle East, persisting in heroic fashion, even under dictatorship. In "The Lanterns of Seville," Abd el-Salam al-Ujayli spins a dazzling tale of a search for the lost richness of Arabic culture in Spain. In "Darkness" and "Ahem," Ibrâhim Samûel illuminates the most repressive corners of a world without any such lanterns. In Haifa' Bitar's "Fatima" and Hasiba Abd al-Rahman's "First Breaths of Freedom," two powerful women writers explore the response of strong women characters to poverty and injustice. Dissident Faraj Bayraqdar is the third of our featured writers to address the experience of prison, in three poems written during his own confinement for political activism. And classic poet Nizar Qabbani leaves another light burning, in his lyric meditation on a more romantic Damascus of memory.

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Stop, and weep Not sadness over the corpse of the remnants of a cursed god and so not a sadness over a bird burdened with open space Don't…
Translated from Arabic
Barada, oh father of all rivers Oh, horse that races the days Be, in our sad history, a prophet Who receives inspiration from his lord Millions acknowledge you as an Arab Prince . . . so pray as an imam…
Translated from Arabic
The First Breaths of Freedom
By Hasiba Abd al-Rahman
Haven’t you missed the sun and rain and streets?During those long nights, didn’t you dream of these paths as you were eating ful and smoking? And how often did you torture yourself with thoughts…
Translated from Arabic by Shareah Taleghani
By KK Mohapatra
A paper kite, black with yellow stripes, dangled from the branches of the gulmohur tree, and a flock of agitated crows flew around it cawing. Some went in perilously close, others hopped restlessly on…
Translated from Oriya by Leelawati Mohapatra & Paul St. Pierre
Damascus, What Are You Doing to Me?
By Nizar Qabbani
How do the gardens of Sham transform me?
Translated from Arabic by Shareah Taleghani
from The Almond
By Nedjma
Aunt Selma was in the middle of a gathering of women when I disturbed her. Later on, I learned that in Tangiers the afternoon was the time for women to congregate. All dressed up, fashionable and lighthearted,…
Translated from French by C. Jane Hunter
By Ibrâhim Samûel
The remarkable thing didn’t happen within the half hour the audience spent waiting for the show to begin but, rather, in that short fleeting rupture of time during the show itself.Last Tuesday wasn’t…
Translated from Arabic by Alexa Firat
By Faraj Bayraqdar
Your cooing wears me out at night—so wear me out. Like wine in the odes, you go on cooingand leave me what moves horsesto tears,what weighs birds down with more wings,what singing followsYour coo…
Translated from Arabic by The New York Translation Collective
By Haifa` Bitar
Fatima did not capture my attention simply because she was a beggar-child. Alas, I was rather accustomed, in spite of myself, to the sight of children begging, pestering passersby in alleyways and on…
Translated from Arabic by Taline Voskeritchian & Tania Tamari Nasir
By Ibrâhim Samûel
It wasn't his cough reaching me from the inner cells across the dark, narrow hall that struck my interest more than the slamming of a door or the resonating ring of a pot falling on the hard floor.…
Translated from Arabic by Alexa Firat
The Lanterns of Seville
By Abd el-Salam al-Ujayli
To Julienne Peters of Brussels, who was moved to tears by the beauty of the Alcazar in the Seville of the Arabs, I dedicate these lanterns.“Would you look down on a cousin of yours if he addressed…
Translated from Arabic by Taline Voskeritchian & Tania Tamari Nasir
The A Team
By Natsuki Ikezawa
Good morning, students.Today ends our intensive course. These past ten days we have discussed specific methodologies in applied astrophysics: initial long-distance sighting, probe selection, plotting…
Translated from Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum