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May 2015

New Palestinian Writing

This month we present new Palestinian writing from around the world, selected and introduced by Nathalie Handal. The eight young authors here work in multiple languages and hail from five continents, testifying to Palestinian literature’s vast thematic, stylistic, and linguistic range. In Jerusalem, Sousan Hammad maps a city and a heart, and Najwan Darwish dreams of the sea. From his exile in Reykjavik, Mazen Maarouf speaks of confinement and freedom. Yayha Hassan and Rodrigo Hasbún portray father-son alienation, and Asmaa Alghoul considers the cost of motherhood in wartime. Eyad Barghuthy finds an undefeated young boxer knocked out by politics. And Randa Abdel-Fattah speaks of her hybridized cultural identity as a Palestinian-Australian Muslim. We thank the A. M. Qattan Foundation for its generous support. In our special feature, we present new Bulgarian writing by Agop Melkonyan, Olya Stoyanova, Georgi Tenev, and Vlado Trifonov. We thank the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation for its generous support of the feature.

The Shape of Time: New Palestinian Writing
By Nathalie Handal
—Are you there?—Where?—Here?—You mean there?—I mean do you see the sea?—I see sand.—But do you see the sea?—I see time waiting for us.—You mean you…
A Map of Jerusalem
By Sousan Hammad
My grandmother’s house still stands. When she was born in the 1920s, the streets had no name. She said the earthquake parted them. And when my mother was born, two years after 1948, my grandmother…
Long Distance
By Rodrigo Hasbún
“You’re not going to fool around with your friend’s girlfriend.”
Translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes
Writing the Lives of Gaza: Video Interview with Atef Abu Saif
By Luisa Leme
Palestinian writer Atef Abu Saif, a finalist for the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, joined Words without Borders via Skype to read from his work and discuss the importance of writing…
Solitary Confinement on the Seventh Floor
By Mazen Maarouf
One dayI’ll tear off my lipsand eat themlike candy.One dayI’ll rip out my chestbecause I’m not an orphanagefor gathering angels.One dayI’ll remove the doorand stand in its steadto…
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid & Nathalie Handal
Both Freedom and Constraint: An Interview with Randa Abdel-Fattah
By Nathalie Handal
Randa Abdel-Fattah was born in Sydney in 1979 and grew up in Melbourne. She has written nine young adult books inspired by her research on racism, including Does My Head Look Big in This? Ten Things…
“Your Baby”
By Asmaa Alghoul
The phantoms behind the white sheet were moving more quickly now.
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
A Knockout Punch
By Eyad Barghuthy
It was in New York that he learned the real ways of boxing.
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
Life in Mount Carmel
By Najwan Darwish
Though I’m right beside it,I can’t call out to the sea:neighbor, come join me for coffee.Instead, my other neighbor Carmelvisits me through the windowwithout my permissionand never even once tries…
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid & Nathalie Handal
Father My Unborn Son
By Yahya Hassan
I spill twenty liters of darknessand a childhood up against the wallA Stone-Age hand a paperback KoranMaybe I could have loved youif I was your father and not your son
Translated from Danish by Kuku Agami & Al Agami
Old Proud Mountain
By Georgi Tenev
The machines struggled with the mountain, snow sent punctuated volleys against the windshields. Black and roaring, the cars sowed alarm.
Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
What Wolves Dream
By Olya Stoyanova
“Have you been watching too much ‘Animal Planet’ or what?!”
Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
The Barrister from Bar Doli
By Vlado Trifonov
She often called at this underworld hangout.
Translated from Bulgarian by Peter Skipp
Just the Two
By Agop Melkonyan
The Old Man had been preparing for these questions twenty years now. Nothing could surprise him.
Translated from Bulgarian by Kalin M. Nenov