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No Center: Omani Writers on the Question of Identity

May 2019

may-2019-no-center-omani-writers-on-identity-farah-al-qasimi-butterfly-garden
Image: Farah Al Qasimi, Butterfly Garden, inkjet print, 27 x 37 in, 2016. Courtesy of Helena Anrather and The Third Line. By arrangement with the artist.

Image: Farah Al QasimiButterfly Garden, inkjet print, 27 x 37 in, 2016. Courtesy of Helena Anrather and The Third Line. By arrangement with the artist.


This month, we bring you writing from five Omani writers who, as guest editors Ghayde Ghraowi and Ahd Niazy write, “engage with the precariousness of identity, how our settled selves are always under threat from without and within.” Man Booker International winners Jokha Alharthi and Marilyn Booth bring us a tale of a young Omani woman who finds herself grappling with her grandmother’s troubled past and the personal dilemmas of her fellow international students in London. Badriya al-Badri follows a transgender narrator through a kaleidoscope of memories and personal crises, while Aisha al-Saifi crafts a poetic response to the loss of father and country. Reem Allawati seeks to commit the ineffable to the page, while Abdulaziz al-Omairi‘s poetic engagement with the Classical Arabic tradition teeters between wistfulness and vengeance. In their striking range, these pieces offer modes of reconsidering what we think we know about not only Oman but also the uses of literature.

Unsettled: New Writing from Oman
By Ghayde Ghraowi & Ahd Niazy
Unsettlement, a lack of centeredness, manifests itself throughout each of the works in this issue.
A bitter orange tree
Copyright © Jared Preston / CC BY-SA 3.0
Bitter Orange
By Jokha Alharthi
In this excerpt from 2019 Man Booker International winner Jokha Alharthi’s novel Bitter Orange Tree, an Omani student dredges up her grandmother’s troubled past and grows entangled in the personal dilemmas of her fellow international students.
Translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth
Like Any Messiah Taken Unaware by Death
By Aisha al-Saifi
Death is colder than a cup of water on my body, and/ Fonder to me than sand
Translated from Arabic by Robin Moger
Multilingual
Electronic Thorns
By Reem Allawati
Its scent is like infirmity, / This soul
Translated from Arabic by Ghayde Ghraowi
Multilingual
Repentance
By Abdulaziz al-Omairi
I huddled in sorrow beside the warmth of my wound.
Translated from Arabic by Rawad Wehbe
Multilingual
The Shadow of Hermaphroditus
By Badriya al-Badri
Nothing can force me to go on living beneath Hermaphroditus’s long shadow—one half wearing the other, half a woman leaning on half a man.
Translated from Arabic by Ghayde Ghraowi
Multilingual