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Movement and Multiplicity: Writing from Mauritania

May 2021

Image: Maouya Azziz, Untitled. Courtesy of Imago Mundi.


This month we present fiction and poetry from Mauritania. Simultaneously Arab, West African, Saharan, and Sahelian, and straddling the Arabophone and Francophone spheres, Mauritania boasts a rich literature reflecting its multiple cultures. Ahmed Isselmou depicts a global currency system under cyberattack. In tales that speak to Mauritania’s tradition of movement, Aichetou looks back to a female community in a seventeenth-century Bedouin encampment, while Moussa Ould Ebnou sends a time traveler in search of a better future. Cheikh Nouh records the history and traditions of a village, and Mariem Mint Derwich highlights the role of women in preserving a nomadic culture. Mamadou Kalidou Ba sits in as two activist groups join forces against the repressive state. And Bios Diallo finds common ground with other African nations. We thank our guest editor, July Blalack, who contributes an illuminating introduction.

Movement and Stasis
By July Blalack
Mauritanian literature foregrounds characters on the move.
Outsider Mode
By Ahmed Isselmou
“The central server is under attack and receiving commands to self-destruct.”
Translated from Arabic by Katharine Halls
The Forsaken
By Aichetou
Listen, all of you, to what will later be said of the Forsaken by one of their descendants.
Translated from French by Edward Gauvin
Adabai
By Cheikh Nouh
Their nayffara is a flutelike instrument heavy with history, deeply immersed in sorrow.
Translated from Arabic by Sawad Hussain
You Will Tell Them
By Mariem Mint Derwich
You will say to them that she sleeps in the calabash of worlds
Translated from French by Emma Ramadan
Multilingual