translated from the Arabic by Rana Asfour


Las Vegas was brimming with mosques. As soon as I’d typed “mosque near me” into the Google Maps search, myriad red dots displayed themselves all at once on my screen.

The Al-Hamada mosque, one of the first Las Vegas mosques founded in the Seventies, and winner of a five-star rating, boasted a review claiming that its writer had “felt at peace” as soon as he’d crossed over the threshold. Another described how its congregation had helped “during the family’s short stay in Las Vegas” and that “God is Great.” A perusal of the mosque’s online images seemed to indicate that the building itself occupied a tight space, with no dome or minaret. Most of its visitors appeared to be dark-skinned, which meant the congregation were most likely followers of the Nation of Islam.

I scratched it off my list.

I had no plans to attend an American Salafi mosque. I hadn’t left the shortened robes, the miswak, the scent of musk and the bushy beards in Egypt, only to come here for much of the same. At times, I’d come across them in West Las Vegas as they approached cars stopped at the traffic light, hawking their literature for $10 my brother. One of them honed in on me while I was in my car. Cornered, I lied that I had no cash. No problem, brother, he replied, undeterred as he presented me with a card reader attached to his mobile phone. After I’d paid, I browsed the magazine and found that it mostly contained news of the leaders of the brotherhood.

I quickly moved on to click the link to the second mosque on the list. There, on their website (in the third line to be exact), was a message explicitly indicating that they were open to all races, nationalities, and sects. The recurrent usage of words like “race” and “color” seemed to imply that they did not belong to the Nation of Islam. It appeared that they belonged to the Las Vegas Islamic Center, which was founded in the Eighties.

A further online search came up with the Al Omariya, a mosque as well as an Islamic school. The images portrayed girls as young as ten in their hijab. This website was loaded with proselytization on sound education, proper morals, and the preservation of the nascent Muslim youth. Off the list it came. All I had wanted was to visit a mosque, not send my children to an Islamic brainwashing laundromat. Yet another mosque’s website displayed a picture with a caption titled Bless you, Oh Hussain! declaring its Shiite affiliation. Al-Hikma, on the other hand, had received comments regarding the quality of the food.

Just then, as the waitress came round to clear my now empty beer bottle and to ask if I wanted a second one, Jose Al—– appeared. I stood up to shake his hand and he hugged me and took a seat across from me. He asked me the usual questions about work and family and I answered, albeit distracted, and then proceeded to mechanically ask him much of the same. Once I had a new frothy beer at the table in front of me, I duly announced my plans to visit a mosque.

— Don’t you have a mosque you go to already? he asked.

— No, I replied.

With seven years between us, Jose was still in his twenties. Sleepy-eyed and huge, his large, impressive, and tightly wound muscular bulk was covered in tattoos. He was a bartender at the same hotel where I worked as a purchasing director, in charge of quality control and food storage. But that was before we were both laid off. We met by chance at a work gathering that brought together employees from the various departments to listen to the “motivational” spiel of their managers. In that first encounter, he brought up poetry, and I let on that I not only read it but wrote some myself. Immediately, he extended his hand for me to shake and introduced himself as a poet. And so, we became friends. But we didn’t really talk much about poetry, as his interest and expertise centered mainly on American poetry and a little Mexican, while I read exclusively in Arabic. I confess that I hadn’t read a single poem in English before I’d met him. As one who claimed to write for immigrants like himself, his English poetry was duly peppered with Spanish. Southern poetry. It’s all about fiery, passionate words my friend. Do you get what I’m saying? he’d ask.

When COVID-19 struck, Jose was among the first batch to be laid off. For a while, he scraped by on unemployment benefits and food delivery gigs in his old Kia, until he managed to find work at a large warehouse that imported cheap goods and auto parts from China that were resold in the U.S.

I fail to recall now how Jose met Phil, whom he brought to our second meeting. Since then, he’s become the third in our triumvirate that communes weekly for beer drinking. I remember, back then, how he’d plunked his solemn, imposing self down, asked for his beer and once it had arrived, remained silent the entire time, listening as I explained to Jose the difference between Friday prayers and Sunday church service.

I confessed to Jose that I hadn’t once been to Friday prayers since I’d arrived in the United States. At that, he reached into his pocket and retrieved a black hair tie, gathered his hair between his fingers, and launched into an extensive monologue about the importance of going to the mosque and to Friday service. Even if I wasn’t particularly religious, it was the best way for me to get to know my community, especially since an immigrant could, at any given day, find himself in need of help or support. Generally speaking, he extrapolated, religious people, regardless of their faith, were always eager to help, believing this would bring them closer to God.

I conceded that I hadn’t considered any of this. All I’d been searching for was a clean mosque that I could attend for the afternoon prayers where the ceiling fan dials would be turned to the fastest speed. Preferably, an empty mosque with very few — one or maybe even two — worshipers, reading the Qur’an in a barely audible voice. I wanted to reclaim the time when, as a child, I’d visit the mosque to lay down on its carpeted floor, close my eyes, and let all my worries and troubles spirit themselves away.

Phil piped in that he understood me completely, and that although he himself was an atheist, he could still understand how places of worship could be repositories of energy, able to evoke and withhold soothing communal memories for their congregants. It was a cave in the Valley of Fire State Park that did it for Phil — a place where early inhabitants of the valley had worshiped and prayed. On every visit, without fail, he felt the energy coursing through the place, despite the centuries that had passed.

Phil was five years older than me. I’ve never understood exactly what he does. All I knew was that he was born in Las Vegas, had a big family, and owned a house and a car. Phil, who worked in the deserts of Vegas and Arizona, looked upon his work — shooting documentaries for PBS — as something closer to a hobby in which he went on long expeditions exploring nature, delving into the history of the deserts’ inhabitants, and unearthing extinct civilizations. His theory was that life in the Vegas Valley went through expansive cycles every four or five centuries, during which the valley would flourish, attracting people to settle down and build. Two to four centuries later, depending on the extent of that civilization’s depletion of nature, another drought would strike the valley, forcing its residents to abandon their parched lands, leaving the dust from the heels of their forced exodus to wipe away the urbanization they left behind.

— I don’t get where the problem is, said Phil, interrupting my thoughts. Aren’t there any mosques in Vegas?

I unlocked my phone and showed him my screen displaying the last mosque I’d been researching on my browser.

 On the contrary, I said. I’m spoilt for choice at the number of mosques here. But, I’m at a loss over which one to choose.

—–Read the whole story at: https://themarkaz.org/ahmed-naji-godshow-com/

Salman Rushdie and the enduring risk of political art

From a report at VOX: https://www.vox.com/world/2022/8/16/23307317/salman-rushdie-stabbing-free-speech-art-threats-global

Funnily enough, Naji had taken up reading Rushdie in prison. He had always wanted to read Rushdie’s novels, he said, but they are big, long books, and he remembers telling his friends that he never had the time. So Naji’s friend sent him Midnight’s Children in prison, and then four more of Rushdie’s novels. “I always felt there is a kind of connection and relation between us,” Naji told me.

Now, Naji is a fellow at the Black Mountain Institute in Las Vegas, a literary center that is part of the City of Asylum network that Rushdie had envisioned. That refuge might seem unnecessary in 2022.

But 30 years after the publication of The Satanic Verses, risks to writers endure. Some of those hazards come from violent extremists. Last month, the terrorist group al-Qaeda, in one of its publications, issued a death threat against the Egyptian journalist and novelist Ibrahim Eissa. States, too, engage in violent censorship, and a review of PEN’s Writers at Risk Database include those who have been murdered, jailed, or disappeared in repressive countries across the world. Authors are detained in Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and many other countries. Journalists, of course, confront violence as ever.

Some critics and scholars question whether Satanic Verses could be written today. Rushdie himself posited as much in 2012. But looking around the world at all of the writers at risk who continue to work against unfathomable challenges, I think it could.

“Writers have been in terrible situations and have yet managed to produce extraordinary work,” Rushdie said in 2012. “[T]he history of literature is full of moments in which writers in dreadful situations have produced great stuff.

“And I thought to myself, ‘OK, well, if this is your turn, if you find yourself in the latest of that line of people, don’t make excuses.’”

Traps and Shadows in Noor Naga’s Egypt Novel

Translated from the Arabic by Rana Asfour

We find ourselves in Cairo in a post-2016 world, when a bald American girl arrives in what she feels is her homeland and the origin of her roots. Reading between the lines, we gather that she’s left America, fleeing from a sadness that she does not disclose. We know, because Noor Naga tells us from the first chapters that the American girl keeps shaving her head, but what she does not tell us is the reason behind her decision to remain bald. We also know that she is the daughter of Egyptian immigrant parents, that she graduated from Columbia University in New York, and that her father is a practicing physician in a clinic in the heart of Manhattan. Shocked at her decision to visit Egypt, her mother nevertheless makes the necessary calls, after which the daughter arrives, stays in a luxurious apartment in one of Cairo’s most affluent neighborhoods, and obtains a tidy job as an English teacher for adults, at the British Council.

Noor Naga begins her novel If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English with the promise of intense drama. An escape story, a trip home, secrets to unravel, but what truly gets one involved in the reading is her immensely fluid prose, as each sentence forces one to stop long enough to savor it slowly — prose that is highly complex and supremely intelligent.

When I arrived at Ramses Station in Cairo, the air was people. Nowhere you looked wasn’t people. They clogged every street and then piled on top of each other in buildings twenty stories high. Many were not even Egyptian. You could turn into an alley and find fifty Sudanese men, bluer than black, with cheeks like shoulder blades and ankles like knives, or else women as tall as I am, women so pale you could see rivered blood at their wrists and neck. I heard twenty Arabics in my first week and wherever I went people asked me — sometimes in English because of the hair — Where you from?

Naga’s novel is divided into three main parts. In the first movement of the operetta, there are short pieces, each one limited to two pages in length. They all begin with “What if” and have a transcendent feel to them: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, should your mother be punished?” The narration alternates between two voices, the American girl and a boy from Shobrakheit, who appears as a partner in the novel. Naga describes his upbringing in a village on the margins of the Egyptian countryside, raised by a possessive grandmother who envelopes him in a private world, in which she feeds him with her hands. The two share a bed and bathe together. When his grandmother dies in 2011, he heads to Cairo with his camera, a gift from his grandmother, only to arrive in a city that is in the midst of a revolution. He soon finds himself part of a new group being shaped by the city’s tumultuous uprising, streets, city squares and gas bombs.

Enraptured by the new social order, he captures it all on his camera, and it’s not long before the TV stations and news agencies are racing to publish the photographs he takes from the heart of Tahrir, the Square, that document the clashes taking place. Two years later, the revolution is defeated, and the now world-class photographer from Shobrakheit loses his sense of purpose and questions the meaning of his existence, hanging up his camera and refusing to take any more photos that would document a “fake reality.” With dwindling resources, he moves into a hovel in one of Cairo’s boroughs. His subsequent addiction leads him on a path of self-destruction.

By this point, readers can easily predict how the rest of the story will unfold. The American girl will meet the boy from Shobrakheit, they’ll fall in love, until it all dramatically falls apart. It’s a tale that’s been repeated over and over again in fiction, particularly in the years following Egypt’s 2011 revolution. A popular tale because of its intimacy, especially for a reader like me who lived his life in downtown Cairo and witnessed the beginning and end of dozens of such similar stories. Moreover, for the past decade or so, this is a theme that has been recurrent in Egyptian literature written in Arabic. What Naga does however, is turn this straightforward, simplistic theme into horrific scenes and landscapes in which social class and political identity clash, culminating in a tragic crime.

Egyptian Literature

The history of Egyptian literature, written in English, can be divided into two phases. The first is Egyptian writers born and raised in Egypt for whom English formed an essential part of their education due to their social class, such as Wajuih Ghali, Samia Serageldin, Ahdaf Soueif and others. A sense of alienation presents itself in various forms in the writings of that period, mainly a sense of not belonging within the class the writer occupies. The only exception, perhaps, is Wajuih Ghali, who rebelled against his own class, certainly in the novel Beer in the Snooker Club.

The second phase includes writing from the children of Egyptian immigrants, which began in the ‘70s and continues to this day. According to official Egyptian government figures, the number of Egyptians residing abroad is close to ten million. Estimates from the Egyptian embassy in the United States put the figure of those who live in the US at one million, though this is contradicted by the US Census Bureau, which estimates Egyptian emigrants at a quarter of a million. Regardless of these different figures, this nation of millions living in the diaspora has become part of the modern Egyptian identity, reshaping the meaning of Egypt, and presenting its image through its artistic and literary works, especially as many within this group possess material and scientific capabilities that allow them the power of autonomous representation, or as Naga asks in her novel, “If an Egyptian cannot speak English, who is telling his story?”

Noteworthy is the fact that Egyptians residing abroad who speak different languages — and like the protagonist of the novel study in prestigious universities — transfer, according to the Egyptian government’s latest figures, more than 30 billion dollars annually to the country, representing 8% of the government’s total budget. And so the question that one asks oneself here is if the American girl, with her English, is really able to tell the tale of the boy from Shobrakheit.

Language, English in this case, is an impediment that imposes a rift within the life of the American girl moving to Egypt, and those around her. Her poor command of Arabic exposes her and makes everyone ask her where she’s from. Add to that the writer’s decision not to name her protagonist, to refer to her only as the “American girl,” seems to enforce that idea, despite her Egyptian heritage and time spent in Egypt, language continues to be a barrier to communication, even after she falls in love with the boy from Shobrakheit and he moves in to live with her in her luxury apartment.

The boy from Shobrakheit, who was raised in the care of a smothering grandmother, sits next to the American girl while she eats and expects her, like his grandmother, to feed him. The American feminist soon finds herself in a relationship that has turned her into a dispossessed woman — one who goes to work in the morning, while her male partner sits at home waiting for her to come back to cook and clean, while he does nothing except watch videos on YouTube.

Noor Naga (photo courtesy Poetry Foundation) is an Alexandrian writer who was born in Philadelphia, raised in Dubai, and studied in Toronto. She is the author of a verse novel, Washes, Prays. She is winner of the Bronwen Wallace Award, the RBC/PEN Canada Award, and the Disquiet Fiction Prize. She teaches at the American University in Cairo.

The American girl soon loses herself within a world dominated by Arabic and a system of social codes that she is unable to decipher or navigate. Subtly, changes within her behavior take shape in a before and after Egypt form. Prior to her arrival in Egypt, the American girl had been a political activist, who had once revolted against a man and led a whole subway car against him in New York when she witnessed him harassing a veiled woman. The scene had been filmed and even gone viral. However, in Egypt, we see her remain silent, when her friend, the owner of a famous restaurant, refuses to seat two veiled girls in his establishment, because their hijab would put off the “clean Egyptians,” the rich bourgeoisie, decked in Western brands.

In the second part of the novel as the two voices continue to alternate, Noor Naga introduces detailed footnotes that readers assume are likely guidelines for familiarizing the non-Egyptian reader with Egypt, such as its foods that include the different varieties of mangoes, as well as foul, our traditional dish made of fava beans. However, as an Egyptian, these footnotes left me ill at ease, as they appeared to contain errors and factual details that did not add up. I was particularly drawn to one referencing a Nubian writer by the name of Sayed Dhaif, whom I had never heard of and could not find in any of my searches. When I sent the author an enquiry, she admitted that she had, in fact, invented the character. He was not real and neither were a number of other “facts” in her footnotes.

And so it is that the author sets up several traps in the novel for the reader who looks upon literature as an accurate representation of its subject. She ingenuously casts these traps to mimic the American girl’s interpretation regarding the realities of life around her in Egypt, in which she fails to distinguish between the facts and lies that the boy from Shobrakheit makes up. The ensuing confusion and the difficulty of differentiating between the multiple narratives around what is real and what isn’t reaches its climax when it comes to the details of the pair’s relationship. The scene that the boy from Shobrakheit paints is one of unbridled love, while the American girl portrays one of violence.

Trapped within a relationship in which she is unable to distinguish between love and abuse, things escalate slowly until at one point, the boy from Shobrakheit hurls a coffee table at her, inflicting severe wounds and bruises. It is only when the boy from Shobrakheit finally disappears that she is able to return to the remnants of her former life. She ends up meeting an American man living in Cairo, and further entanglements ensue when the boy from Shobrakheit dies, a mystery readers will have to work out for themselves.

Naga plays around with light and shadows, and like a magician manipulates the reality we see in front of us, making us doubt the veracity of whatever her narrators tell us right up to the moment when all is revealed in the last chapter.

Throughout the novel, Noor Naga toys, like a magician, with light and shadow, obscuring certain details while revealing others, casting doubt on everything, right up to the final chapter in which readers encounter the American girl, back in America, discussing, with colleagues in a creative writing class, the final chapter of her novel.It’s a final chapter that readers of this novel aren’t privy to but rather garner its content from the commentary of the American girl’s classmates as they share their critical take on it. The American narrator’s colleagues discuss her novel filtered through the lens of a contemporary American values system as one colleague objects to her empathy with the boy from Shobrakheit, arguing that her writing serves to perpetuate sympathy for the oppressor, and legitimizes violence against women.

Another reader asks the writer for more details related to Egypt, mining her for exciting features that play to an imagined sensibility of a distant place. All the while, the American girl is silent, happy to merely take in the comments, as if the author, having explained her two protagonists in previous chapters, surprises English readers with a mirror that reflects their own questions. In the end, it is one colleague only who focuses his comments on the technical components of the novel and advises her to delete the last chapter, which is exactly what she does. Hence, its unavailability within this novel despite everyone talking about it in this novel’s final chapter.

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is a novel much like Egyptian mangoes, whose taste lingers on the tongue long after the last bite.

Arab Fiction Now & The Challenges of Writing in & About the Region

This panel of leading regional and diaspora authors will discuss the inspiration for their most recent novels and the social, cultural and political context informing their work. The panel will also explore the challenges that Arab writers in the region and its diaspora face as they reflect on societies dealing with globalization, trauma, gender, sexuality and identity.

Not my Egypt – Interview with pen/opp

Ahmed Naji is trying to understand the zeitgeist. In the 36 years of his life he has witnessed dictatorship, revolution, counter-revolution, military coup, jail and exile.

Ahmed Naji’s story is unique. He is the first author jailed for a work of literary fiction in Egypt’s modern history. What is more, he was not jailed for the political views one might glean from Using Life, but for “obscene” and “immoral” language, as well as depictions of drugs and sex.

Read journalist Edgar Mannheimer’s exclusive interview with Ahmed Naji in this week’s ” Writers in Exile”.

Read the whole interview here: https://penopp.org/articles/not-my-egypt

Taming the Immigrant: Musings of a Writer in Exile


I see no impurity or weakness in fear, unlike courage which I have often found to be synonymous with male folly. In fact, if anything, fear keeps you alert, vigilant, in a state of internal meditation even, one that enables you to gradually build up your psychological defenses. I refer here to a specific limiting fear; one that has nothing to do with panic, horror, or distress in response to a perceived and clear threat but one that is instead subtle and tame. A fear that, as infants, we ingested with our mother’s milk, and after we were weaned, it moved on to become a component of our daily sustenance that we were fed mixed with deception, lies and concealment, all that we relied on to survive.

A fear laden with advice such as Listen to what you’re told, Walk the line, Stay out of troubleIf a bully stops you don’t fight him and give him all you’ve got, Eat up or the food you leave on your plate will run after you on Judgment Day, If you masturbate you’ll go blind and weaken your knees, Say please, Say Alhamdulillah, Don’t discuss politics, Wear an undershirt,” etc, etc, etc, and before you know it, Boom! You’ve reached adolescence and you learn the necessity of stepping out of a traffic officer’s way should you encounter him in the street, concealing your identity from those you talk to, and never discussing religion with anyone, so that by early adulthood you find that your practical experience with fear up to that point has earned you the ability to practice life fully with it constantly by your side: You make love to your girlfriend whilst surrounded by multiple fears that begin with the neighbors potentially breaking in to the house, being stopped by a police officer in the street, a ripped condom, your friend returns home before you two are finished, for her female cousin to learn of your affair, or her mother’s male cousin to encounter the two of you together, and yet in spite of all these fears, Arab love stories persist and grow; we marry, we procreate and we separate.

A total life spent in the company of fear, for who are we to refuse the fear or rebel against it? We are a people who consume fear instead of croissants with our coffee; we are the owners of sharp and hurtful tongues that puncture holes in our bravery, strength, fastidiousness and individuality, and all our beautiful Arab values on rebelliousness, bravery, and daring feats that are invoked in the songs of Egyptian festivals in which the artists string lyrics about their ability to take up arms and see any battle to its bitter end seem in vain when someone like Captain Hani Shaker, Head of the Syndicate of Musical Professions in Egypt, hounds artists and forces them to swallow their words. Intimidated, they cave in, because they, like all of us, were raised in fear too.

I admit that the previous paragraph is long and full of scattered ideas and images, and I am aware that one of the guidelines of eloquent editing dictates that I break up my paragraphs and sentences into shorter ones. I must rid the text of everything that could potentially distract the reader from the work’s central theme. As I re-read the previous paragraph, I feel a creeping fear and hear a chafing voice that orders me “to write as one ought to, to tow the line, to define my idea, to express my thoughts minimally and precisely, to keep the text clean and simple.

In all probability, I’ll succumb to this type of fear, solely for its novelty, a non-Arab fear if you will, one unlike the one my mother, my society and my government instilled in me, one I’ll liken to a swarm of invading ants that have stealthily taken residence, festering inside of me in the last few years since my move to America, eating away at my self-confidence, severing all communication with the real me. Are you getting any of this? Do you know what I’m trying to say? Never mind, let’s start at the beginning one more time. And yet, there is no beginning point to return to, I am in the middle, stuck with fear in a hole whose walls are screens that display urban landscapes, and stunning images of nature from the North American continent…

Read the full text here: https://themarkaz.org/taming-the-immigrant-musings-of-a-writer-in-exile/

Música en Egipto en la última década: entre huir y asestar con las autoridades

Comencé mi carrera en el periodismo hace 17 años. En una serie de incidentes no planeados, terminé cubriendo actividades musicales y la escena de la música contemporánea como mi enfoque principal. 

[Se prohíbe expresamente la reproducción total o parcial, por cualquier medio, del contenido de esta web sin autorización expresa y por escrito de El Intérprete Digital]

En un mundo anterior a 2011, había bastantes regulaciones y limitaciones que controlaban la producción musical en Egipto, entre tres círculos adyacentes no entrelazados: 

El primer círculo es la producción musical oficial. Este círculo incluye la producción financiada por el gobierno o compañías gigantes egipcias o árabes que pueden operar en esta área, como Rotana y Al-Mamlakah, con sede en Arabia Saudita, o Mazzika and Free Music, con sede en Egipto. Este género musical ‘lucrativo’ con fines comerciales es el más cercano a la música pop y, a veces, puede incluir reordenamientos de música clásica como los conciertos de Om Kolthoum y otras canciones inspiradas en la tradición y el patrimonio árabe. Combinada con la música de los nombres más populares como Amr Diab, Nancy Ajram, Mohammad Abdo o incluso Samira Said, esta música ocupa la mayor parte del mercado musical.

El segundo círculo engloba un pequeño número de instituciones culturales financiadas por la comunidad o por la Unión Europea. Estas instituciones, a su vez, financian la producción musical de algunos artistas experimentales o ‘clandestinos’. La cuota de mercado de esta música es bastante pequeña y la única forma de escucharla es asistiendo a las actuaciones de estos cantantes en pequeños teatros. Si bien estas canciones no suelen transmitirse por radio o televisión, son las más cercanas a la cultura egipcia de clase media. Ejemplos de esta música ‘clandestina’,  bandas como Cairokee, Fareeq West Al Balad y Yaseen Hamdan.

El tercer círculo, que es el más extendido de todos y el menos financiado, es el canto ‘shaab’”. Este género no encontró hogar en teatros públicos o privados; más bien, los cantantes de shaabi cantaban a menudo en bodas y teatros callejeros. Y a pesar de la popularidad de sus canciones, no se transmitieron por televisión, sino que estaban ampliamente disponibles en casetes baratos grabados en estudios modestos. Esta música era de fácil acceso en todas partes.

Entonces, sucedió la Revolución del 25 de enero. En ese momento, las plazas públicas de todo el país se convirtieron en un crisol de estos tres círculos de música —lugares donde se instalaron altavoces en cada rincón y donde se invitó a cantar por los altavoces a todo tipo de artistas y cantantes. Mientras caminaba por la plaza Tahrir, seguí notando que las clásicas canciones nacionalistas antiguas de los años sesenta volvían a la vida. Pronto, cantantes ‘clandestinos’ invadieron las plazas e inmediatamente comenzaron a producir canciones que adoptaron la retórica de la Revolución. Mientras tanto, los cantantes pop se mostraron reacios a participar, mientras algunos ya estaban involucrados en respaldar a Mubarak y atacar la Revolución.

Recuerdo muy bien la semana anterior al 11 de febrero. En ese momento, visité la Plaza Tahrir y descubrí que esta nueva canción no identificada se cantaba en todas partes. Más tarde llegó a ser conocida como la canción “mahraganat” “Ya Husni Seebna Haram Aleik” (Husni, por favor déjanos tranquilos). (N.d.T.: la palabra árabe mahraganat denomina el género musical que combina la música popular shaabi y música electrónica). 

—- Read the rest: https://elinterpretedigital.com/2021/11/03/musica-en-egipto-en-la-ultima-decada-entre-huir-y-asestar-con-las-autoridades/

All attention to the art

I don’t know when this architecture tradition started, but I believe most of us are familiar with it. You enter a giant building, and at the entrance, you come across a glass box displaying the building’s scale model/maquette. You are inside the building, yet you are observing a miniature rendition of the building from above.

If you visited Las Vegas City Hall last month, at the entrance you would have stood in front of a full-scale maquette for a housing studio built out of cardboard on 160 sq ft. This maquette represents one of the weekly-rental studios that are spread all over the city. It may also remind you of the housing projects that the city and its civil society afford for the homeless. But when you get close, you will find a modest label with the artist’s name on it: Nima Abkenar.

The maquette/artworks invite you to enter. No doors to open. You walk into a small kitchen, a space intended for the bed, and a couple of squares allotted for the restroom. In the end, you are confronted by a wall with fluorescent lights hanging on it. Fluorescence is Nima’s fingerprint; we could spot it in most of his artworks, an aesthetic he took from his home city where fluorescent lights are widely used on mosques and shrines.

Outside of the city hall building, swarms of homeless and vagrants were taking over the streets, sleeping under the shade if they found it, or roving around in a circle that led nowhere.

I couldn’t separate the homeless situation in Las Vegas from Nima’s installation at the city hall, where people who work daily in the building are the ones who are responsible for finding a solution to this problem.

But this was my perception of an art project that has other layers and roots. Some of them go back to Nima himself, who arrived as an immigrant here only to end up revolting against the art school at UNLV and the Art Institutes of Las Vegas — although he lost and was spurned by them for several years. Now he was showing his work in the most official place in the city, revolting against the kitsch/cliché art that dominated Las Vegas’ public image for decades.

Read the full article here: https://medium.com/@as.naje/all-attention-to-the-art-49ca339da7ee

إبراهيم عبد المجيد يكتب: كيف غاب هذا الكاتب عن النقاد وتاريخ الرواية المصرية؟

ليس من عملي البحث والاستقصاء في تاريخ الأدب . لكن هذا لا يمنع من الدهشة حين ألتقي بنص لم أعرفه من قبل أو أسمع به . هذه المرة كانت الدهشة كبيرة جدا لأن ما وصلني هو نص غاب اسم صاحبه تماما ، وغابت أعماله عن النقد الأدبي في مصر أو العالم العربي ، وما يهمني هو مصر .

الكاتب يحمل اسما شهيرا جدا هو اسم “سعد الخادم” . وهو إسم يحيل أي شخص علي الفور إلي أستاذ التراث الشعبي الشهير والفنان التشكيلي العظيم سعد الخادم ، صاحب الأيادي البيضاء الكثيرة علي الثقافة الشعبية ودراسات الحرف والصناعات الشعبية ، الذي نشر فيها حوالي تسعة عشر كتابا ، وتولي مناصب كبري في الجامعة والمتاحف الفنية ، وحصل علي جوائز مختلفة ، وشارك في معارض عالمية ، وله متحف باسمه واسم الفنانة عفت ناجي في منطقة الزيتون بالقاهرة يحتوي علي نماذج من تراثهما الفني ، والذي ولد عام 1913 وتوفي عام 1987. ربما كان هذا من أسباب غياب الكاتب الذي سأتحدث عنه والذي يحمل اسما لمشهور كبير في مجال آخر . لكن حتي لو كان كذلك فلماذا لم يتحدث أحد عن رواياته باعتبارها للفنان سعد الخادم فيتحمس من يضيئ الحقيقة ؟

لماذا دخل هذا الكاتب شرنقة التجاهل والنسيان ؟ بدأت المسألة برسالة خاصة علي الفيس بوك من صديقي الجميل الدكتور محمد عيسي الأستاذ السابق للغة والأدب العربي والدراسات الإسلامية في جامعة شيكاغو ونورثوسترن وميشيغان وغيرها ، والذي يعيش الآن في شيكاجو، يسألني هل سبق وعرفت أن للفنان سعد الخادم روايات ؟ طلبت مهلة . سألت أكثر من فنان صديق . الكل احتار . فسألت السؤال علي صفحتي علي الفيس بوك ووجهته للنقاد وباحثي تاريخ الأدب . اثنان قالا لي أن هناك سعد الخادم آخر عاش في كندا خارج مصر . الأول منهما هو الصحفي الكبير عمرو خفاجي والثانية هي الدكتورة منارعمر المترجمة ومدرسة الأدب الألماني بجامعة حلوان ، وأرسلت لي صفحة بالإنجليزية في جريدة الدراسات الإثنية الكندية Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal” للكاتبة: اليزابيث دهب. Dahab Elizabethوهي بالمناسبة صاحبة كتاب “كتّاب عرب كنديون .. أصوات المنفي Arabic Canadian writers, Voices of Exile “. المقال بعنوان: “Poetics of Exile and Dislocation in Saad Elkhadem,s Wings of lead1971 , the Plague 1989 ,and Trilogy of Flying Egypian 1990-1992 ” ” شعرية النفي والخروج في روايات سعد الخادم ” أجنحة من رصاص Wings of lead التي نُشرت عام 1971 والطاعون The Plague التي نُشرت عام 1989 وترجمها سعد الجبلاوي وثلاثية المصري الطائر Trilogy of Flying Egyptian التي نُشرت مابين عامي 1990-1992 ” وترجمها سعد الجبلاوي أيضا .

لسعد الخادم روايات مثل “رجال وخنازير Men and Pigs ” التي كتبها من قبل عام 1967 وترجمها بنفسه عام 1971، كما ترجم بنفسه رواية أجنحة من رصاص عام 1994 وله أيضا ” ثلاثية يوليسيس the Ulysses trilogy ” التي كتبت ونشرت بين عامي 1985-1987 وهي ثلاث نوفيلات – روايات قصيرة- في كتاب واحد عن رحلات أكاديمي مصري عبر عشرين عاما وترجمه ” سعد الجبلاوي “كذلك استوحي فيها اسم يوليسيس في رواية “أوليس ” لجيمس جويس وطريقته في تداعي الأفكار والأحداث، لكنها طبعا صغيرة جدا قياسا علي “أوليس جيمس جويس ” وهي تقريبا نفس عذاب” ثلاثية المصري الطائر”التي توسعت أكثر . من المقالة عرفت أن سعد الخادم مصري حصل علي الجنسية الكندية بعد رحيله عن مصر . ولد عام 1932 وتوفي في الخارج عام 2003 . وُلد في مصر وحصل علي بكالوريوس في الفنون ثم الدكتوراة من النمسا . كان الملحق الإعلامي لمصر في سويسرا وشغل وظائف حكومية أخري في مصر قبل السفر عام 1968

في عام 1968 أُعير كمدرس مساعد للغة الالمانية في جامعة برونسويك الجديدة Brunswick New في كندا وكذلك لتدريس الأدب المقارن . هناك أمضي بقية حياته بعد أن صار استاذا . من هنا عرفته الدكتور منار عمر المترجمة ومدرسة الأدب الألماني . لقد أنتج أكثر من ثلاث وعشرين كتابا بينها أربعة عشر رواية مُنع الكثير منها في مصر، ربما كلها فلم أسمع بأي منها . ولقد كان أيضا نشيطا في نشر أعماله وغيره ، ووسيطا مثل بعض المصريين الكنديين الذين توفروا علي نشر أعمالهم وغيرهم في دور النشر .

أما سعد الجبلاوي فهو أيضا مصري عمل أستاذا في كندا للأدب واللغات، ولد عام 1927 وتوفي عام 2002 في تورنتو بكندا . سعد الجبلاوي المترجم حصل علي ليسانس الأداب من جامعة القاهرة قسم اللغة الانجليزية ، ثم علي الدكتوراة من جامعة ليفربول، وهاجر الي كنداعام 1968 وقام بترجمات كثيرة من الإدب العربي، منها قصص قصيرة لنجيب محفوظ إلي الإنجليزية والعكس . كان عام 1968 عام خروج كثير من الشباب الجامعي بعد هزيمة عام 1967 إلي أميركا وكندا واستراليا ولقد رأيت ذلك بنفسي وكان بينهم بعض أصحابي . ليتني فعلت مثلهم !

اسم سعد كان متداولا في مصر بقوة للمواليد بعد ثورة 1919 وأوضحت لي الدكتورة منار أن سعد الخادم مسلم بينما سعد الجبلاوي مسيحي . قلت في نفسي هكذا اتحد الهلال مع الصليب . ما أجمله من زمن .


وصلتني رواية واحدة بالعربية من الصديق الدكتور محمد عيسي . هي نوفيلا “الطاعون” . ومقدمة الترجمة الإنجليزية التي كتبها سعد الجبلاوي مترجم الرواية . والنصان منشوران معا في كتاب واحد أصدرته مطبعة يورك York Pressفي كندا، في سلسلة كتابات ودراسات في الأدب العربي ، وفي الكتاب صفحة بها بعض اصداراتها . هي السلسلة التي نشرت بالإنجليزية أعمالا مثل “قصص قصيرة مصرية حديثة Modern Egyptian short stories” و” ثلاث روايات مصرية معاصرة three Contemporary Egyptian Novels “تاريخ الرواية المصرية .. صعودها وبداياتها History of the Egyptian Novel –its Rise and the beginnings ” وكتاب عن الأمثال والأقوال الشعبية المصرية Egyptian Proverbs and Popular sayingsجمعها وترجمها سعد الخادم ، وروايات سعد الخادم كلها تقريبا . ترجم سعد الجبلاويي نوفيلا “الطاعون” وكتب لها مقدمة تحليلية وفنية عميقة . لكني أحببت أن اقرا النص الأصلي بالعربية للرواية واكتفيت بالمقدمة الإنجليزية .

وجدت أني أتوافق مع سعد الجبلاوي في علامات واضحة في النوفيلا وهي أنها عبارة عن مونولوجات وسرد من الخارج متداخلان لعشر شخصيات ، سبعة رجال وثلاث نساء ،في مكتب للهجرة وللحصول علي الفيزا في عصر جمال عبد الناصر . أسهل شيئ أن تصل إلي ما وصل إليه المترجم من أن المقصود بالطاعون هو عصر عبد الناصر نفسه، الذي أراد فيه كل من يملك عقلا ويفكر في الرأي والمعارضة أن يطير عابرا البلاد .

يقول المترجم أن ذلك يذكره بالديكاميرون لبوكاشيو حيث هروب عشرة أشخاص ، سبعة رجال وثلاث نساء أيضا ،من الطاعون في القرن الرابع عشرفي فلورنسا ، وهكذا في مصر بعد عام 1952 ومافعلته ماسميت بثورة يوليو. لقد حولت مصر إلي معسكر اعتقال كبير . أمة تحت الأسوار . كارانتينا للعزل . وبيوت للقبض علي الناس فيها . ألخ . وجدت فعلا في حديث الشخصيات العشرة في النوفيلا ما يدل علي ذلك ، فرغبتهم في الهروب مذهلة . هم ينجحون في الحصول علي الفيزا للخروج لكن تظل لحظات الانتظار في يوم واحد في مكان واحد هي الرعب كله . نعرف حكاية كل منهم من رجال ونساء ، وأحدهم قاتل سفاح كان ضابطا يقوم بتعذيب المعتقلين وتم الاستغناء عنه ويريد الخروج حتي لا يحدث له ما فعله . هو يأتي في نهاية النوفيلا ليختمها فنيا بشكل جيد كأنه التفسير الذي يصدِّق علي كل ما قاله الآخرون أو قاله المؤلف عنهم .

الأول يتحدث قائلا ” اسمي محمد اسماعيل” ولا ينتظر المؤلف فيدخل بالسرد المباشر ليتحدث عنه . فتي في الخامسة والعشرين يستمر في وصفه ومن مواليد القاهرة وعلي الفور مونولوج لمحمد اسماعيل بلغة غير متوقعة ” هو أنت شايف أني من مواليد الأناضول يابن الأحبة ياغبي ” كأنه يرد علي المؤلف . ويستمر محمد اسماعيل في الحديث عن أهله وعن نفسه فتعرف أن أباه كان كبير مهندسي شركة الكيماويات بحلوان ، وهي في الأصل كانت مصنعا يملكه يوناني ، تم تأميمه وتغيير اسمه إلي مؤسسة النصر للأدوية والعقاقير الطبية وافلست . المهم الحديث يستمر عن الفساد وعن السرقة والنساء والجرسونيرات – الشقق الخاصة – بالمسؤولين لمعاشرة النساء ، ويتناثر الحوار علي ألسنة الآخرين فهو له أخ مستشار في قنصلية بسان فرانسيسكو . هو يقول ذلك وهم يقولون “أبعد عنه ابن الأحبة دا مادام ليه حد في الحكومة يبقي مخبر علينا” كل ذلك أحاديث غير منطوقة يرسلها المؤلف كأنها حقيقة.

محمد اسماعيل يريد الخروج أصلا خوفا من الموت في الجيش بعد التخرج في حروب عبد الناصر التي انتهت بالهزائم ، ونعرف طبعا من المؤلف أن أخاه أمين محفوظات في القنصلية وليس مستشارا . المهم يمشي الحديث في ثلاث طرق متداخلة . ضمير المتكلم . الغائب في مونولجات سريعة أو حوارات مكتومة للآخرين ثم المؤلف ، وتفاجئنا عبارات من نوع “ابن الأحبة ” ” أو “انتم عايزين مننا إيه يا اولاد الشرموطة” وكثير جدا مما يمكن أن تتصور من شتائم بالجنس تعرفها العامية المصرية.

نعرف كيف استقر أخوه في أميركا بعد أن تزوج من امرأة عجوز هناك ، لكن لا يزال بها مسحة من جمال وكيف يعيش معها في مزرعتها، ويبدأ الحديث عن المرتبات في مصر وأميركا ،وكيف أن من يذهب لا يعود ، ففي مصر خريج الجامعة راتبه – ذلك الوقت – خمسة عشر جنيها وفي أميركا “العربيات المستعملة بتتباع في شوادر زي شوادر البطيخ هنا، شاطرين بس يقولوا الأمريكان ياريس ، دول حبة كلاب ياريس، والله مافيه كلاب مسعورة غيركم يا ولاد الأحبة اللي ماسبتوش حد إلا ما عضتوه أو شخيته عليه ” هذا نموذج واحد ولن أزيد .

ثم يتابع محمد اسماعيل في أميركا وما جري له ، فالتجنيد إجباري هناك وقتها ، وتنفجر فيه قنبلة في أحد التدريبات ، ويعيش مشوها لكن مكرما من الدولة الأمريكية مع أخيه وزوجته بالمزرعة ،ويعود الكاتب العجيب إلي المكان والواقفين وكل الأحاديث بينهم تتم في نفوسهم فهو مثلهم يتصورهم جواسيس ، وعلي حد قوله حكم قراقوش خلي الناس خايفة من بعضها .

الثاني مجدي نعيم في الثانية والثلاثين من عمره ومدرس لغة فرنسية . يعني “عضمة زرقا” ، وهذا مايقال عن المسيحيين . وينتقل بنا علي طريقته المتداخلة في السرد في الحال بين المسيحيين والمسلمين وان كان مكتوما، وعن هجرة المسيحيين الكثيرة هربا من الفقروالقهر والعنصرية، وكيف تُرفض فيزاتهم كثيرا ، وسعيد الحظ هو من يجد طريقه إلي كندا أو أميركا أو استراليا . مجدي نعيم أصابه فرح كبير بعد أن أخطرته وزارة الداخلية بالموافقة علي السفر ، المهم أن يذهب يتقدم للحصول علي الفيزا . باع أثاث بيته وحجز طائرة في نفس اليوم ، ويقول لهم أنه ذاهب للعمل استاذا مساعدا للغات في كندا ويقولون في نفوسهم هم “تلاقيه نصاب ماحيلتوش غير دبلوم معلمين وحيدرِّس فرنساوي في مدرسة ابتدائي بالكتير” .

ويتابع مجدي نعيم فنعرف كيف كان مدرسا بالصعيد وضاقت به البلاد بسبب أنه عضمة زرقا ويتحدث في مونولوج غاضب حديثا معبرا “أنا مش عضمة زرقا، انتم اللي نزلتم علي خير وادي النيل زي الجراد أكلتم خيراته ، وغيرتم عاداته ، وقضيتوا علي أمجاده . دول نسوان الفراعنة كانوا بيشربوا بيرة ويلعبوا تنس ويحطوا أكلادور في إيديهم ويتجوزوا عن حب، جيتوا انتم حبستوهم في البيوت وخوفتوهم من الرجالة وعملتوهم عبيد تخدم عليكم أو بقر يولد لكم ، والأكتر كمان إنكم عاملتم أهل البلد الأصليين أنهم خونة وجواسيس وعملا ، طيب آديني سايبها لكم اعملوا فيها اللي انتم عايزين تعملوه ، قسموها بينكم ، بيعوها لروسيا، اعملوها جمهورية عربية اسلامية أو حتي أجروها مفروش للسعوديين، ماهو كله مكسب، وكله داخل جيوبكم مادام بتقولوا الدين الرسمي للدولة هو الاسلام ”

طبعا يقصد دخول العرب إلي مصر ، ويستمر معترضا أن يكون الدين مرجعا للحياة الواقعية وهو أفكار روحية .ألخ ، ويدين الأزهر واحد المشايخ الذين عرفهم مجدي نعيم – الكاتب نشر النوفيلا عام 1989 ورأي ماجري في عصر السادات والحديث هنا في عصر عبد الناصر لا يعد استشرافا بما حدث لكن تأكيد عليه – ويحكي عن التجسس علي الأجانب في الفنادق قصصا غريبة.

ويتابعه في رحلته حيث لم يكن مسموحا بالخروج إلا بخمسة جنيهات وهو ما يساوي عشر دولارات فيشتري مجدي نعيم مائة دولار ويبرمها ويضعها داخل قلمه بعد أن نزع منه خزان الحبر . يتابعه في مطار مونتريال حيث يُصاب مجدي بالصدمة حين يكتشفون أن المائة دولار مزيفة ،ويتم حجزه للتحقيق فيما لو كان يعمل مع عصابة لتهريب الأموال المزيفة ، لكنهم يتأكدون من براءته، ويخرج لكن لا يوفّق في الحياة الزوجية مع يولين الكندية التي تعرف عليها في القاهرة ، ويعود من جديد بعد أقل من عام ليمضي حياته ذليلا يتنقل بين البلاد في مصر وحيدا بلا زوجة أو ولد حتي يلقي ربه حين يترقي ناظرا لمدرسة بني سويف النموذجية للبنين !.

نظل نتنقل بين الشخصيات التي لن أقف عندها كلها ، وبنفس طريقة السرد ثلاثية الأضلاع اذا جاز التعبير وبنفس تداعي اللاشعور. سأقف فقط عن امرأة مهاجرة وعن رجل الأمن الأخير .

%d bloggers like this: