The Arab World in Books
30: The Case of Alaa al-Aswany
Apr 7 • 73 min
We talk about the career of the best-selling Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany – who like many other artists is on the outs with the country’s military regime now. Also, about Shakespeare productions and censorship in Gulf countries; and book reviews in…
29: Not Quite On The Same Page
Mar 17 • 69 min
In this episode we rave about an Omani novel – a multi-generational saga that is “anti-romantic and anti-nationalistic.” We also discuss a dark family road trip through Syria, and works from Lebanon and Morocco. And we delve into the larger question of…
28: Sentenced To Hope
Mar 1 • 59 min
We spend most of this episode discussing the work and life of the Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous, and how strongly it relates to repression, resistance and art in the Arab region today.
27: Where Do I Start?
Feb 11 • 56 min
26: Bad Parents
Jan 26 • 56 min
We’re back! And ready to talk about two poets who have moved into prose: the Egyptian Iman Mersal and the Palestinian Mazen Maarouf, who have written books that explore the bonds between children and parents, among other things. We also talk about the…
Dec 19, 2018 • 61 min
Ursula and MLQ look back at notable books from 2018 and at reads they are looking forward to catching up on over the holiday break.
24: Writing To Remember
Dec 1, 2018 • 64 min
This episode is almost entirely dedicated to the work of the Moroccan film-maker, novelist, artist, and poet Ahmed Bouanani – much of which has yet to be released, and much of which was censored or destroyed in his own life.
23: Poems That Cross Language and Time
Nov 17, 2018 • 55 min
We overcame communication blocks and interrupting children to speak to the poet Zeina Hashem Beck about how she’s given herself permission to write poems that move between English and Arabic. We also discuss James Montgomery’s heart-breaking essay on…
22: Returns And Beginnings
Nov 4, 2018 • 49 min
In this episode we talk about recent developments in Cairo, kids’ literature in Arabic, Naguib Mahfouz, and the launch of Marcia’s new project, the literary magazine ArabLit Quarterly .
21: Interview with Ganzeer
Oct 20, 2018 • 68 min
This week we talk to an old Cairo friend, acclaimed Egyptian artist Ganzeer, about art, propaganda, publishing and how much damn work it is to put out a graphic novel.
20: Stolen in Translation
Sep 23, 2018 • 50 min
We talk about looking down on dialect; passing literary theft off as “salvation”; the beginning of awards season; a book that is a fragmented portrait of Jerusalem; and our fellow podcasters in the region.
19: Back To School
Sep 9, 2018 • 69 min
We talk about the relationships between education and literature; about a devastating entry in the prison memoir genre, from Syria; about the legacy of V.S. Naipaul; and about why Kuwait is the worst offender in the region for censoring books.
18: Is It a Beach Book?
Jul 14, 2018 • 56 min
17: “Neo-Assyrian Trolls”
Jul 1, 2018 • 72 min
We talk to humorist Karl Sharro about the origins story of his Twitter alter-ego Karl ReMarks and about finding the ideal online nemesis. Marcia takes issue with a new book listing the “hundred best novels in translation.
16: Pick Your Team
Jun 16, 2018 • 61 min
In which Ursula and Marcia discuss how much innocence American can claim when abroad, and the urge to write expatriate diaries in one’s twenties; they also talk about the new collection Marrakech Noir; and about the never-ending debate over Classical…
15: Alexandria When?
Jun 1, 2018 • 65 min
Inspired by a fiery essay by an Egyptian professor, Ursula and MLQ discuss cosmopolitanism, nostalgia, and literary representations of the city of Alexandria. Marcia also talks about three new books – from Iraq, Southern Sudan and Lebanon/London. She…
14: Less Cute and Safe
May 18, 2018
We discuss Marcia’s recent interviews with professors teaching Arabic literature in translation; an essay by Lebanese novelist Rabih Alameddine’s in which he picks apart “world literature” and foreign writers – such as himself – who act as “tour guides”;…
13: Cancel Everything
May 6, 2018 • 62 min
Ursula and Marcia talk about the novel Tales of Yusuf Tadros – about a Coptic Christian and aspiring artist living in the provinces — and the playful, genre-bending Kayfa Ta (“How To”) series. They also discuss sexism in literature and whether we can do…
12: All Over The Map
Apr 23, 2018 • 61 min
In this episode, we talk about debates surrounding Western military intervention in Syria; about Arab American writer Randa Jarrar and her Twitter rant against the late Barbara Bush; and about whether there is any alternative to the term “Arab world.”…
11: Stillborn in Egypt, Fractured in Palestine
Mar 31, 2018 • 64 min
We spend most of this episode talking about two books: the late Arwa Salih’s Stillborn, a memoir of and reckoning with her time as a Leftist student militant in Egypt in the 1970s; and Rabai al-Madhoun’s novel Fractured Destinies — about lives…
10: Noir Is The New Black
Mar 18, 2018
In which Marcia talks about her difficulties being interviewed; we discuss genre (sci-fi, fantasy, and especially noir) writing in Arabic; and we question whether translation into English “empowers” women writers from the Arab region.
9: On Good Bad Reviews
Mar 3, 2018 • 69 min
In which we discuss the validity and necessity of the negative review (or what we like to simply call critical engagement); how rare it is to find negative reviews these days; and the shift that has seen Western reviewers of Arabic literature move from…
8: Escape Acts
Feb 17, 2018 • 69 min
Ursula and MLQ discuss a moving new book documenting the suffering and the resourcefulness of Yazidi women taken captive by Daesh, and the efforts to help them escape; and the perversely dull newspaper columns of the great Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz.
7: Soft Power
Feb 2, 2018 • 56 min
We discussed our recent readings. This includes some early foreign reporting on Morocco, which is both vivid and prejudiced; a moving account of the way Moroccan political prisoners clung to their memories and their words and refused to be fully…
6: Court Jesters and Black Mirrors
Jan 20, 2018 • 65 min
In this episode we discuss Moroccan literature about the country’s “years of lead” and its formidable and ruthless former king Hassan II; and about the relationship between humour, fear and power. We look at literary awards and what they are good for, and…
5: Sacred Cows
Jan 5, 2018 • 64 min
In this episode of BULAQ we highlight several new and forthcoming translations from Arabic to English. We also discuss the newly translated Concerto Al Quds by the renowned Syrian poet Adonis, as well as Adonis’ own status as an artist and public…
4: No Happy Endings
Dec 23, 2017 • 72 min
In this episode, we look back at 2017 about talk books published in the past year: notable books, favorite books, books we felt were overlooked, books we don’t quite agree on, and books we can’t wait to read. We also discuss how not to write about…
3: Palestinian literature: regrets, tough choices and teen adventures
Dec 8, 2017 • 1 min
President Trump just recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a move that acknowledges only a single Israeli narrative. We discuss Palestinian writers and how they write about their relationships with Israelis; about living with trauma and danger;…
2: Know Your Audience
Nov 24, 2017 • 70 min
In which we discuss the fictional underworlds of Rabee Jabr and other Lebanese novelists; and explore Saudi poetry, from a new translation of a famous pre-Islamic collection to the satirical poems of “a grumpy old man” in the Najd in the 18th century. At…
1: Belonging to Oneself
Nov 8, 2017 • 40 min
In the midst of crackdown on gay men in Egypt, we discuss Mohammed Abdel Nabi’s novel about being gay in Cairo, In The Spider’s Room. Also: a portrait of a love-hate relationship with a Cairo neighborhood, an award for Arabic Young Adult and children’s…
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