BULAQ | بولاق

BULAQ | بولاق

arabist.net/bulaq
The Arab World in Books


Widows, Conmen and Crimes
Jul 2 • 58 min
We discuss a book that tells the stories of women who rallied to ISIS; one that focuses on a Franco-Moroccan family grappling with the end of colonialism; and a picaresque, satirical novel from 1940s Egypt that has been recently re-discovered. Show Notes:…
Tazmamart
Jun 18 • 56 min
We talk about Morocco’s most infamous secret prison; about fathers and sons; about survivors who tell their stories and writers who borrow (or steal?) them. Show Notes: Johanna Sellman “Memoirs from Tazmamart: Writing Strategies and Alternative Frameworks…
Kitchen Talk
Jun 4 • 60 min
In this episode we explore the relationship between cooking and writing. With special guest Anny Gaul, we talk about the origins of national dishes such as couscous and koshary; medieval Arabic cook books; and representations of kitchens and cooking in…
Locked-In Lit
May 21 • 53 min
We talk about a few new books — ones that provide a welcome escape, and ones that seem particularly daunting — and about how hard it is to write, read, think and imagine the future right now. Show Notes: Noor Naga’s novel-in-verse Washes, Prays was…
Cold Trail
May 7 • 49 min
In 1993, the Egyptian poet and writer Iman Mersal picked up an unknown novel by a forgotten writer from the 60s. And so began her long wanderings in search of Enayat El Zayat. El Zayat killed herself in 1963, four years before her book “Love and Silence”…
Tight Spaces
Apr 22 • 56 min
We discuss an acclaimed novel set during the first Palestinian Intifada and one inspired by a tiny, legendary bookstore in Algiers. Show Notes: This year, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction—which went to Abdelouahab Aissaoui’s The Spartan…
Sentence to Hope
Apr 9 • 60 min
We spend most of this episode discussing the work and life of the Syrian playwright Sa’dallah Wannous, and how strongly it relates to repression, resistance and art in the Arab region today. SHOW NOTES: A new Sa’dallah Wannous reader,Sentence to Hope(ed.…
A Woman Shaped by Fear
Mar 26 • 50 min
We talk about the Syrian writer Dima Wannous’ haunting novel The Frightened Ones, translated by Elisabeth Jacquette. It’s a book about fear, panic and anxiety — in one’s body and society, between generations and lovers — that is also somehow a great…
The Shape of Cairo
Mar 11 • 67 min
We take a look at a new book about the architecture of twentieth century Cairo, and discuss the Egyptian capital’s past, present and future, and the way writers have shaped our view of it. Show Notes: Mohamed Elshahed’s architectural survey Cairo Since…
Bulaq: trailer
Feb 27 • 1 min
BULAQ is a podcast about contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa. We talk about books written in Aleppo, Cairo, Marrakech and beyond. We look at the Arab region through the lens of literature, and we look at literature — what…
Little Magazines
Feb 27 • 54 min
We talk about the landscape and history of independent publishing in the region, our own experiences working for and launching publications, the conundrum of funding, and the magic of little magazines. Show Notes: This episode is partly inspired by an…
The Not So Simple Past
Feb 11 • 56 min
This episode focuses on Driss Chraibi’s The Simple Past (Le Passé Simple), a Moroccan novel about a very angry young man in revolt against his father’s tyranny and the hypocrisies of his colonial education. Back in 1954, it was compared to an explosion –…
The Elephant Is The Room
Jan 29 • 62 min
We recorded this episode in Cairo with author, translator, and Mada Masr culture editor Yasmine Zohdi. We talked about making art in difficult and precarious times; how to acknowledge the political context; censorship and self-censorship. “What we talk…
Writing to Remember
Jan 14 • 64 min
This episode is 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.
Work-Lit Balance
Jan 3 • 65 min
We talk about passion projects, the value of intellectual labor, and the ups and downs of making a living (sort of) writing about books.
Top Five
Dec 18, 2019 • 58 min
We discuss some of our favorite books from the past year, and some titles we’re excited to get our hands on soon. Show Notes Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, ed. Zahra Hankir Book of Disappearance by Ibtisam…
The Revolution While Dreaming
Dec 4, 2019 • 56 min
We talk about a newly released collection of five compelling and highly quotable interviews with the great late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, titled Palestine as Metaphor, translated by Amira El-Zein and Carolyn Forché. We also talk about recent…
Writers Are Not Magic
Nov 20, 2019 • 59 min
In the first half of the episode, we paid tribute to Jordanian poet, activist, novelist, travel writer, and editor Amjad Nasser (1955-2019), who died at the end of October. In the second, we talked about the political space occupied by Moroccan-French…
“Insufficiently Westernized”
Nov 6, 2019 • 58 min
We discuss two novels set in Iraq — one featuring a despondent policeman, and one featuring a determined grandma and her donkey. Also, how John Updike once dismissed the great Saudi writer Abdelrahman Mounif as “insufficiently Westernized” to write a…
Disappearing Palestinians
Oct 23, 2019 • 54 min
We talk about two festivals (one long-established, one brand new) that celebrate Palestinian literature; an author who was penalized for supporting BDS; and a book that asks the question: What would happen if Palestinians simply disappeared? (And once…
Out of Egypt
Oct 9, 2019 • 50 min
Ursula & MLQ open the new season of BULAQ — recorded in Amman, under the auspices of the Sowt network — with a focus on Egypt. This episode’s reading is from Yasmine Zohdi’s translation of Muhammad al-Haj’s Sawiris-winning Nobody Mourns the City’s Cats,…
Trash Talk
Jul 20, 2019 • 64 min
In our last episode before half our team moves and we take a summer break, we discuss a brilliant essay on the downsides of being a professional translator; the Shubbak literary festival; and our plans for the future.Show Notes We read from Lina Mounzer’s…
Invisibility
Jun 23, 2019 • 76 min
We have novelist Ruqaya Izziddien as our guest in this episode, to discuss her debut novel The Watermelon Boys, her blog Muslim Impossible and the need for more narratives in English that accurately represent Arab voices and history. We also talk about…
Our Women on the Ground
Jun 10, 2019 • 49 min
We spend most of today’s episode talking about a forthcoming collection of essays by female journalists from the region. Guilt, anger, recklessness, determination. There are many different and movingly honest takes on reporting while Arab and female. SHOW…
Work-lit Balance
May 19, 2019 • 64 min
This week we talk about how MLQ’s latest passion project, the Arab Lit Quarterly, and the ups and downs of making a living (sort of) writing about books.
This Takes the Prize
May 6, 2019 • 58 min
MLQ is back from Abu Dhabi, and we talk about the recently awarded International Prize for Arabic Fiction — and an unfortunate controversy this year, involving leaks, no-shows, and calls for prosecution — and the book fair. We also share excerpts from the…
The case of Alaa al-Aswany
Apr 7, 2019 • 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…
Not Quite On The Same Page
Mar 17, 2019 • 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…
Sentenced to Hope
Mar 1, 2019 • 59 min
We spend most of this episode discussing the work and life of the Syrian playwright Sa’dallah Wannous, and how strongly it relates to repression, resistance and art in the Arab region today. SHOW NOTES: A new Sa’dallah Wannous reader,Sentence to Hope(ed.…
Where Do I Start?
Feb 11, 2019 • 56 min
What should you recommend to someone who is interested in exploring Arabic literature? We tackle this big question this week; we also talk about the authors short-listed on the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and about North African literature in…
Bad Parents
Jan 26, 2019 • 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…
Lists!
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. Show notes ‘Tis the season for “best of” lists. Ursula wrote about Notable Books of 2018 From and About the Arab Worldin…
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.Show notes Bouanani’s…
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…
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.Show notes It was at the October 22 outreach symposium in Cairothat MLQ…
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. Show notes The work of artist and writer Ganzeer can be found at ganzeer.com,…
Stolen in Translation
Sep 23, 2018 • 51 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.Show notes The controversy over the appearance of…
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.Show notes…
Is It a Beach Book?
Jul 14, 2018 • 56 min
In our last episode before a summer hiatus, we discuss a graphic novel about the life and art of the stars of Arab music and cinema; Egyptian writer Radwa Ashour’s memoir of studying at university in the United States in the 1970s; and the Moroccan writer…
“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.” Show notes Karl Sharro spoke…
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…
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…
Less Cute and Safe
May 18, 2018 • 53 min
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”;…
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…
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.”…
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…
Noir Is The New Black
Mar 18, 2018 • 56 min
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.Show notes The…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
Palestinian literature: regrets, tough choices and teen adventures
Dec 8, 2017 • 77 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;…
Know Your Audience
Nov 24, 2017 • 70 min
In which we discuss the fictional underworlds of Rabee Jaber 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…
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…