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Letter To My People In The Village Of Bab Al Shams

I won’t say I wish I were with you, I am with you. I see you, and I see how the dream through your hands has turned into reality rooted in the earth. “On this earth is what makes life worth living,” just as Mahmoud Darwish wrote, for when you built your wonderful village you gave back meaning to meaning. You became the sons of this land and its masters.

This is the Palestine that Younis dreamt of in the novel Bab Al Shams / Gate of the Sun. Younis had a dream made of words, and the words became wounds bleeding over the land. You became, people of Bab Al Shams, the words that carry the dream of freedom and return Palestine to Palestine.

I see in your village all the faces of the loved ones who departed on the way to the land of our Palestinian promise. Palestine is the promise of the strangers who were expelled from their land and continue to be expelled every day from their homes.

Strangers and yet you are the sons of the land, its olives and oil!

You are the olives of Palestine that shine under the sun of justice, and as you build your village, the light of freedom flares up with you.

“Light upon light.”

I see in your eyes a nation born from the rubble of the nakba that has gone on for sixty-four years.

I see you and in my heart the words grow. I see the words and you grow in my heart, rise high and burst into the sky.

Finally, I have only the wish that you accept me as a citizen in your village, that I may learn with you the meanings of freedom and justice.

Elias Khoury

Beirut January 12, 2013

Translated by Sonja Mejcher-Atassi

The Gate Of The Sun

Elias Khoury’s novel The Gate of the Sun has proved a profound inspiration to his readers in Palestine . . .

We, the sons and daughters of Palestine from all throughout the land, announce the establishment of Bab Al Shams Village (Gate of the Sun). We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it.

A few months ago the Israeli government announced its intention to build about 4000 settlement housing units in the area Israel refers to as E1.

E1 block is an area of about 13 square km that falls on confiscated Palestinian land East of Jerusalem between Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which lies on occupied West Bank Palestinian land, and Jerusalem.

We will not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of our land continues. Therefore we hereby establish the village of Bab Al Shams to proclaim our faith in direct action and popular resistance. We declare that the village will stand steadfast until the owners of this land will get their right to build on their land.

The village’s name is taken from the novel Bab Al Shams by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury. The book depicts the history of Palestine through a love story between a Palestinian man, Younis, and his wife Nahila. Younis leaves his wife to join the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon while Nahila remains steadfast in what remains of their village in the Galilee.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Younis smuggles through Lebanon and back to the Galilee to meet his wife in the Bab Al Shams cave, where she gives birth to their children. Younis returns to the resistance in Lebanon as his wife remains in Bab Al Shams.

Bab Al Shams is the gate to our freedom and steadfastness. Bab Al Shams is our gate to Jerusalem. Bab Al Shams is the gate to our to our return.

For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land. This action involving women and men from the north to the south is a form of popular resistance.

In the coming days we will hold various discussion groups, educational and artistic presentations, as well as film screenings on the lands of this village. The residents of Bab Al Shams invite all the sons and daughters of our people to participate and join the village in supporting our resilience.

Click here to read Mr Khoury’s reponse . . .

Elias Khoury Longlisted

Elias Khoury’s latest novel Sinalkul (which can apparently be spelt a million different ways in the Roman alphabet) has been longlisted for the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. A shortlist of six books will be announced  next Wednesday in Tunis; the winner is to be announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi in late April.

Intriguingly, the prize’s website notes that “whilst the Arab Spring did feature heavily across this year’s submissions in general, the judges noted that the subject still needs some time to mature”. So that will be something to look forward to in the next few years. Here is the longlist in full:

Title Author Nationality Publisher
Ave Maria
Sinan Antoon Iraqi Al-Jamal
Toya Ashraf El-Ashmawi Egyptian Al-Dar al-Masriya al-Lubnaniya
The Kingdom of this Earth Hoda Barakat Lebanese Dar al-Adab
I, She and Other Women Jana Elhassan Lebanese Arab Scientific Publishers
Jaffa Prepares Morning Coffee Anwar Hamed Palestinian The Arabic Insitute for Research and Publishing
The Beaver Mohammed Hassan Alwan Saudi Arabian Dar al-Saqi
Our Master Ibrahim Issa Egyptian Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation
The Birds of the Holiday Inn Rabee Jaber Lebanese Dar al-Tanwir
Sinalkul Elias Khoury Lebanese Dar al-Adab
Lolita’s Fingers Waciny Laredj Algerian Dar al-Adab
The Return of the Sheikh Mohammed Abdel Nabi Egyptian Rawafid
Lanterns of the King of Galilee Ibrahim Nasrallah Palestinian-Jordanian Arab Scientific Publishers
The President’s Gardens Muhsin al-Ramly Iraqi Thaqafa
The Bamboo Stick Saud Alsanousi Kuwaiti Arab Scientific Publishers
His Excellency the Minister Hussein Al-Wad Tunisian Dar al-Janub
The Goatherd Amin Zaoui Algerian Al-Ikhtilef

 

Elias Khoury Interview

As Though She Were Sleeping, which we are about (well, June, but it’s gone to press) to publish in paperback, has recently been published in America by Archipelago Press.

The principal upshot for us is this interview with Khoury broadcast on Nevada Public Radio today. Enjoy!

UNESCO-Sharjah Prize To Elias Khoury

Lebanese author Elias Khoury was been honoured with the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize, which recognises those who have done most to promote Arabic culture throughout the world. Brazilian publisher João Baptista de Medeiros Vargens was also a recipient this year. The prize’s international jury acclaimed Khoury as a man and a writer who:

Has witnessed and spread internationally the testimony of human suffering. His struggle and literary production created the image of a free intellectual who is giving a voice to the voiceless.

Khoury has recently been prominent in his condemnation of the appalling atrocities taking place in Syria, as can be seen in the news item below and an in article published in November: Who is Conspiring Against Syria?

He has published two books with MacLehose Press, Yalo and As Though She Were Sleeping, the first of which was awarded the Banipal Prize for Humphrey Davies’ translation. We will be publishing another novel in paperback, White Masks, in 2013, and that will be followed by Khoury’s latest novel, once more to be translated by Humphrey Davies.

 

Who Is Conspiring Against Syria?

This has come to our attention via the eagle eyes on the LRB blog: a translation by  Ziad Abu-Rish on the Jadaliyya website of an article by Khoury originally published in al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.

Khoury challenges the conspiracy theories peddled by the Syrian regime with ‘the facts that produced the beginnings of the Syrian popular revolution’. Read it here.

Elias Khoury: Strand Interview

An interview with Elias Khoury, who appeared at the Edinburgh festival yesterday afternoon, will be broadcast on the BBC World Service’s The Strand arts programme this evening. He will be talking about his new novel in translation, As Though She Were Sleeping. The programme goes out at 22.30 (GMT) this evening and is repeated on Monday.

You can listen online here

Humphrey Davies Part II

In the second part of the interview with André Naffis-Sahely, Humphrey Davies discusses the importance of communicating with the author being translated and his current and future translation projects.

The Economist on Elias Khoury

Fantastic review from The Economist magazine of Elias Khoury’s sublime As Though She Were Sleeping:

ELIAS KHOURY’S As Though She Were Sleeping follows Meelya, a young Lebanese woman, as she dreams her way into marriage with Mansour. It drifts between her home of Beirut and Nazareth, as Meelya remembers her childhood and imagines her future. Newly married she wanders the streets of Nazareth ceaselessly, “becoming a line in a large book that she read and lived at the same time.”

Meelya’s dreams, both by night and by day, are filled with memories of her uncle who hung himself from a bell rope and of salty days swimming with her brother.

Read more at The Economist

Read more: As Though She Were Sleeping

Return of the Mac (Once Again)

In 2011 MacLehose Press are releasing six titles by authors who are publishing their second novel with us. Translated from French, Spanish, Arabic and Dutch, two have won Independent Foreign Fiction Prizes while all have been extremely well received by reviewers.

In November of last year we previewed the first three: The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy, The Goldsmith’s Secret by Elia Barceló and Monsieur Linh and His Child by Philippe Claudel. Now its time to turn attention to the three to be published in the second half of 2011, new novels by Elias Khoury, Evelio Rosero and Otto de Kat, translated by Humphrey Davies, Anne McLean with Anna Milsom, and Ina Rilke, respectively.

Yalo, by the great Lebanese author Elias Khoury, was first published by MacLehose Press in 2009. Earlier this year the translator, Humphrey Davies, won the Banipal Prize for Arabic translation for his rendering of the novel into English. It was the second time that this partnership had won the prize, and who would bet against there being a third success?

“This novel is a tour de force for both author and translator, an ambitious work which deals magnificently with the violence of history and the loss and uses of language, with torture and rape and sexuality. An important and complex book, which brings the history of Lebanon vividly, painfully and colourfully to life.”
Margaret Drabble, Banipal citation

As Though She Were Sleeping, the winner of the first Arabic Novel Prize, is in every respect a worthy follow-up. Focusing on the life of young Lebanese woman who takes refuge from reality in sleeping and dreaming, it is richly and powerfully symbolic of the human cost of the ongoing troubles in the Middle East. Jilted by a suitor, Meela marries a Palestinian man many years her senior and leaves her family to live in a city far from home in a country that is soon to be plunge into chaos by the arrival of Jewish settles and the creation of the state of Israel.

Colombian Evelio Rosero won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize – the second of three international literary awards – for The Armies, a beautiful but harrowing novel about a remote rural village destroyed by remorseless violence.  The opening paragraphs offer startlingly lyrical prose, and what follows serves as a faithful and unflinching account of the evils that blight an otherwise forward-looking and creative nation.

Evelio Rosero has dipped his pen in blood and written an epic in 215 pages. If anyone has wondered if there is life in the Colombian novel after magic realism, this is the evidence of the extraordinary power of that country’s literature. Linda Grant, Independent

Good Offices is a mischievous and  surreal satire on the role of the Catholic Church in Colombia. Tancredo is a hunchback in virtual servitude to the parish, who is relentlessly pursued by the sacristan’s goddaughter. His life takes a turn for the bizarre when a stand-in priest is brought in at the last moment, whose mesmerizing sung mass and unquenchable thirst for aguardiente elicits very strange behaviour from the denizens of the church.

Man on the Move is a poetic and heartbreaking tale drawn from the often overlooked Dutch involvement in the Second World War. Rob, the son of a provincial mayor leaves his home country in pursuit of less restricted life and, after a stint in the mines outside Johannesburg, joins up to fight and is subsequently captured by the Japanese.

“This is a novel of extraordinary power and moral beauty, executed with a poet’s intricate artistry. Between its opening and closing departures, we proceed according to some deep psychic logic, ever further into a life not well-lived but, even so, strangely exemplary.” Paul Binding, Independent

Otto de Kat returns to the Second World War period with Julia. His spare, impressionistic prose is the perfect vehicle for conveying the sense of purpose that gripped Hitler’s Germany in the pre-war years. The story is told from the perspective of a naive young Dutchman who falls in love with a brilliant, vivacious engineer. Yet her irrepressible, libertine spirit puts her on a irrevocable collision course with the Nazi authorities, and Chris’ courage, forever undermined by his shaky self-esteem, will be tested to its limits.

You can read an extract from Man on the Move here. And by the way, if you can tell us who it is that adorns the cover of Julia, you will win all three of the new novels profiled here.

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