******************************البحث عن السحر****************************

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Conversation with a Lebanese War Child

M: Hi. What’s happening in beirut?

Y: there was shooting at tariq il jdeedeh. we didn’t hear anything

M: I heard it was a bomb

Y: like a car bomb?

M: I dunno Continue reading

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On Mona El Tahawy and ‘Native Informants’

The problem with Tahawy’s article, as others have pointed out, is that she attempts to depoliticize the patriarchy and make it about emotion–hatred–because, you know, Arabs are all ‘hot-blooded’ and whatnot. Such a reductive argument would never be accepted as an explanation for patriarchal practices in the West. But her thesis seems to fold in on itself: if oppression of Arab women is rooted in hatred fed by a uniquely misogynistic religion and culture, then oppression in other places is rooted in what, general malaise? To say misogyny is rooted in hatred is just redundant. Misogyny isn’t rooted in hatred, it IS hatred, and hatred of women is a symptom, not a cause, of the patriarchy in which both men and women participate. Continue reading

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Tigers on the Tenth Day by Zakaria Tamer

The forests had forsaken the tiger, imprisoned in his cage, but he could not forget them. He glared hatefully at the men beyond the bars; their eyes, curious and unafraid, studied him. One of them spoke in a calm, authoritative tone: “If you truly want to do what I do, to become a tamer, you must never for a moment forget that your adversary’s stomach is your primary target. You will see that this profession is both easy and difficult at the same time. Look at this tiger: he is fierce, arrogant, proud of his freedom, his power and his strength. But he will change, become meek, gentle, and obedient–like a small child. Watch what happens between he who holds the food and he who does not, and learn.”
The men rushed to profess their dedication as students to the profession of taming. The tamer beamed, then addressed the tiger sarcastically: “And how is our honored guest?”
“Prepare my food; it is time for my meal,” said the tiger
“You, my prisoner, giving me orders?” said the tamer with mock astonishment. “What a funny tiger you are! You should realize that I am the only one who gives orders around here.”
“No one gives orders to tigers,” said the tiger.
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[UPDATED] Palestinian Intellectuals to Syrian Regime: Not in Our Name! (English trans)

UPDATE: There are credible reports that many of the supposed signatories to this document never saw it and had no knowledge that their names were being used. I respectfully request that anyone who has republished this translation take appropriate measures to inform their readers.

A collective Palestinian statement
To apply for membership in the Syrian Writers Union and in solidarity with the Syrian people

It is our honor, as Palestinian writers and signatories to this statement, to request as a group to be inducted into the Syrian Writers Union, which has been recently established by the free Syrian writers and intellectuals who stand with the people as they climb the ladder of freedom which has been smeared with blood by the hand of the tyrant. The establishment of the Syrian Writers Union constitutes an essential pillar of the Syrian revolution and places the true intellectual in his or her rightful place beside the people as an effective partner in building a new Syria free of dynastic authoritarianism–a diverse, democratic, civil system based on the rights of the citizen, one that embraces the rights of expression and creation, a system incapable of falsifying the free Syrian intellectual’s will through hollow structures that arrogate the potentials of culture, usurp the role of the intellectual and falsify his or her will, always a device in the hand of the tyrant and his apparatuses.

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And to my critics, I say…

I was between projects, on the prowl for cheap (literary) thrills, and a friend of a friend recommended Ihsan Abdel Quddous. I am withholding judgement until I’ve finished the book, but I have to say, based on the author’s forward, we are off to a dubious start:

Many people have said to me: if you had a daughter, you would not have written these stories that you write, nor espouse these daring opinions as you do…

They are wrong.

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Book titles taken from subject lines of drunk e-mails to best friend

A Girl Unloved by Men

My first thought when I saw the Arabic title of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was pretty negative.

“Right,” I thought. “Because all complex female characters are actually just bitter harpies who need to get laid.”

The publishers can be somewhat forgiven, since, on further investigation, I discovered that the original title in Swedish is Män som hatar kvinnor, or Men Who Hate Women. A similar theme, but it’s still worth noting that in Arabic the implicit blame has shifted to the girl.

Full disclosure: I have not read the book, and from what I understand the female protagonist does, indeed, have intimacy issues, but I still think this is a pretty bad title. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo promises seduction, mystery, and escapism at its best and most sordid. A Girl Unloved by Men sounds like a coming of age tale involving a troubled teen and an equally wild horse slowly learning to trust each other over the course of a fateful summer on her uncle’s ranch. That’s if it were published in English. In Arabic, Fataatoun La Yuhibuha Ar-Rijaal sounds like khaleeji chick lit, and not the good kind (yes, there is a good kind).

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