Series: BULAQ

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 it does, why it matters, how it relates to society and history and politics — from the point of view of this part of the world. BULAQ is hosted by Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey and co-produced by Sowt.

The Revolution While Dreaming

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 protests in Lebanon and how they are being written about in Lebanese and international media, as well as…

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Writers Are Not Magic

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 writers Tahar Ben Jelloun and Leïla Slimani, particularly in the wake of the trial…

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“Insufficiently Westernized”

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 novel.

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Disappearing Palestinians

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 again we recorded this episode in the studio of the wonderful Sowt platform in Amman). Show Notes…

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Out of Egypt

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, available in the Summer 2019 issue of ArabLit Quarterly. Azzurra Meringolo Scarfoglio’s…

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Trash Talk

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 ”Trash Talk: On Translating Garbage,” which recently appeared on the…

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Invisibility

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 George Orwell’s 1939 essay “Marrakech.” Show Notes Our guest this episode was Ruqaya…

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Our Women on the Ground

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 NOTES Omani novelist Jokha al-Harthi and translator Marilyn Hacker won the 2019 Man Booker International with Celestial…

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This Takes the Prize

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 winning book and from several of the short-listed ones. Show Notes The…

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The case of Alaa al-Aswany

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 the age of online algorithms and the culture of positivity. Show notes At the…

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