Podcast: 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.

Driss Chraibi’s Portrait of an Angry Young Man

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 – and it still packs a punch today. Show Notes: The Simple…

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A Conversation in Cairo About Making Art Under Pressure

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 about when we talk about trees,” by Yasmine Zohdi, ran in Mada Masr in December of last…

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Karl Sharro Only Takes Soccer Seriously

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 about Karl ReMarks’ new book,And then God Created the Middle East and Said…

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The Interesting Case of a Saudi Novel

In Aziz Muhammad’s The Critical Case of a Man Named K, an unnamed narrator is diagnosed with leukemia. His 40-week journal, shaped by his readings of Kafka, Thomas Mann, Ernest Hemingway and Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, sarcastically and movingly documents his alienation from his body, his surroundings and even, eventually, from books. Show Notes: An interview with…

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Aftershocks

An earthquake inspired Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s Agadir, published in French in 1967 and translated to English by Jake Syersack and Pierre Joris. Part playtext, part novel, part political essay, part poem, this insurrection of a book takes as its starting point the devastating 1960 earthquake that struck the Moroccan city. Show Notes: We also talked about…

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Women In Love and In Lust

We Wrote in Symbols: Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers brings together fiction and poetry by more than 70 women over a span of more than 1500 years. Editor Selma Dabbagh talks about why it’s hard to write about sex, and the difficult balance of reaching readers. Show Notes: The digital launch of We…

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Reading and Writing Behind Bars

“Writer, criminal, and ex-journalist” Ahmed Naji released two books in 2020: the speculative fiction novel (والنمور لحجرتي) And the Tigers to My Room (2020) and the nonfiction work (حرز مكمكم) Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in Prison (2020). Show Notes: Find more about Ahmed’s books, short stories, and essays in Arabic and in English translation…

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Sex & Second Chances

Emma Ramadan translated two Moroccan novels in 2020: A Country for Dying by Abdellah Taïa & Straight from the Horse’s Mouth by Meryem Alaoui. They are very different books but they both feature sex workers. Show Notes: Find more about Emma’s current and forthcoming translations at emmaramadan.com/translations-1 The Moroccan film Much Loved was released in…

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Cairo Modern: The Unstable City

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 1900: An Architectural Guide is newly released from AUC Press, with a foreward…

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Getting Away With Murder

Our guest this week was once told there were no Algerian crime novels. She begs to differ. We discuss the many examples of the genre and its evolution in Algeria, Morocco and Egypt. Show Notes: Nadia Ghanem regularly covers Algerian and Moroccan literature — particularly crime fiction — for ArabLit. She has a wonderful crime-lit…

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