BULAQ: The Arab world in books
BULAQ is a podcast about contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa. It looks at the Arab region through the lens of literature and at literature through the lens of current events.
BULAQ is co-hosted by Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey and produced by Issandr El Amrani.
BULAQ is named after a neighborhood of Cairo that hosted the first active printing press in the region. Established in 1820, the Bulaq Press put out its first publication, an Italian-Arabic dictionary, in 1822.
MLQ is a book critic, editor, ghostwriter, and literary consultant with a focus on Arab and Arabic literatures, particularly as they intersect with translation. She runs the blog ArabLit.
Both Ursula and MLQ spent many years living in Cairo and are now based in Rabat, Morocco.
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 loved two of them.Read More
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”; and a book that is an ambitious overview of modern art in the Arab world.Read More
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 without the Nobel Prize for Literature.Read More
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.” Also Ursula has a squeaky chair.Read More
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 constrained, conflicted and divided in Palestine.Read More
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.Read More
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 one extreme to another. But is it more condescending to dismiss outright or to offer all-around encouragement?Read More
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 Mahfouz.Read More
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 “disappeared” during the country’s decades of repression; and a collection of beautifully translate and unusual folktales, shared by Lebanese women with each other. We also discussed the Cairo Book Fair, whose official theme this year is “Soft Power…How?”Read More
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 why Arablit has decided to create a new award. And we ask: how much contemporary Arabic literature is “dystopian”?Read More
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 intellectual, and his stance on religion and revolution.Read More
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 "discovering" Arabic and the Arab world.Read More
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; about coming of age under occupation. We also look at the emerging field of children’s and young adult literature in Arabic.Read More
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 this time when women are denouncing male abuses of power the world over, we look at two Moroccan female writers who are critical of their societies and who face the question of how their work is received and represented at home and abroad. Asma Lamrabet proposes a progressive feminist re-reading of the Koran; Leila Slimani is an award-winning novelist who has written a book on “sexual misery” in Morocco.Read More
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 literature, a Saudi novelist under attack online, and a Palestinian poet whose trial hinges on translation.Read More