The Arabist

Bulaq Podcast

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. 

View of Bulaq quarter, Cairo. HAY, Robert, Esq. Illustrations of Cairo, London, Tilt and Bogue, 1840.

View of Bulaq quarter, Cairo. HAY, Robert, Esq. Illustrations of Cairo, London, Tilt and Bogue, 1840.

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.

Ursula is a journalist and book critic who writes about education, literature, and politics in the Arab world. She contributes to The Nation, the New York TimesThe Point and The Arabist blog.   

Both Ursula and MLQ spent many years living in Cairo and are now based in Rabat, Morocco. 

You can subscribe to this podcast using this RSS feed or on iTunes.


35: 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 what our plans for the future.

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EpisodesUrsula Lindsey
34: 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.”

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EpisodesThe Editors
31: 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.

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30: 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.

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29: Not Quite On The Same Page

In this episode we rave about an Omani novel – a multi-generational saga that is “anti-romantic and anti-nationalistic.” We also discuss a dark family road trip through Syria, and works from Lebanon and Morocco. And we delve into the larger question of how much a writer’s identity and experience gives him or her the right, or the ability, to tell certain stories. 

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EpisodesThe Editors
27: Where Do I Start?

What should you recommend to someone who is interested in exploring Arabic literature? We tackle this big question this week; we also talk about the authors short-listed on the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and about North African literature in English translation.

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26: Bad Parents

We’re back! And ready to talk about two poets who have moved into prose: the Egyptian Iman Mersal and the Palestinian Mazen Maarouf, who have written books that explore the bonds between children and parents, among other things. We also talk about the Cairo book fair’s recent make-over, and about the vibrant but struggling cultural scene in Casablanca. 

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EpisodesThe Editors
24: Writing To Remember

This episode is almost entirely dedicated to the work of the Moroccan film-maker, novelist, artist, and poet Ahmed Bouanani – much of which has yet to be released, and much of which was censored or destroyed in his own life.

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EpisodesThe Editors
23: Poems That Cross Language and Time

We overcame communication blocks and interrupting children to speak to the poet Zeina Hashem Beck about how she’s given herself permission to write poems that move between English and Arabic. We also discuss James Montgomery’s heart-breaking essay on grief, memory, trauma and translating a 7th century Arabic poet famous for her elegies.

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EpisodesThe Editors
20: Stolen in Translation

We talk about looking down on dialect; passing literary theft off as “salvation”; the beginning of awards season; a book that is a fragmented portrait of Jerusalem; and our fellow podcasters in the region.

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EpisodesThe Editors
19: Back To School

We talk about the relationships between education and literature; about a devastating entry in the prison memoir genre, from Syria; about the legacy of V.S. Naipaul; and about why Kuwait is the worst offender in the region for censoring books.

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EpisodesThe Editors
18: Is It a Beach Book?

In our last episode before a summer hiatus, we discuss a graphic novel about the life and art of the stars of Arab music and cinema; Egyptian writer Radwa Ashour’s memoir of studying at university in the United States in the 1970s; and the Moroccan writer Ahmed Bouanani’s novel The Hospital, out in English (alongside a new poetry collection, The Shutters) after nearly falling into oblivion.  

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EpisodesThe Editors
16: Pick Your Team

In which Ursula and Marcia discuss how much innocence American can claim when abroad, and the urge to write expatriate diaries in one’s twenties; they also talk about the new collection Marrakech Noir; and about the never-ending debate over Classical versus Colloquial Arabic. 

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EpisodesThe Editors