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.


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.

Show notes

  • At the end of February, Youm7 reported that a lawyer submitted a complaint to the Prosecutor-General (No. 2697 of 2019) against Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany, in which he accused the author of The Yacoubian Building and The So-Called Republic of spreading false news, as well as cynicism and ridicule of the state’s leaders on social media. This story spread and, in mid-March, Mesreyoun reported that a lawyer had filed a complaint with the military prosecutor. It’s still unclear what’s happening; the NGO ANHRI has asked whether political “hesba” lawsuits can now be filed in military courts; there has not yet been an official answer. Thanks to TIMEP for assistance in sorting all this out. (Back in 2013, Al Aswany, like the vast majority of Egyptian artist and intellectuals, justified violence against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supported their overthrow.)

  • The actors Amr Waked and Khaled Abol Naga have been prosecuted and smeared recently for speaking out against Egyptian government repression.

  • Ursula’s “heart-breaking” interview with Sonallah Ibrahim was published in Mada Masr in 2013.

  • Palgrave Macmillan published Katharine Hennessey’s Shakespeare on the Arabian Peninsula in 2018.

  • And in the last issue Harper’s Christian Lorentzen writes about the art of criticism in the age of algorithms, in Like This or Die.”