Najwa Bin Shatwan’s The Slave Pens | زرايب العبيد لنجوى بن شتوان

The latest work of Benghazi-born writer Najwa Bin Shatwan, The Slave Pens (زرايب العبيد) has been garnering praise across the Arab literary world. She was recently shortlisted for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and a translated excerpt from her book is featured in the current issue of Banipal magazine (#58 ‘Arab Literary Awards’).

The novel is set just outside of downtown Benghazi in the early 20th century. In this part of the city, known as al-Sabri (الصابري), both enslaved and free people lived in a dense network of rudimentary palm-leaf dwellings, essentially a ghetto. Bin Shatwan is the first writer or scholar to attempt to address this aspect of Benghazi’s history in particular, perhaps the first Libyan writer to deal deeply with slavery and its legacy in Libya.

Summary: The Slave Pens lifts the lid on the dark, untold history of slavery in Libya, of which the effects can still be felt today. Slave owner Mohammed and his slave Ta’awidha have fallen in love, but their relationship is considered taboo. Living in a community where masters take female slaves as lovers as they please, Mohammed’s father sends him on a trading mission in an attempt to distance him from Ta’awidha. During his absence, his mother forces her to miscarry by serving her a spiked drink, and she is married off to another slave. On his return from his trip, Mohammed learns of his family’s activities and he begins searching for his beloved.

Interviews with the author:

http://en.qantara.de/content/libyan-author-najwa-binshatwan-on-the-slave-pens-confronting-a-dark-chapter

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Nouri Zarrugh’s novella The Leader

The latest working title of The Massachusetts Review is a prizewinning novella entitled The Leader by Libyan-American writer Nouri Zarrugh. The novella follows three generations of a Libyan family during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi and the aftermath of the revolution, and is introduced by Khaled Mattawa. Check it out at http://massreview.org/node/787.

اخر عنوان خطي لمجلة “ماساچوستز” هو رواية قصيرة “القائد” للكاتب الليبي الامريكي نوري زروق. الرواية القصيرة تتابع ثلاث اجيال عائلة ليبية خلال فترتي نظام معمر القذافي و ثورة فبراير و لها مقدمة من قلم الشاعر خالد مطاوع.

An extract is below:

That last February before the war and the hard years that were to follow it, forty-one years after the Leader’s revolution, Laila woke to the sound of explosions in the street. She sat clutching the blanket, eyes darting, half expecting to find herself buried in dust and rubble, her vision slowly adjusting to the familiar sight of the armoire and the floral cushions piled beside it, the matching nightstand and the ceramic lamp and on the other side of them, undisturbed, the sheets tucked and folded, Hajj Yunus’s empty bed, glowing in the faint moonlight like a preserved artifact. Finding everything intact, she lay down, thinking the sound a remnant of some already fading dream,  a trace of that April night a quarter century earlier when the walls had shaken and the neighbors had cried out in terror, and she had buried her face in her father’s arms, whispering with him: “I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn.”

It was when she heard the laughter that she finally understood, voices in the alley giving way to the pop and scatter of what she now recognized as firecrackers, to the exclamations of the boys who lit and tossed them and to the nasal cries of the youngest among them, who begged to spark the fuses. She lay there a long time listening as they tried out their bottle rockets and smoking black snakes, eager for the coming mawlid, when they would march down Sharaa Fashloum and Ben Ashour, the older boys bearing makeshift torches and singing, the younger boys relegated to harmless sparklers and pouting. She waited for the footsteps of the other women but had by then learned that only the morning prayer call could draw them from their beds to wash and dress in the darkness. Theirs was a sleep of boundless exhaustion, all of them foreigners, maids and nannies, and it seemed at times that all that kept them awake was their duty to Allah and to the task he’d given them of surviving. . .

ادب ليبي جديد: شمس على نوافذ مغلقة

شمس على نوافذ مقغلة هو كتاب جديد من دار المنشورات المشهورة “دار الفرجاني” الليبية يضم نصوص ادبية لخمسة و عشرين كاتباً و كاتبةً من ليبيا تحت تحرير خالد المطاوع و ليلى المغربي.

من الغلاف:

في خطوة غير مسبوقة تقدم لنا مختارات “شمس على نوافذ مقلقة” نصوصاً غير اعتيادية لا يحدّها سقف، مختلفة الأجناس لشباب في أعمار طرية العود. لكن نصوصهم جذورها عميقة نصطاد كلماتها الماء العذب الصافي، تنبعث منها روائح متفاوتة تتقارب لتكوّن عطراً دافقاً بمحبة الوطن.، عطراً متمرداً على واقع وجدوا أنفسهم مغمورين فيه دونما ارادتهم، لاهثاً خلف وجود صنعه تاريخ الاجداد. –فريدة المصري

في هذا الكتاب مسح للحالة الابداعية الليبية للشباب الذين نشروا نتاجهم في الفترة ما بعد ثورة فبراير الليبية. انه يمثل المشهد الشبابي الابداعي في ليبيا كما يحب … ان هذه الكتابات السردية و الشعرية تتميز عن الكتابة الليبية السابقة بأنها كُتبت في زمن الثورة و الحرب الاهلية الناتجة عنها، و هي حرب مدن و شوارع وقودها جيل الكتاب من اخوتهم و جيرانهم و زملائهم و اصدقائهم و احبتهم، لذا تمجس للفجيعة في وقت القتل و المجان و الصدفة و العبث. –احمد الفيتوري

Sun on Closed Windows is a new collection of Libyan literature written mostly during and after the revolution of February 2011. Edited by Khaled Mattawa and Laila Moghrabi in conjunction with the Arete Foundation and the British Council, this book promises to continue to fulfill Darf (Dar al-Firgiani) Publishers’ goal of making Libyan literature available to a wider audience. Already with a few novels by Libyan authors available in English translation, Sun on Closed Windows expands Darf’s already extensive catalog of Arabic literature by Libyan authors.

Announcing Lamma: A Journal of Libyan Studies

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new journal focusing on the academic study of Libya!

Lamma: A Journal of Libyan Studies

Lamma is an academic journal which aims to provide a forum for critically understanding the complex ideas, values, social configurations, histories, and material realities in Libya. Recognizing, and insisting on, the urgent need for such a forum, we give attention ­to as wide a range of disciplines, sources, and approaches as possible, foregrounding especially those which have previously received less scholarly attention. This includes, but is not limited to: anthropology, art, gender, history, linguistics, literature, music, performance studies, religion, sociology, politics, and urban studies in addition to their intersections, their subfields, and places in between. The journal particularly welcomes articles that adopt innovative critical, theoretical, and postcolonial approaches. Lamma is a space where these fields interact and draw from one another, and where scholars and students from inside and outside of Libya gather to redefine and reshape “Libyan Studies”. For these reasons the journal takes its name from the  Arabic word lamma (لمّة) ‘a gathering’.

There is a wide range of research on Libya that deserves to be represented and disseminated to scholars and students both in Libya and in Europe and North America, but for which a forum which brings them all together does not really exist. Such a forum would actively reach out to find them and bring their research to light, ultimately working to shape and define what ‘Libyan Studies’ is. Furthermore, there is great interest among Libyan students both in Libya and abroad in accessing research about their country in order to fuel and motivate their own studies; many of these students seek, but do not find, accessible research on topics of contemporary relevance. Now is a critical time in the history of Libya, with instability and conflict threatening not only the country’s prospects for a peaceful and productive future, but also threatening efforts to broaden educational and research horizons in tandem with Libyan scholars and students. It is imperative that we find the means to support these efforts.

We believe that access to research is not the privilege of a few but the right of all and that knowledge production should be inclusive. Hence, Lamma is an open-access journal published in conjunction with open-access publisher punctum books (punctumbooks.com)—it will be freely available online as a PDF, and in physical form for a low price.

Besides research articles and reviews of important publications, we also hope to include relevant translated and original literary work, and offer the journal as a platform for the publication of specialized workshop papers or guest-curated collections.

(This announcement will soon be posted in Arabic.)

Finally, all the relevant information about Lamma can be found via the links at the top of this site. Check back soon for updates!

Exhibit: Jewelled Tales of Libya

The exhibition Jewelled Tales of Libya, curated by Najlaa El-Ageli and Hala Ghellali, will take place at the Arab British Centre from 19 to 27 January 2017.

Jewelled Tales of Libya is a rare exhibition which will explore the diversity and historical identity of a country through its tradition of fine jewellery. By showcasing this rich cultural heritage, the exhibition aims to tell the stories behind the adornments and symbols that feature heavily throughout the geographical expanse that we know as Libya.

Alongside a display of 45 pieces of authentic Libyan silver jewellery from the 1920s to 1960s (comprising chokers, belts, headpieces, bangles, silver slippers amongst many other pieces), the exhibition will show 13 original vintage photographs, that belong to the curators’ private collections. Dating back to the early decades of the 20th Century, the images of Libyan women were taken by the Italian cameramen, (such as Aula, Nascia, Rimoldi and others),who established studios in Libya during the European colonisation and who contributed to the Orientalist strand of photography.

In contrast to this old collection, the exhibition will also feature more recent photographs taken by the talented Libyan photographer Sassi Harib, whose work captures the essence of Libya’s Southern women adorned in their jewellery.

Furthermore, Hala Ghellali, one of the curators, will be giving a talk about Libyan jewellery, its symbolism and the history of silver making in Libya on 24 Jan, 6:30pm – 7:30pm @ The Arab British Centre (admission is free).

How Long Have You Been With Us? by Khaled Mattawa

How Long Have You Been With Us? Essays on Poetry by Khaled Mattawa has just been published by the University of Michigan Press.

“Khaled Mattawa, an American poet of Libyan origin, explores various dynamic developments shaping American poetry as it is being practiced today. Arising from an incredibly diverse range personal backgrounds, lyric traditions, and even languages, American poetry is transforming into a truly international form. Mattawa, who also translates Arabic poetry into American English and American poetry into Arabic, explores the poetics and politics of cross-cultural exchange and literary translation that fostered such transformation. The essays in this collection also shed light on Mattawa’s development as a poet and provide numerous portraits of the poets who helped shaped his poetry.”

Libyan Twilight: The Story of an Arab Jew

Darf Publishers has recently released the memoir of Raphael Luzon, a member of the Jewish community of Benghazi, entitled Libyan Twilight: The story of an Arab Jew. Luzon is also the co-author of an Arabic collection of interviews with members of the Libyan Jewish community, entitled سالتهم فتحدثوا: دراسة حول يهود ليبيا (I asked, and they answered: A study about Libyan Jews). From the publisher’s blurb:

Libyan Twilight is a short memoir that discusses the forgotten Jewish community of Libya. As a child growing up in Benghazi, Raphael Luzon experienced the pogrom that followed the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The Libyan Jews were forced to abandon their homeland and seek refuge overseas as a result.

The narrative jumps between the present and past, starting in 2012 where Raphael finds himself in a jail cell in post-revolution Libya amidst political chaos. He rewinds 45 years to a time when Libya was his home, just before the Muslim community ousted the ‘Arab Jews’. They spoke in a Libyan dialect of Arabic and had been rooted in North Africa since the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC right up until 1967.

Left with no choice, the Libyan Jews were forced to flee Benghazi and find settlement elsewhere, leaving a rich culture behind in Saharan sands. Luzon tells the story with an air of dignity rather than resentment. He opens the lid on a box of memories that reflect on the repercussions he and his community experienced over the last 50 years. As a memoir of exile, Libyan Twilight bursts with nostalgia and gives voice to a forgotten tragedy.

Shackled to his Libyan heritage, Luzon relives his life in Italy, Israel and London through a series of charming anecdotes. Sentiments aside, Libyan Twilight is about a man’s quest for justice. On a self-assigned mission, Luzon strives for closure on the deaths of his family in Tripoli during the pogrom. Nobody was convicted, nor were they granted a funeral. Luzon’s honorary pursuit for redemption places revenge aside, as he sets out to achieve a trial, a conviction and a funeral for the lost Libyan Jews.”

The book can be ordered directly from Darf Publishers.