Libyan Fiction – Banipal Magazine

Banipal, the UK-based magazine of modern Arabic literature in English translation, published an issue dedicated to Libyan Fiction back in 2011. The print edition is reasonably priced and well worth having, but issue 40 also happens to be available online at Banipal’s website! You can read every piece of Libyan fiction in the issue for free. Together with the recent second edition of Ethan Chorin’s Translating Libya (see here), it represents the best and most recent collection of Libyan literature in English translation, and both are absolutely essential introductions to many of today’s important writers.

From the editor’s description of the issue:

“What an amazing coincidence that [Banipal’s 40th issue] should be dedicated to the celebration of Libyan literature at such an extraordinary historical moment in the Arab world when the region is witnessing a chain of uprisings and revolutions against dictatorial and corrupt regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and, finally, Libya.

We at Banipal are very proud of this special issue on Libyan fiction, and with it announce our absolute solidarity with the Libyan people in their aspiration to democratic rule and the exercising of all their rights, the first of which are to express their thoughts and the abolition of all forms of censorship on audio-visual media and literature.

When I met by chance the veteran Libyan writer Ali Mustafa al-Musrati, one evening at the Greek Club in Cairo, February 2007 (at this time exactly), I said to him: “I’m extremely saddened by the neglect of Libyan literature in the Arab world and by the ignorance of the West.” I promised him that Banipal would publish a special feature on the wonderful literature of Libya. And how happy we are to fulfil this promise at this time in particular…”

The Libyan authors whose work appears are (in no particular order): Ghazi Gheblawi, Wafa al-Bueissa, Hisham Matar, Ibrahim al-Koni, Mohammed Mesrati, Razan Naim Moghrabi, Mohammed al-Asfar, Ahmed Fagih, Giuma Bukleb, Omar el-Kiddi, Saleh Snoussi, Najwa Binshatwan, Omar Abulqasim Alkikli, Azza Kamil al-Maghour, Ibrahim Ahmidan, Redwan Abushwesha, Mohammed al-Arishiya, Mohammed al-Anaizi. There is also profile on Ali Mustafa al-Musrati.

Translating Libya: In search of the Libyan short story

Darf Publishers has just released the second edition of Translating Libya, a collection of short stories by Libyan authors selected and translated from Arabic by Ethan Chorin. The first edition was published in 2008 with Saqi Publishers at a time when there existed essentially no Libyan literature in English or other European languages. Since then, two things have happened: the book has become hard to find, and Darf Publishers have begun to publish Libyan literature in translation. It is thus perfectly appropriate that these two things come together and that a new edition of Translating Libya appears with Darf.

The immediate idea for the book came from a desire to get deeper into Libyan culture, which seemed to hold the foreigner at a distance. I was curious about the local literature—was there any, to speak of? What made this vast, lightly populated country, tick? All of this gradually led me into a world, not simply of ‘stories’, but of stories crafted to communicate in an environment in which one could not communicate, at least not in obvious, blatant ways—lest one face consequences.’

Order it directly from Darf Publishers, or your nearest bookstore.

Update! Read here a recent interview with author Ahmed Fagih about the book.

The Confines of the Shadow by Alessandro Spina

The first volume of the novel The Confines of the Shadow, “a literary homage to Benghazi”, was released one week ago by Darf Publishers, the English-language imprint of the well-known Libyan publisher Dar el-Fergiani.

The sequence of novels and short stories takes as its subject the Italian experience in Cyrenaica. The Young Maronite (1971) discusses the 1911 war prompted by Giolitti, Omar’s Wedding(1973) narrates the ensuing truce and the attempt by the two peoples to strike a compromise before the rise of Fascism. The Nocturnal Visitor (1979) chronicles the end of the twenty-year Libyan resistance; Officers’ Tales (1967) focuses on the triumph of colonialism—albeit this having been achieved when the end of Italian hegemony already loomed in sight and the Second World War appeared inevitable—and The Psychological Comedy(1992), which ends with Italy’s retreat from Libya and the fleeing of settlers. Entry Into Babylon (1976) concentrates on Libyan independence in 1951, Cairo Nights (1986) illustrates the early years of the Senussi Monarchy and the looming spectre of Pan-Arab nationalism, while The Shore of the Lesser Life (1997) examines the profound social and political changes that occurred when large oil and gas deposits were discovered in the mid-1960s. Each text can be read independently or as part of the sequence. Either mode of reading will produce different—but equally legitimate—impressions.

The novel is translated from the Italian by André Naffis-Sahely, who has written previously (see his article in the Nation, republished in Banipal) about the process of researching and translating Spina’s opus. This is the third Libyan novel that Darf Publishers have published in translation. Read a recent interview with the publishers here.

Support Libyan literature in translation! Buy a copy from your nearest bookseller today!

[Updates!—Reviews and other news added below, as they appear.]

5 July 2015 Review by Seth Messigner at the Sultan’s Seal blog.

28 July 2015 Review by Boyd Tonkin in The Independent.

9 Sept 2015 Essay by Andre Naffis-Sahely at Words Beyond Borders.

21 Sept 2015 Interview with Andre Naffis-Sahely here at ArabLit.

1 Oct 2015 Review by Ursula Lindsey at The Nation.