The Association of Tunisian Pen Opens its Activity with Defying Censorship: An Article Written by Kamel Riahi and Translated by Ali Znaidi.

The Association of Tunisian Pen Opens its Activity with Defying Cencorship

Kamel Riahi-Tunisia (Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi)

Side of the first meeting of The Association of Tunisian Pen (Al-Jazeera).

Side of the first meeting of The Association of Tunisian Pen (Al-Jazeera).


In its first activity, The Association of Tunisian Pen chose to stand in the face of censoring books manifested in the so-called the legal deposit and the declaration of literary works. This came in a meeting in which it was officially announced the establishment of the association and the composition of its elected executive body headed by poet Adam Fethi.

The first meeting of the association was attended by a number of creators, among them poet Adel Maizi, novelist Hedi Thabet, translator Jamel Jlassi, and philosophy researcher Adnen Jdey, and journalists and jurists, among them journalist Sihem Bensedrine who is one of the founders of the association years ago, and journalist and activist Naziha Rajiba (who is known as Om Zied).

From Existence to Action:

Adam Fethi: Reality has proved that the fight for freedoms is still going on (Al-Jazeera).

Adam Fethi: Reality has proved that the fight for freedoms is still going on (Al-Jazeera).

Speaking to, the head of the association, poet Adam Fethi, said that Tunisian Pen was established years ago at the initiative of a group of female and male militants of the media and culture scene who believed that defending culture is defending the human being’s humanity and who insisted on activism despite the authority’s refusal to grant them the visa, and who were keen to support creators and media persons and to be a voice of the voiceless intellectuals who yearn for freedom and independence.

Fethi added that after 2011 many things have changed, but reality has soon proved to all that the fight is still going on and that the freedoms, and particularly the freedom of thought, the freedom of expression, the freedom of creativity, the freedom of media, and the free exchange of intellectual, creative and media production have not yet become a reality and they are still a newborn desirable dream which requires lots of care and vigilance to protect it from any hazard.

He pointed out that the association is preparing itself for this new stage with a new executive body based on a renewed certainty that the fight for the future for all the Arab countries is mainly a cultural fight.

For his part, secretary general of the association, caricaturist Tawfiq Omrane, asserted that the association abides by the Charter of International PEN which asserts that literature does not recognise borders and it must remain the common balance between all peoples, despite political turmoil.

He pointed out that its members at all the time consecrate all what they have of influence to serve the understanding between peoples and their living in an atmosphere of mutual respect and they are committed to doing all they can to eradicate all hatred that is based on reasons of race, class or nationality.

For his part, member of the executive body of the association, translator Jamel Jlassi, asserted that “Tunisian Pen” commits itself to defending the principle of free circulation of ideas and enjoining each of its members to do all what they can to face any constriction of freedom of expression in their country or in the group to which they belong, as well as in any place in the world.

Censorship and Self-censorship:

Adnen Jdey: Self-censorship is a means for intellectuals to absorb what the political sysyem wants (Al-Jazeera).

Adnen Jdey: Self-censorship is a means for intellectuals to absorb what the political sysyem wants (Al-Jazeera).

At the constituent meeting of the association, writer and jurist Moez Akaichi told the story of censoring books and the story of the legal deposit and its international history and he saw that it is linked to establishing big dictatorships and totalitarian regimes to control ideas and to spy on creators and thinkers.

Akaichi approached the Tunisian experience reviewing the attempts of the regimes and the rulers to control minds and to govern peoples considering them immature and unable to distinguish. Hence the leaking of an article of the constitution asserting the need for prior declaration of the content of literary works, as Akaichi said reminding of the books confiscated in the previous era as a result of this law.

For his part, Adnen Jdey – who lectured about self-censorship – said that the concept of self-censorship is located between two edges; the edge of the identification between the author and the censor and the edge of the introspection of authority and practicing its mechanisms according to the confusion imposed by the ethics of expression and thought.

Jdey added that self-censorship is the recourse of thinkers, researchers and writers to exercise control as a way to absorb what the political system wants and to adapt to it according to the red lines that are outlined and imposed by the religious, social and moral systems.

This article appeared in 29/3/2014 by Kamel Riahi.

You can read the original text in Arabic here.

Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.


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The First Tunisian English Language Haiku Collection

Ali Znaidi’s Bye, Donna Summer! was published on March 11, 2014 by Fowlpox Press in Canada. Many thanks to editor Virgil Kay.

Ali Znaidi’s Bye, Donna Summer! (Cover)

Ali Znaidi’s Bye, Donna Summer! (Cover)


It is in fact the first Tunisian English Language haiku collection written originally in English language.

It is available as a free PDF download here.

It is also available in print.

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The Golden Comar Prize 2013

The Golden Comar Prize was created in 1997 by the insurance company Assurances Comar (Tunisie) to support literary creation, and encourage Tunisian writers, especially novelists.

The 17th edition of the Golden Comar Prize was held on Saturday 20 April 2013 at the Municipal Theatre of Tunis.

The Arabic version of the prize was not awarded as the Jury thought that there is no good work to be awarded a Golden Comar this year.

The French version of the prize was awarded to Mokhtar Sahnoun for his novel (Le panache des brisantsThe Plume of the Cresting Rocks [A tentative translation]

The other prizes went as follows:

*Arabic language prizes:

-The Jury Special Prize was awarded jointly to Abdelkader Letifi  for his novel (Arrihla al hintatiya) The Pilgrimage of Hentati and Hafidha Gara Biban for her novel (Al âra) Nakedness.

-Discovery Prize was awarded to Abdelhamid Arraï for his novel (Fin’tidhar as’saâ’sifr) Waiting for the Zero Hour.

*French language prizes:

-The Jury Special Prize was awarded to Sami Kourda for his novel (Le souffle de la bête immonde) The Foul Beast’s Breath.

-Discovery Prize was awarded to Mohamed Harmel for his novel (Sculpteur de masques) The Mask Carver.

21 novels in Arabic and 11 novels in French were shortlisted to compete for the afore-mentioned prizes.

§ Congratulations to all the winners! §

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Thanks to The Ofi Press Words of Kamel Riahi, Radhia Chehaibi, Saghir Oulad Ahmed & the Revolution Travel to Mexico

Thanks to The Ofi Press Words of Kamel Riahi, Radhia Chehaibi, Saghir Oulad Ahmed & the Revolution Travel to Mexico where The Ofi Press Literary Magazine is edited.


The Ofi Press Issue 28. Photo borrowed off

The Ofi Press Issue 28. Photo borrowed off


Editor Jack Little republished some of my translated works in The Ofi Press Literary Magazine (Issue 28, April 2013).

Many thanks to him.

By the way, The Ofi Press Literary Magazine accepts works in translation.

In this issue Jack Little republished the following works:

*A book review by Mohamed Masmouli about the Tunisian Revolution.

*An article by Kamel Riahi.

 *A poem by Radhia Chehaibi.

*A poem by Saghir Oulad Ahmed.

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Ali Znaidi Featured in Poised in Flight Anthology

Poised in Flight Book Cover. Photo borrowed off

Poised in Flight Book Cover. Photo borrowed off


Ali Znaidi’s poem “What I Learned from the Flying Wings” was published in Poised in Flight anthology (page 147) on March 28, 2013 by Kind of a Hurricane Press.


Many thanks to editors A.J. Huffman and April Salzano.


It is available as a free PDF download here.


It is also available in Paperback from ($7.50 plus S&H). Order here.

This is the poem :


What I Learned from the Flying Wings


different-coloured feathers, ||castrated words||,

eyes scrolling up & down, plucked feathers

become transplanted onto your mind, & mess

the dancefloor of your dreams, dream is a

synonym of flight, flight is a transgression

against a status quo, & the words stagnate in

the nest, all of a sudden, the nestlings begin

chirruping, & the nest shakes, words start flying

in a shake, & begin to taste like a rainbow,

Wings, a plethora of dreams, & the pure blood

of freedom [seminal] always percolates the

flying wings, bestowing fecundity on the

castrated words,                       & the revolution

won’t succeed unless the flying wings copulate

w/ the rainbow.


Written 11/02/2013


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Interview with Houcine El Wad Conducted by Kamel Riahi and Translated by Ali Znaidi.

Interview with Houcine El Wad Conducted by Kamel Riahi and Translated by Ali Znaidi.

Houcine El Wad: The novel mutinied against me.


Houcine El Wad: The Publication of my novels was forcibly grabbed from me. (Aljazeera)

Houcine El Wad: The Publication of my novels was forcibly grabbed from me. (Aljazeera)

Interviewed by Kamel Riahi.

Tunisian and Arab universities knew Houcine El Wad as a researcher and academic in the main Arab prose and poetic experiences and an author of many books in those fields until his novel The City’s Scents came out in 2010 which won the Tunisian literary Prize of the Golden Comar and then his novel His Excellency Mr. the Minister (2011) which was shortlisted in The Arabic Booker.

Narration dominated the author of  Al Moutanabbi and the Aesthetic Experience of Arabs to  forcibly cast him out from his favourite field – that is of literary criticism and academic researches and studies – to the world of the novel and to compel him to publish his two novels as he says.

The Tunisian novelist and academic perceives that narrative creation necessitates a great deal of precision and auto-discipline, whereas many creative writings suffer from nonsense and gratuitous prattle. met Houcine El Wad and spoke with him about his fictional and academic experience and his selection among the Arabic Booker shortlist.

After The Golden Comar for the Tunisian novel Arabic crowning came with reaching the shortlist of The Arabic Booker with His Excellency Mr. the Minister but you seemed, as usual, not too much interested contrary to the rest of Arab novelists and you were not primarily interested in publishing both novels. Is this true? And is indifference the path towards crowning?

I have been outside Tunisia when I knew that The City’s Scents won The Golden Comar. I had no idea that it was primarily nominated. As for The Booker, the editor told me that he would nominate His Excellency Mr. the Minister. Of course, this does not mean indifference or unconcern, but academic writing is different from creative writing.

For instance, in the first kind I was concerned about including an addition to any book I publish. Addition is the criterion. And any research in which I did not reach an addition I do not publish it. As for creative writing, I compare the done with the expected and I oftentimes feel that the text does not reach the expected level.

As far as the publication of the two novels was concerned, the first one was forcibly grabbed from me. I was enjoying reading it on my computer and looking at it for longer time. There is no secret telling you that I was somehow sorry when it was published because that novel really mutinied against me and whenever I began altering some paragraphs or expressions before publishing it I was unable to do so.

As for the second novel, I published it as a gratitude to the revolution because the latter personally did me a favour. And I tell you that I did not look at the first nor the second novel after publishing them.

Why did you always postpone publishing your creation? Were you afraid about the image of the academic; the man of science and the disciplined being from the image of the unbridled creator? Or were you afraid about the regime’s assault against which your novel His Excellency Mr. the Minister was a satire?

It was true that we (the editor and the director of the series) thought a lot of the reactions of the authority towards the first novel. That’s why it was showed to some trustful readers to take their opinions in this regard, but it leaked until it became circulated through photocopying.

Nevertheless, creative writing itself also necessitates a great deal of precision and intellectual engineering, especially as regards to the economics of the artistic text. Don’t you see that nine tenths of our creative writings has a great deal of nonsense and gratuitous prattle?

On another hand, there is no doubt that you know that many great academics wrote creative writings. Some of them admitted the difficulty of artistic writing. Novel is a free genre and freedom does not mean to be on the loose. On the contrary, it is auto-discipline at its utmost.

According to what his academic researches connote Houcine El Wad seems more preoccupied with poetry. But you put a dumper on the horizon of the expectation of the Arab creative scene with writing novels. When did your interest in narration start? And were your readings to Abul Ala Al-Ma’arri a starting point?

My preoccupation with old Arabic poetry particularly came after writing about old prose. But I did not stop teaching old and modern prose. And my preoccupation with poetry started when I discovered – which surprised me – that the predecessors had a unique marvellous critical experience with it. I tried to unearth all that in all the studies I published. This experience does not still get its share of discovery and paths towards it are not paved. And there are many difficulties and pain in looking at it without colourful lenses.

Narration dominated me. Perhaps this was due to being vexed by the mediocrity of the bulk I have read or perhaps due to the ferocity of anger for the culture to which I belong. I sometimes find myself writing due to a lavish love for a reality that is lavish with harming as it is replete with mediocrity, vulgarity, impudence, and ugliness.

The narrator in The City’s Scents declared that the text has a continuation. Is His Excellency Mr. the Minister a sequel to that work or is it the rest of the “scents” in other drawers?

The rest of the scents does exist. I do not know what made me postpone its publication.  There is something that I do not know preventing me. Denouncing, divulging, and condemning all what harms, damages, and jeopardises existence at all levels used to fall under the rubric of resistance to stir dormant emotions.

Now things have changed. For us, particularly, denouncing becomes a mobilization in order not those abhorred eras come again. Difference is clear between the two situations. What remains is reaching artistic clarity. As for His Excellency, it has no relation with The City’s Scents. I wrote it laughing out from much stupidity.

Your style in the second novel is totally different from the first. In His Excellency language is pragmatic and not loaded with rhetoric, whereas in The Scents it sounds, and so does the style,   strong, ancient, eloquent, and poetic. Which style is closer to you? And does the literary text impose its style and language or does the novelist want to carve a style for himself/herself?

I had my share in creating language in The City’s Scents. It is a language that surprised me and still surprises me with its strength and charm. However, language in His Excellency has another story. It is informative and tricky. If happened that other books of mine – that I still see them as unworthy to appear – came out you would see that their language is different. Language also uses the writer. It is a strange being that transcends us.

We find the “melancholy” that we read in your first novel in another style in the second. This is understood in reading the Tunisian reality before the revolution. How do you read the reality and the future of Tunisia today as a creator? And what are your fears about and your perceptions of what is happening and what will happen?

Our reality is tearful in reality and metaphorically. I permit myself and all those who are preoccupied with it and who are suffering from it to criticise it with the cruelty it deserves. But it hurts me a lot that others criticise it as a means to deride and belittle us and also perhaps as a glee at our misfortune so we cannot find anything to respond back. I was happy that some Arab peoples had the courage to take hold of their destiny. But joy did not consummate.

Arab peoples today are at a crossroads. Their chronic civilisational crisis becomes a matter of being. I hope that those peoples will succeed in building a world in which people are able to live a decent life that is rich with diversity in a durable world.

The dispute over the aunt between the two ministers in your novel—a dispute over the mother, seems now the origin of disputes between Tunisians, between the revolutionaries and the politicians over Tunisia. Abdullah al-Qasemi sees no good in the Arab revolutionary because he/she revolts against his/her father to bring one worser than him. How do you see the reality of the so-called “Arab Spring” today?

Though attractive, psychoanalytic reading does not convince me. And I see what was done of Arabic studies in it nonsensical and silly. As for Arab revolutions, what are they? How many revolutions have we got in our history? We can judge when we will have a stock of revolutions.

The most dangerous people for the revolutions are those who consider themselves intellectuals because there are distances between the perceptions they have and reality. Reality, far and away, had outstripped them. That’s why you see them having recourse to the dead of every type and category to direct them how to live. They are dream killers.

You were one of the founders of the avant-garde literary movement in Tunisia in the seventies. And now you appear as one of the most important creators in the Tunisian scene and between these two periods you were preoccupied with research. Today after your retirement will you devote your time to creation? And when will you release the new novel? Or will this abrupt success lead you to take your time more?

The story of the avant-garde movement in Tunisia is long and rich. In brief, it began in the seventies obstreperous, quarrelsome, recusant, mutinous, and pregnant with loads of hopes. But it was not long when it became a nail clipper or a mere luxurious façade of a shop full of all kinds of valueless haberdasheries when it was opposed by the ones – among them some of its advocates – who opposed it.

We had a rendez-vous with history (here the comparison must be taken with a pinch of salt), but we missed it. So it turned its face from us and went away. My fear is that we miss once again this second rendez-vous – the one we are witnessing today. Then, we will not find even time to regret it or shed tears.

As a reader, I like writers to respect me and not make light of me or waste my time because time is very precious. As a writer, I try to respect the readers because the book – and this saying is by Attawhidi or Jahiz – is what “when you look at it, it elongates your pleasure.” And the pinpointed pleasure is various.

As for retirement, I wish that everybody will not find himself/herself repeating with Al-Ma’arri his saying, “my action was lost in intentions like mountains in the dark.”

Originally appeared in on 25/01/2013 by Kamel Riahi.

You can read the original text in Arabic here.

Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.

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100 Very Short Stories by Mohamed Bouhouch: A Review Written by the Online Moroccan Magazine and Translated by Ali Znaidi.

The Front Cover of 100 Very Short Stories

The Front Cover of 100 Very Short Stories

100 Very Short Stories by Mohamed Bouhouch.

A new book titled 100 Very Short Stories by writer Mohamed Bouhouch was recently published by Imprimerie Nouha Editions in Sfax (Tunisia) under the publications of the Tozeur section of The Tunisian Writers’ Union. The book came in 115 pages of small size including 100 very short stories. This short story collection was introduced by Moroccan writer Mustafa Laghtiri. Among what he said was:

“As far as style was concerned, the writer relied on a ripe narratorial language in his stories. Thus, he did not fall in the trap of the pompous poetic language that is overloaded by metaphor which distracts the attention of the short story writer and the reader from the rest of the storytelling’s elements as was and still is the case of many who were lured by the lights of the very short story, so they burnt their wings and much glow of the storytelling was burnt with them..

Here the short story writer uses narrative sentences that are very fond of capturing the mercurial fictional moment which disappears after a short interval of time if we cannot handle it properly.

Here Tunisian writer Mohamed Bouhouch is preoccupied with multifarious subjects delving into the hearts of the human issues which worry the minds of creators everywhere. But favour was given to issues lived by the short story writer and with which he had an immediate experience because he captures what the eye sees and what the mind and emotion believe.

In this collection Bouhouch used sarcasm because it is among the most important distinctive character of ripe writing which gives it a deep human dimension; away from the tragic language of sadness which harms creation more than doing good to it…”

It is worth mentioning that this is the first publication of Tunisian writer Mohamed Bouhouch in the field of the very short story and it is the ninth to the credit of the writer who published five poetry collections in Arabic, one book of poetry in French, another book in French which is a sociological research about the phenomenon of single mothers in Tunisia, and one poetry collection translated into English titled (Tahta Dhilal Al-Abadiyya) Under the Shadows of Eternity.

This book came as a new addition to the Tunisian narrative corpus in the field of the very short story as it is a new genre in Tunisia and publications of this genre are counted on the fingers of the hand.

Originally appeared in the online Moroccan magazine

You can read the original text in Arabic here.

Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.

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“Urgent Telegrams to an Emergent Love”: A Sequence of Short Poems by Radhia Chehaibi (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

Picture of Radhia Chehaibi borrowed off

Picture of Radhia Chehaibi borrowed off

“Urgent Telegrams to an Emergent Love”: A Sequence of Short Poems by Radhia Chehaibi (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

This is the original poem in Arabic. It is taken from the online magazine “Urgent Telegrams to an Emergent Love” is, in fact, a sequence of short poems. You can also read it here.

برقيات عاجلة لحب طارئ ~ للشاعرة المتألقة راضية الشهايبي
المصدر: مجلة العربي الحر الإلكترونية

برقيات عاجلة لحب طارئ


باسمك مجرى دمي
جارفا يهتف لك بمداخلي
باسمك مرساه حين تتقد
على مشارف اناملك…يدي


بعينيك الاحزان جميعا
وفي عيني الدموع التي تلزم


اتدري كم يلزمني
لاحتمال غربتي
عن شهقتك القصوى
عين اشتهاء
ويد ارتجاف
وشفاه من لهيب


لعينيك قرارات
تنثرها بكياني فالتزم
وارسل روحي تبايعك
واشيد من قبلي عرشا
تعتليه…على شفتي


هو الذي افرط
في شرب ايحاءات عينيها
لن يفلت من سكر التاويل


ليس لك ما به عن غياب
ما قبل اللقاء تكفر
سوى ذرف اشواق
على جسد اعياه الترقب


أغارعليك من نفسي
إلاَّ معي تخونني


كأني ما كنت انثى
كأن يديك ما احتفت بغيري
كأن انيني ما انتشى يوما
بغير تفجر نبعك في أديمي


ينتشر صخب كبريائه
يتفجر في صمت على جسدي
يستفز نبضي
يبشرني بالنبض البديل الخافق المتواري
خلف سكون رغبتي

Here you are the translation for this sequence!

Urgent Telegrams to an Emergent Love


In your name my blood stream

vehemently shouts my innermost to you.

In your name its anchorage when my hand

burns at the outskirts of your fingertips.



In your eyes all sorrows.

In my eyes the required tears.



Do you know how much do I need

to endure my alienation from your

utmost sobs:

A desiring eye,

a trembling hand,

& blazing lips.



Your eyes have decisions.

You sprinkle them on my being. So I engage,

& I send my soul acknowledging you as a sovereign.

And I build a throne out of my heart.

You ascend it… on my lips.



He who drank in the suggestiveness

of her eyes to excess,

will not escape from the intoxication of interpretation.



You have nothing by which to expiate

the absence from the pre-date

except shedding yearnings

on a body worn out by waiting.


A Furthest Point

I’m jealous about you from myself.

So promise not to betray me

only with me!



As if I hadn’t been a female.

As if your hands had never celebrated anyone but me.

As if my whine had never been intoxicated

except with the explosion of your wellspring in my dusty skin.



The fury of his arrogance spreads

and it silently explodes in my body.

It provokes my pulses.

It brings to me the good news of the alternative palpitating

pulse that is hidden behind the inertia of my desire.

Radhia Chehaibi’s Bio:

Radhia Chehaibi is a Tunisian poet. She was born on May 29, 1970. Her poetry is characterised by strong imagery and language. She is also known for writing shorter poems or flash poetry. She authored poetry collections, including What Leaked from My Silence, Travel Recitations, and The Digital Path of the Soul. She was also anthologised in some Arabic and translated anthologies.

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Two Poems by Ines Al Abbasi (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

Picture of Ines Al Abbasi borrowed off

Picture of Ines Al Abbasi borrowed off

Two Poems by Ines Al Abbasi (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

These are the original poems in Arabic. They are taken from the online magazine “Taking Shape” appeared on December 14, 2008 and “A Bastard” appeared on December 3, 2008. You can also read them here and here.

قصيدتان لإيناس العباسي ~ المصدر: مجلة ألف الإلكترونية


الزمن : دوائر تتداخل
دائرة واحدة
نقطة ارتكازها
بشعاع الأكاذيب الممتدّ
قطرا من الأخطاء
….هناك في علم الرياضيات
مايسمّى بالـ”جِوار”
منطقة بين – بين
لا نحن فيها …و لا خارجها
أحيانا نلتقي فيها
أو على حدود الدائرة
ننتمي لكلّ الاحتمالات

في اللقاء:
تدور الدائرة بشدّة
مجرّد نقطة
في الفراغ



الطفل الذي…
يعبر الليل وحيدا
الذي نهارا
يتأرجح بين
ذراعيّ شجرة
و يغفو بين أهداب
أمّه الشمس
صوت البحر
المختنق في
حنايا صَدفة
سرقها من طفل آخر
الطفل الذي…
يلعب مع الساحرات
في الرواق الطويل
لبيته الكبير
بيت الآخرين أيضا
أين اللغة عرجاء
تفتقد إلى كلمات كثيرة
الطفل الذي
قبل أن ينام في
حلم طفل آخر
كلّ ليلة
ما معنى كلمة :

Here you are the translation for both poems!

Taking Shape

Time: Circles intertwine

to form

one circle:

Its fulcrum is

your betrayal.

The rays of lies stretch

like a diameter of blunders.

In mathematics

there is something called ‘adjacency’—

a no man’s land zone:

We are not inside it, nor outside of it.

We sometimes meet in it

or at the edge of the circle/the memory.

Thus, we belong to all possibilities.

When meeting,

the circle vehemently revolves

to return into

a mere dot

in the void


A Bastard

A bastard;

the child who…

crosses the night alone,

who at the daytime

oscillates between

the arms of a tree

and naps between the eyelashes

of his mother/the sun,


the voice of the sea

that is stifled betwixt

the ribs of a seashell

that he stole from another child

– like him. –

The child who…

plays with the witches

in the long corridor

of his big house:

The house of others, too

where language is lame

and lacking many words…

The child who,

before sleeping in

another child’s dream,


every night

about the meaning of the word ‘bastard.’

Ines Al Abbasi’s Bio:

Ines Al Abbasi is a Tunisian poet and fiction writer. She was born in 1981. She is a journalist by profession. She authored poetry collections, including Secrets of the Wind (2004) and Archive of Blind (2007) and a narrative travel book titled Scheherazade’s Korean Tales based on her residency experiences in Seoul.

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A Batch of Poems by Fatma Ben Mahmoud (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

Picture of Fatma Ben Mahmoud borrowed off

Picture of Fatma Ben Mahmoud borrowed off

A Batch of Poems by Fatma Ben Mahmoud (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

These are the original poems in Arabic. They are taken from her poetry collection Another Desire Doesn’t Interest Me. You can also read them here.

قصائد قصيرة لفاطمة بن محمود من مجموعتها رغبة أخرى لا تعنيني


وحيدا .. بلا نشيد
كل المدن نبذته
كل الأرصفة هجرته
فلاذ بيت في .. قصيد

حرقة الأسئلة

سؤال الجمر*
لماذا كلّما تشعل
أكون أنا .. الرّماد ؟

جسدي القتيل
أستلّ منه قلبي
و أشعله .. فتيل.


الى صديقي الفنان هشام الكتاري

في غرفته .. الوحيدة
داعب العازف أوتار
فتنهدت .. حبيبته


ترتعش اللحظة بيننا
يتبرّد الورد
و يشتعل،
شفتاك نار
و ريقك .. عسل

Bonne année

سنة جديدة
و تنهمر على العام الجديد
و أنا يهزّني الفرح الجميل
و أتمنّى : لو شهيّة الأماني.. تعود.


منذ أن هجرها الله
و أنكرها النبيّ
تجلس على جمر الوقت
تلك البنيّة
تنتظر الحلم
و تستعطف الذي :
لا … يرحم


كانت كعادتها
تحبّ المساء
و تستلذ ّ الحرام
عندما اكتشفت الحكمة
خرست عن .. الكلام.

حال الطفلة

الى دنيا ميخائيل

كانت الطفلة
تعدّ الأحلام بأصابعها
و تبكي ..
لأن عدد الأصابع لكلّ الأحلام
لا .. تكفي.

وردته الفصيحة

الى الهادي الدبّابي

أيها البستاني
امنحني وردة واحدة
أهبك معنى لكلّ الورود.


مرّ الذي
تحبّ الرّوح أن تراه،
اهتزّ عصفور الصدّر
ارتحل البصر نحوه
و سافرت نحوي .. عيناه.


و اذ تلتقي النّار بالناّر
و ترتعد كل أوصال..
يرتوي القرنفل
يتبرّد ورد الأنوثة
و يذوب الرّخام
لهذا المساء طعم الصبا
و للشفاه وظيفة أخرى
غير الكلام.

مشهد عادي

في طريق المدرسة
طفل … أراه بلا محفظة،
يجوب أروقة القاعة …
نسي الكرّاس
يدنو من كلّ طاولة
أتلف الكتاب
يلامس كلّ كرسيّ
و ضيّع المقلمة،
يمسح في المقهى ..


كل صباح ..
تعلن التوبة
ترتب وحدتها
و تحصي أمنيتها

آخر كل ليلة
تعود الى عادتها .. القديمة


يا لهذه المدينة كم
تضيق ..
تشتدّ أزقتها
فتختنق الخطى،
غير أن بابنا الخشبي
يفتح على قلبها..
تلك الأمّ .. الطيبة.

مشهد ليلي

مطر حزين
و الليل .. منفى،
هل يحتاج أن يضيء المكان
اذا كان في العزلة
الفتى .. الأعمى؟


نام الليل
و استيقظ جسد …
كان قد تورّق
نجمة يانعة هي
لم يقطفها الهلال
و ضمّها الأرق،
تأوهت في غصنها .. شهوة
فقطفها الخيال
و استنارت النجمة توهجا


اذ يلفّ هذا الجسد
ستنوحني أمّي
تفتقدني غرفتي
و يشيّعني الذين
آلفتهم أمدا
حشدا كبيرا
من .. الشجن.

مشهد شتوي

ليل عميق
و ريح تبللّها المطر
و هذا الذي :
حوله ما يشبه المحفظة،
و له كتاب قديم
و بعض أمان تزرع
في .. الورقة
و بقربه تماما …
اناء ..
و دقّات رتيبة تخترق
تك ، تك ، تك ،
قال الطفل :
– انها الساعة
تضبط ما فات من الليل
و أجزائه المقبلة
و كان يقصد حبّات مطر من
تدقّ الاناء الذي :
يكاد يلامس .. قدمه.


قرّب شفتيه
من فيها
ارتعش لسانه
من حلو الرّضاب
و ترقرق ريقها
في الرّوح
حتى .. ارتوى
ثمّ .. أغلق الحنفية
و مضى.


مدّ رغبته لها
بسطت شهوتها نحوه
رفعت ورقة التوت
أصابه الدّوار
كادت…. تموت.

Picture of the Front Cover of Another Desire Doesn’t Interest Me borrowed off

Picture of the Front Cover of Another Desire Doesn’t Interest Me borrowed off

Here you are the English translation for this batch!

The Poet

Alone… Without a chant

All the cities rejected him

All the pavements forsook him

So he sheltered in a line… in a poem

The Ardor of Questions

*The Embers’ Question

Why do I become… ash

whenever a cigarette is lit?

I unsheathe my heart

from my killed body

and I burn it.. as a wick.


for my friend, artist Hichem Ktari

In his single room

the instrument player fondled the strings

of his heart.

Thus his far-flung lover


A Kiss

Whenever the moment

shivers between us

roses get cold,

then on fire

Your lips are fire,

your spittle.. honey.

Bonne année

A new year,

Then promises are showering

the new year,

& I’m taken by the beautiful joy,

and I wish if the appetite of wishes.. returned.


Since Allah deserted her

and since the prophet denied her

that little girl

sits on the embers of Time,

waiting for the dream

and beseeching that

one who is not… merciful

A Discovery

She used to love the evening

and find the forbidden pleasurable.

When she discovered wit

she shut up her mouth.

The Girl at this very Moment

for Donia Mikhail

The girl was

counting dreams on her fingers

and crying..

because there are not enough fingers

for all the dreams..

His Eloquent Rose

for Hedi Debbabi

O, gardener!

Give me just one rose!

I’ll give you a meaning for all roses.

An Encounter

Without a plan

the one whom the soul loves to see

passed by.

The bird of the chest quivered.

The sight tripped into him.

And his eyes travelled…towards me.

A Blaze

And when fire meets fire

and all the body’s joints tingle,

the carnations get watered,

the blazing roses of femininity get cold,

and the marble melts.

This evening tastes like juvenility,

& lips have another function,

apart from speaking.

An Ordinary Scene

On the school pathway.

A child… I saw him without

a schoolbag, roaming the classroom’s corridors…

He forgot the copybook.

He draws close to every desk.

He tore the book apart.

And he lost his pen-case.

A child…

polishing shoes in the café.

The Prostitute

Every morning..

she declares repentance

she tidies up her loneliness

and enumerates her orphan


At the end of every night

she reverts to her old habit


O, how narrow this city is becoming!

Its alleys are getting tougher.

Thus the footsteps are suffocated.

But our wooden door

opens onto

her expansive heart—

that kind mother.

A Nocturnal Scene

A sad rain

And the night.. is an exile.

Does the place need to emit light

when the blind boy was in this seclusion?

A Desire

The night slept

and a body that has turned into foliage

woke up…

She was a vivid star,

not plucked by the crescent,

but hugged by insomnia.

A desire moaned in her bough

Thus, imagination plucked her.

And the star became more glowing.

Thus, she fidgeted.

A Funeral

I know when the coffin

shrouds this body

my mother will mourn me

very long,

and my room will miss me

and the ones whom I kept company

for long—

a large crowd of grief—

will escort me to my final resting place.

A Wintry Scene

A deep night

and a wind being wetted by rain.

And this one –

around whom something similar to a schoolbag –

had an old book,

and some wishes being grown… in the paper.

And precisely beside him…

an utensil..

and monotonous beats pricking his ears:

tick, tick, tick,

The child said,

It’s the clock

adjusting what was left

of the night

and its upcoming parts.

& he has meant

rain grains

from the ceiling

banging the utensil

that was about to touch.. his foot.


He drew his lips closer

to her mouth.

His tongue trembled

out of the spittle sweetness,

and her spit glided along

the soul

till he got watered.

Then he turned off the tap

and went away.


He extended his desire towards her.

She spread her desire towards him.

She raised the mulberry leaf



He was attacked by vertigo.

She was about to die.


Fatma Ben Mahmoud’s Bio:

Fatma Ben Mahmoud is a Tunisian poet and fiction writer. She worked as a philosophy teacher at Tunisian secondary schools. Then, she joined journalism because she loves writing. She writes prose poetry, flash fiction, and essays. She is mostly known for her micro poems and flash poetry. Her language is characterised by high levels of semantic density and richness and, at the same time, by simplicity. She has published three poetry collections: Another Desire Doesn’t Interest Me, What the Poem Hasn’t Said, and The Rose Which I Don’t Name. As for prose, she has published a collaborative short story collection with Moroccan writer Abdallah Al Mouttaqi titled Dreams Extending their Fingers. She has also published a fictional autobiography titled A Woman at the Time of the Revolution.




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