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


Posted in News and Events | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“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.

Posted in Texts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Texts | Tagged , | 5 Comments

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.




Posted in Texts | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Poem of Christ” A Poem by Hafedh Mahfoudh (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

Picture of Hafedh Mahfoudh borrowed off

Picture of Hafedh Mahfoudh borrowed off

This is the original poem in Arabic. It appeared in on October 21, 2012.

قصيـدة المسيـح ~ حافظ محفوظ

خذ شكلك المرئيّ واهبط
فوق غيمتك القصيرة،
كيف حال الأرض؟
لا تسأل، ترقّب ثورة الأشجار
وانتظر السّلام محلّقا…
ربّيت أطفالا لأجلك،
هم جنودك بعد جيل،
هم حواريّوك فاحذرهم جميعا
واتّخذني شاهدا
لك في الطّريق روائح الفردوس
سيّدة تراقب نومك الفضّيّ
سيّدة تعدّ طعامك…
الجوعى أمام الباب فانهرهم جميعا
واتّخذني حارسا
لك آيتان تكلّم الموتى وتستفتي الحجر
حاذر إذن!
أرجوحة في الرّيح هذا الملك
فاقطع حبلها،
واصنع من الغصن البليل الفلك
وافتح بابها،
وقل اصعدوا، باركت توبتكم
وكن ربّانها
سيكون دمع الأرض يمّك
آمن خشب السّفين
وآمن مجدافها.
لك إثم خوفك من ضياع البدو في لغة الفراسة
فاتّخذني ترجمانك وانطلق…
لا بأس،
هذي الخمر إن شاؤوا دمي!
لكنّها غسلت صراخي بالنّخيل وهدهدتني
ربّما هزّت إليها بالسّحاب وبلّلت صوتي
لها لبن اللّغات وأرضعت سمعي
لها حضن الملاك وكفكفت دمعي
لها ظلّ الحصاة،
فلا تكن ولدا لغير الأرض يا كبد السّمـاء
وخذ دمي.
خذ ما تساقط من جناح ملاكها
ما ظلّ منثورا على النّهدين من رمل الجنان وريحها
خذ رفّة الجفن الأخيرة
أنّة الخصر الهباء
خذ ما يشاء اللّون
خذ ما انحلّ من عقد المساء
أحسّ انبجاس حروف على شفتيّ
أحسّ هبوب السّلالة من شرقها
أرى جسر ضوء يطول
وعاصفة في الأعالي
أرى بجعات يشكّلن بالغيم إسمي
أرى شجرا
لكأنّي أراه يميل
أرى في البعيد بحارا وصحراء عالية
لكأنّي أراها تميل
أرى الطّير والوحش والكائنات
كأنّي أراها تميل
أراني أميل على صدرها وأنام

“The Poem of Christ” A Poem by Hafedh Mahfoudh (Translated by Ali Znaidi)


Take your visible shape and land

in your low cloud!

How’s earth?

Don’t ask! Expect the revolution of the trees,

and wait for peace, fluttering…

I reared children for you,

They are your soldiers, after a generation.

They are your apostles. Beware of them all!

And take me as a witness.

Scents of paradise for you in the pathway.

A lady surveilling your silvery sleep.

A lady preparing your food…

The hungry are in front of the door. So scold them all!

And take me as a guard!

You have two miracles:

you talk to the dead and you call rocks for a poll.

So, beware!

This kingdom is a trapeze in the wind.

So cut its rope!

And make ships out of the wet bough!

And open their doors,

and say, Go aboard I blessed your repentance.

And be its captain!

The earth tears will be your sea.

Make safe the ship’s timber,

& the oars!

You have the sin of your fear

of the Bedouins’ errancy in the language of the acumen.

So make me your translator and set out…


Never mind!

This wine is my blood if they want.

But it washed my cries with the palm trees and lulled me.

Perhaps it shook the clouds against it and wetted my voice.

It has the milk of languages and it breastfed my ears.

It has the lap of the angel and it wiped out my tears.

It has the shadow of the pebble.

O, liver of the sky! Be only the child of earth,

and take my blood!

Take the debris of her angel’s wing,

& the gardens’ sand and scents still scattered on the breasts!

Take the last delicacy of the lid,

& the aerosol waist’s moan!

Take what the colour likes!

Take remnants of the evening’s unstrung necklace!


I feel a gush of letters on my lips.

I feel the breed blowing from its east.

I see a bridge of light growing longer

and a tempest above.

I see pelicans molding my name with clouds.

I see trees

as if I see them swaying.

I see from faraway seas and a high desert

as if I see them swaying.

I see the bird, the beast, and the creatures

as if I see them swaying.

I see myself swaying to her bosom and I sleep.

Hafedh Mahfoudh’s Bio:

Hafedh Mahfoudh is a Tunisian poet and novelist. He was born in the Tunisian city of Ksour Essef in 1965. He is a teacher of Arabic language and literature. He was awarded many literary prizes such as The Tunisian Golden Comar in 1999 for his novel The Angels’ Guard. He authored many poetry collections like Anxiety (1989), The Ants’ Poems (1994), and The Potter (1999). Chief among his novels, we can cite The Confusion of Senses (1996), The Wisdom Cube (2003), and Hourria (2005).


Posted in Texts | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

“This is Me..”A Poem by Saghir Oulad Ahmed (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

Picture of Saghir Oulad Ahmed borrowed off

Picture of Saghir Oulad Ahmed borrowed off

This is the original poem in Arabic. It appeared in on December 11, 2012.

هذا أنا.. ~ أولاد أحمد

هذا أنا..
فكّرتُ في شعبٍ يقول : نعمْ ولاَ
عدّلتُ ما فكّرتُ فيهِ لأنّني – ببساطةٍ – عدّلتُ ما فكّرتُ فيهِ
فكّرتُ في شعبٍ يقولُ : نعمْ لـِ : لاَ
فكّرتُ في عددِ الضحايا واليتامى والأراملِ
فكّرتُ في هربِ الحروفِ من النصوصْ.
فكّرتُ في شعبٍ يغادرُ أرضهُ
بنسائهِ ورجالهِ
وجِمالهِ وكلابهِ.
فكّرتُ في تلكَ اليتيمةِ – في الحكومةِ ـ
وحدها تستوردُ التصفيقْ
من حفلٍ لسوبرانو يُغنّي للغزالةِ
والعدالةِ والمسيحْ.
فكّرتُ في صمتٍ فصيحْ
مضتِ الحياةُ كما مضتْ
مضت الحياةُ تهافُتًا وَ.. سبهلا
سأقولُ للأعشى الكبير قصيدة في البار،
إن نفذَ الشرابُ، وصاح في ليلِ المدينةِ ديكُها وغُرابُها :
– يــــــــــا ناسُ
ليس هناكَ – بعدَ الآنَ – غَدْ.

“This is Me..”A Poem by Saghir Oulad Ahmed (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

This is me..

I thought of a people that says, Yes & No.

I adjusted what I had thought of because – simply – I

adjusted what I had thought of.

I thought of a people that says, Yes to No.

I thought of the number of victims, orphans, widows,

and thieves.

I thought of letters fleeting from the texts.

I thought of a people leaving its land

with its women and men, camels and dogs.

I thought of that orphan – the government –

It was solely importing clapping

from a concert of a soprano that is singing to the gazelle,

to justice, and to the Christ.

I thought of an eloquent silence.

Life has gone as it has gone.

Life has gone in rushing & in vain.

I’d read a poem to Al-Asha al Kabir in the bar

when wine ran out and the cock and the crow of the city

cried in its night:

“– O, folks!

There is no tomorrow – after now – over there.”

Mohamed Sgaier Awlad Ahmed’s Bio:

Mohamed Sgaier Awlad Ahmed (sometimes Saghir Oulad Ahmed) is a Tunisian poet. He was born in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid in 1955. He was invited to several international poetry festivals and read his poetry in most Tunisian cities. Awlad Ahmed’s poetry is mostly known for its satire, humour, and caustic remarks. His poems are translated into several European languages.


Posted in Texts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Redeyef: The Mother of Rebels” A Poem by Jamel Slii (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

[Video of Jamel Slii Reading his Poem in Redeyef.]

This is the original poem in Arabic:

قصيدة: “الرديف أم الثائرين” ~ للشاعر جمال الصليعي
الرديف ..
هذه الرديف
أرض أقفرت عشبا
لكنها أخصبت بالعز منتصبا
هذه الرديف أم الثائرين
أتت تعلم الغافلين المجد و الغضب
من قبل أن يعرف الثوار مسلكهم
خط الرجال هنا دربا لهم خضبا
السابقون الى الثوراة
مسكنهم حر المناجم
حيث الصخر قد كتب
لاشي فوق هدير الشعب منفجرا
بركان غيظ رمى النيران و اللهب
فاخلع نعالك هذه الأرض طاهرة
جرى عليها دم الأحرار و انسكب
مر النار
مر النار تكتب
تفاصيل اغفلها النائمون
و انت تراقص قد اللهيب على حشرجات السبات
و أنجز قليلا من الموت تحتاجه كي تفيق الحياة
قليل قليل من الزيت فوق اذا الشعب يكفي
لتأتي اذا الشعب رافلة مزدهاة
يواعدك الجوع بين الرغيف البعيد
و بين مواعيد عرقوبها خلبي اللغاة
ولست فقيرا لا لا لست فقيرا
ولكن نواقير مصرك أعطت عناقيدها للجباة
ونحن الذين استخضنا بشاعرنا اذ أراد الحياة
وجاء البغاة فقالوا له نرى خيركم في الممات
لنا الأرض قالوا و خيراتها من عليها
و شطئانها الساحرات
و نمنحكم قفة الفقر و الجهل
و الحزب و الصحف الكاذبات
مر النار تكتب
فقد كذبت هذه النخب المشتراة
تريك أناقتها في النهار
و في الليل تأوي
الى فرش الممـ….. الموميات
لها عسل الوهم في قطران الطلاة
مر النار تكتب
مر النار تكتب فان لنا من رصيد الدماء
كفايتنا دائما للنجاة
لنا فائض من كرامة شعب أبي
و لكن طيبتنا مدخل للطغاة
و في آخر الصبر مقبرة للطغاة
مر النار تكتب
مر النار تكتب فأمك حاضرة للشهادة
كانت اعدت بنيها لكل الدروب و كل الجهات
مر النار تكتب
تفاصيل….. يجهلها الساسة العابرون
و أهل الخراج و وفد الجباة
مر النار تكتب
اذا الشعب يوما أراد الحياة
فلابد ان تستجيب الحياة
ولابد ان يسقط الظالمون الطغاة

“Redeyef: The Mother of Rebels” A Poem by Jamel Slii (Translated by Ali Znaidi)


This is Redeyef—

a land devoid of grass,

yet, fertile with honour, erect.

This is Redeyef; the mother of rebels.

She came to teach the mindless

glory & anger.

Before the revolutionaries know their pathway

men, here, had traced for them a pigmented path:

The harbingers of the revolutions,

their home is the mines’ heat

where rocks had written,

Nothing is above the explosive roar of the people—

a volcano of wrath which spewed fire & blaze.

So, take off your shoes because this land is pure

on which the blood of the free flowed & spilled.

Order the fire!

Order the fire to write

details neglected by the sleepers,

while you are dancing with the blaze’s stature

to the hibernation’s rattles,

& perform a little bit of death, something you need

in order for life to wake up.

A little bit, a little bit of oil over “If The People” would suffice,

so that “If The People” comes swaggering & ceremonious.

Hunger is dating you between a remote loaf of bread

& appointments whose jam to-morrow is full of flowery words.

& you are not poor. No, no, you are not poor,

but the hearts of your land had given their grapes to tax collectors.

& we who fought an uphill battle/

& our model was our poet who “chose to live.”

But tyrants came & said to him, We see your good in death.

The land is ours, they said, and so are its resources

and whoever treads on it,

& its mesmerising beaches.

& we bestow on you the bag of poverty and ignorance,

the party, and the phony newspapers.

Order the fire to write:

These purchased élites have lied.

They show you their elegance in the daytime,

& at night, they shelter in

the mattresses of the mumm… mummies,

& they have not but the honey of illusion in the painters’ tar.

Order the fire to write,

Order the fire to write, we have enough blood credit—

always sufficient to get rescue,

we have a surplus of a prideful people’s dignity,

but our kindness is the tyrants’ gate,

but at the end of patience it will be the tyrants’ cemetery.

Order the fire to write,

Order the fire to write, your mother is ready for martyrdom,

& she had prepared her children for all paths and all directions.

Order the fire to write

details… ignored by the ephemeral politicians,

the community of land tax collectors,

& the delegation of tax collectors.

Order the fire to write,

If the people choose to live one day,

life can do nothing but give in,

and unjust tyrants can do nothing but collapse.

Jamel Slii’s Bio:

Jamel Slii is a Tunisian poet. He was born in the Tunisian city of Douz on November 25, 1955. He lived in Libya in the 1970’s. Then, he returned to Tunisia. He read his poetry in many Arab countries. He published his first collection in 1998 under the title of The Valley of Ants which is, in fact, a long poem.

Posted in Texts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

His Excellency Mr. the Minster and Corruption: An Article Written by Kamel Riahi and Translated by Ali Znaidi.

His New Novel Is Among the Arabic Booker Longlist.

Tunisian El Wad Is Breaking into the Files of Corruption through Novel Writing:

 An Article Written by Kamel Riahi and Translated by Ali Znaidi.

The Front Cover of His Excellency Mr. the Minister; a novel longlisted in the Arabic Booker (Aljazeera)

The Front Cover of His Excellency Mr. the Minister; a novel longlisted in the Arabic Booker (Aljazeera)

Kamel Riahi – Tunisia

Houcine El Wad was known as an outstanding researcher in Arabic literature and a professor in the Tunisian and Arab universities who was preoccupied with Arabic old poetry, about which he authored several research papers and studies until 2010 when he came out on the cultural scene with his novel The City’s Scents under the most important Tunisian novelistic series “Ouyoun El Mouassira” (Contemporary Gists) which is run by the famous Tunisian critic Taoufik Baccar.

With debut novel he won the Tunisian Golden Comar, a prize given to the best Tunisian novel. After one year he published his second novel His Excellency Mr. the Minister under the same series to be longlisted in the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Besides, he is the only Tunisian in this year’s contest.

Taoufik Baccar has revealed that Houcine El Wad’s novels that he published were written years ago, but they remained hidden in the drawers, either due to despair of the reality of culture in Tunisia or as a result of fear of publication or appearing with a new identity after being known as a critic and a successful researcher.

Besides, the delay of publishing these works arises from such an audacity through questioning the Tunisian political reality in the former regime against which the Revolution of January 14th was waged, particularly through his novel His Excellency Mr. the Minister.

The Degeneration of Value

Introducing the novel, Tunisian university researcher Chokri El Mabkhout puts a significant title highlighting the theme upon which Houcine El Wad’s novel touches which is “Dégage Ya Issabatou Essourraq,” (O, band of thieves! Go away!) a slogan raised by the Tunisian people during their revolution against the dictator. Thus he gives priority to the people’s outcries over the discourse of the élite.

El Mabkhout said,

Houcine El Wad wrote this novel years ago before the revolution.

And there is no doubt that, at the time of its writing, he was inspired

by what was circulated about the state of corruption and thieves,

and the scandals of its ministers and their leader and his royal family.

The novel narrates the story of someone who found an anonymous manuscript in the National Library. The failure to find its owner induced him to publish it, waiting that its owner would recognize it.

The manuscript includes a plea of one of the ministers who was accused by the regime after lawyers refused to defend him. In it, he wrote his story with his cousin, the corrupted prime minister and the server of the old regime who led him to political doom through appointing him as a minister of natural resources and property, taking advantage of his deteriorated economic situation as a primary school teacher.

The man turned from an opponent of the regime to a server and defender and from an authentic labour unionist to a foe of the labour union which defends the rights of the downtrodden, to the extent that he described the comrades of militancy as “state haters” after calling for a general strike.

The primary school teacher with principles became also a tool of the regime – the party – to sell the properties of the state and recklessly abandon them to the private sector. Though the minister did not steal as it is stated in his plea, he signed all thefts in a legal way bankrupting the state in favour of “His Excellency” through abandoning the properties of the state at the cheapest prices.

The novel looks closely in more than 250 pages at the path of the degeneration of value in front of money influence, as if Houcine El Wad is bringing out the human subconscious to us, reminding of the French saying “a clean hand steals nothing.”

The State of Corruption

A novel that delves into the cellars of politics cannot neglect the reality of moral corruption embraced by the one-party state through several manifestations. For instance, woman is one of the mechanisms of the functioning and management of that corruption – be she a secretary, a politician, or her royal majesty.

There, in the ministries’ offices and palaces, prostitution activates as an essential mainstay that forms a parallel line of political prostitution. All that is framed according to a special view of politics as an intimate foe of morality because the latter, according to the politicians of the state of corruption, is considered as idiocy.

That’s why the prime minister or His Excellency was changing his wives as often as he was changing his socks, paying no heed to their beauty or young age, while he was climbing the ladder of political positions because, according to him, high standing and power are the sole criteria of marriage.

Thus Houcine El Wad’s novel touches upon a new old triad of politics, money, and sex, declaring, as critic Chokri El Mabkhout stated “a radical collusion between these three hypostases.”

Houcine El Wad’s novel supports a new trend in the Tunisian novel which was absent and modest – that is, of “the political novel.” This novelistic pattern began developing in this glimmer of freedom lived by the Tunisian writer, despite the great perils that threaten the Tunisian novelists, many of whom hasted in writing the political in a superficial and sermonical way.

But Houcine El Wad had been safe from that because perhaps he wrote his novel before the revolution, or because perhaps he broke into creative writing and fiction at an advanced age and experience as he was born in 1948.

Despite its originality, seriousness, and its strong language that is sometimes sarcastic due to the insertion, for example, of daily speech and colloquial Tunisian, weak points appeared in it here and there and especially sometimes the reader’s feeling of boredom due to its slow events.

Besides, the novelist did not succeed in the frame story because the novel as a whole is a plea before the court written by the minister to defend himself. And because the reference to this through the required expressions is absent he sometimes narrates chapters without referring to the origin of the text as a plea. And whenever he mentioned that, the technique sounded unaccountable, projective, and intrusive.

This article appeared in 14/12/2012 by Kamel Riahi.

You can read the original text in Arabic here.

Translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.


Posted in Studies and Articles | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment