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Elliott Colla

Contributor

Kareem Abdulsalam: Teargas Poems

[Kareem Abdulsalam, Image from poet]

[With the smoke of the Egyptian uprising still hanging in the air, Kareem Abdulsalam recently published his ninth diwan, Teargas Cannisters (Qanabil musila li-l-dumu', Cairo: Dar al-Kitaba al-Ukhra, March 2011). Abdulsalam's poetry captures the elation of a revolution half started and the dread of waking too suddenly from a dream.]  1. Where have they Hidden Themselves? Those who fired rubber bullets at eyes Those snipers who aimed 12 mm. ...

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Entrevista al novelista egipcio Sonallah Ibrahim sobre la revolucion; la imaginacion como acto transitivo

[Sonallah Ibrahim, Cairo, Spring 2011, Image from Elliott Colla]

[This interview was conducted in Arabic by Elliott Cola and translated/published in Spanish by www.rebelion.org]  Entrevista al novelista egipcio Sonallah Ibrahim sobre la revolución: La imaginación como acto transitivo [Traducción para Rebelión de Loles Oliván] El mes pasado el novelista egipcio Sonallah Ibrahim se sentó con Jadaliyya para hablar de revolución, literatura e imaginación. Como siempre, el autor fue generoso: abordó su amplia visión sobre ...

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NPR: Israeli Chef Invents Baba Ghannouj

[Dish that Chef Yoram Ottlenghi calls

In news that stunned millions of listeners, NPR confirmed that the dish once known as "Baba ghannouj" (or "Spoiled Papa") is actually the recent creation of the inventive Israeli chef Yoram Ottolenghi who, in his new book, prefers to call it "Burnt Eggplant with Tahini." In an exclusive interview with NPR's Senior Levantine Food Correspondent Susan Stamberg, Ottolenghi also admitted to using pomegranate and even cilantro in his unique culinary ...

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The Imagination as Transitive Act: an Interview with Sonallah Ibrahim

[Sonallah Ibrahim, Cairo, Spring 2011, Image from Elliott Colla]

Last month, the Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim sat down with Jadaliyya to talk about revolution, literature and the imagination. As always, the author was generous -- presenting a broad view of literature politics, and life. (Recorded in Cairo, May 14, 2011; the Arabic text can be found here. A Spanish translation can be found here.) Elliott Colla: Was what happened in January and February a revolution? Sonallah Ibrahim: It certainly was not a revolution. A revolution ...

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The Persistence of Jokes

[Ismail Pasha, Image from www.royal-photos.blogspot.com]

My friends laughed and called me a “revolution tourist” — which wasn’t incorrect, since part of my reason for coming was to see what was happening up close. But the other reason, of course, was to visit the state archives to check on the status of my application. Last fall, I wrote up a vague proposal for research I intended to undertake on the inefficiencies of cotton pricing in the nineteenth-century. I submitted the proposal in triplicate: one to the head of the Ministry ...

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The Bawwab's Daughter

[Children in Cairo: Image from author]

I was staying with friends in Maadi, a noisy, dusty suburb south of Cairo. One of the most striking features of this neighborhood — actually its own city — is that many of the expats who live there persevere in the spurious claim that it is quieter and greener than the neighborhoods of the city center. In any case, there is no dispute about this: Maadi is far away from the city center and, unlike Cairo, no one would travel hundreds of miles just  to visit it. Despite my ...

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State Culture, State Anarchy

[Gaber Asfour Sworn in as Minister of Culture. Image from Alarabiyya]

Mubarak told Christiane Amanpour that Egyptian “culture” was anarchic in nature—and that chaos would break out if he stepped down. So, Egyptians are barbaric and can be tamed only by the strong hand of a loving father—what else is new? This is not just what Lord Cromer used to say, it is exactly what the autumnal patriarch has been saying for twenty years now, channeling the stark (and false) choice once proposed by Matthew Arnold, "culture or anarchy." The ...

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The Poetry of Revolt

Tahrir Square, January 30. Photo: Asmaa Youssef (al-Masry al-Youm)

[This post was selected as one of three winners in Three Quarks Daily Arts & Literature Prize] It is truly inspiring to see the bravery of Egyptians as they rise up to end the criminal rule of Hosni Mubarak. It is especially inspiring to remember that what is happening is the culmination of years of work by activists from a spectrum of pro-democracy movements, human rights groups, labor unions, and civil society organizations. In 2004, when Kefaya began their ...

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Locations [Gone to Palestine: 5]

[Image from author's archive]

We chose the hamlet of Beit Jeez in from the hundreds of Palestinian villages that were cleansed in 1948. Maryam was scouting locations for her film, and she was looking for a ’48 village where one scene in particular needed to be shot. It was the scene where the protagonist and his girlfriend go after robbing the bank, the place they hole up while they decide whether to continue going on with their crime spree, or to leave for good. It was important that it take place in ...

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Howl [Gone to Palestine: 4]

Howl Considering the fact that our literature workshop at Birzeit almost didn’t take place at all, it was a real success. We’d applied for a grant to teach a workshop to Palestinian university students through a fund administered by the US Department of Education and the State Department’s Public Diplomacy program. Despite the contacts that the consul in East Jerusalem had set up with our colleagues at Birzeit, we had a difficult time making arrangements. The department ...

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Lessons in Morphology [Gone to Palestine: 3]

[Image from Elliot Colla's archive]

It was a strange but mutually beneficial arrangement. I needed to travel north through a number of checkpoints to visit a town that had borne the brunt of the occupation and I needed to get back to Ramallah at a decent hour so as to see friends before I left the next day. They had a service taxi for hire, but little business and few customers. I hired the taxi for a day, and the driver asked if his best friend and his best friend’s son could come along. I said, “The more the ...

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Jaffa, with Jellyfish [Gone to Palestine: 2]

We decided to walk around the old Arab city of Jaffa, which Rachel described as “a lanced boil on Tel Aviv’s thigh.” It was a hot July day, and we were happy to take a walk after our leisurely lunch on Sheinkin St. We asked to be seated as far away from the door as possible, and preferably behind one of the concrete pillars. Though my companion told me that I had no reason to worry nowadays, I was incredibly nervous about the possibility of exploding people. I had ...

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Conquering The Sky [Gone to Palestine: 1]

[Image from author's archive]

[The first installment of Gone to Palestine]     When we arrived at Ben Gurion, we were immediately overcome by strange emotions that affected us in different ways. This was partly because we didn’t know what to expect, partly because we knew they were turning so many people away at the airport these days. Some tensed up and practiced their stories. Others seemed to be meditating and relaxing as they waited in line for the initial conversation, then for ...

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Bio

Elliott Colla

 

Elliott Colla is author of Baghdad Central and Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity. He is also translator of works of Arabic literature, including Ibrahim Aslan's The Heron, Idris Ali's Poor, Ibrahim Al-Koni's Gold Dust and Raba'i al-Madhoun's The Lady from Tel Aviv. He is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University.

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