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A new English translation representing Safaa Fathy’s wide-ranging, richly allusive, and cinematically-inflected poetic practice.
WHERE NOT TO BE BORN by Safaa Fathy, translated from Arabic by Rawad Z. Wehbe, is a selection of poetry that encapsulates Fathy’s cinematographic and philosophical renderings, tenderly celebrating humanity’s capacity for revolt. This volume is presented in English and the original Arabic and includes a postface by Jean-Luc Nancy.
”Vibrating with rich imagery rooted in Fathy’s long experience in film, this is a distinctly urban poetry that demands accountability while also offering compassion rooted in deep listening—to the body, to history, to others—and to the ongoing conversation that is the attentive life. The I and the you at the heart of this collection continually shift and overflow to encompass a vigorous humanity. A riveting work that gives English readers new access to this important voice in contemporary Arabic poetry in all its great range.” — Cole Swensen
”It is refreshing to witness the publication of حيث لا نولد, a bilingual edition that not only reaffirms Rawad Z. Wehbe’s expertise in translation but also offers Arabic readers the opportunity to embrace the potent sonic resonance of Safaa Fathy’s elegant and enigmatic constellated images—an alchemical transformation of song, pain, and imagery into polyvalent poetry. This collection encapsulates Safaa Fathy’s cinematographic and philosophical renderings, while tenderly celebrating humanity’s capacity for revolt. She navigates the currents of language, swimming through depths while also fiercely resisting its constraints: ‘Perhaps I might speak in another language so as not to put names onto things, things that rotate around the axis of their names.’” — Ghazal Mosadeq
Safaa Fathy was born in Egypt. She is a poet, essay writer, and filmmaker. She is the author of Al Haschische (Pamenar Press, 2023), an experimental book of poems. Her plays Terror and Ordeal (Lansman, 2004) were prefaced by Jacques Derrida, with whom she signed the book Tourner les mots (partly translated into English by Max Cavitch, University of Pennsylvania). Her book of poetry, Revolution Goes Through Walls (SplitLevel Texts), was first published in Egypt, then in France and Brazil. She also experiments with the visual texture of poems in filmic forms. She participated in the 47th Annual Poetry Project Marathon with a short piece entitled "I Would Like to Say." Safaa Fathy's Name to the Sea, a film-poem structured within a still frame, is being published along with the text in seven languages (Vanilla planifolia, Mexico City). She has been writing a novel in English for the past five years.
Rawad Z. Wehbe is a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations where he studies Arabic literature. His research explores early Islamic poetry in Arabic at the intersection of emotion, form, and time. Rawad earned two MA degrees in Arabic from the University of Texas at Austin (2017) and the University of California, Los Angeles (2013). He was awarded a fellowship for the Center of Arabic Study Abroad (2014) in Amman, Jordan. Rawad received a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship Dissertation Abroad Request (2021), Janet Lee Stevens Award in Arabic and Islamic Studies (2020), and was named a Mellon Graduate Fellow (2019). He was also nominated for the Texas Foreign Language Teaching Excellence Award (2017). He is a contributing translator to Home: New Arabic Poems (Two Lines Press, 2020). His translations of modern Arabic poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, READ, Doublespeak, and Words Without Borders.