Friday, September 14, 2012

Embrace on the Brooklyn Bridge

On Wednesday night, I saw an interesting event as part of the International Literature Festival of Berlin, on stage discussion between Egyptian writer, Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, author of the (as far as I can make out) yet to be translated into English novel, "Embrace on the Brooklyn Bridge."

Egyptian writer Ezzedine Choukri Fishere
The event was in Arabic and German, so I missed bits here and there, though I am surprised at how much I did manage to get (I studied German as an undergraduate and still retain a reading knowledge). The discussion referenced two other well-known Arab writers (and also Egyptians), Alaa al Aswany and Ahdaf Soueif, and the moderator, Stefan Weidner, clearly has a background in the culture and languages of the Middle East. The discussion touched on Choukri-Fishere's writing, his novel (which was short-listed for the most recent Arab Booker Prize), his career and his life in Egypt, France and Canada.

Choukri-Fishere's book sounds fascinating: it has eight protagonists, all Arab-Americans representing different backgrounds and classes, on their way to attend a party in New York City, this allowing the writer to explore the relations between "integrated" Arabs into Western society.

One thing Berlin tends to do which is different to our Festival is that they hire actors to do the readings. I like this idea for many reasons though the limitation here is often that writers on their international list can't read German (so no one would want to hear them read in that language anyway!). The translating back and forth slows down the discussion and limits the spontaneity of it to some extent, though the audience was engaged and the discussion was lively.

On the whole, it was an event I enjoyed and I hope someone will take on translating Choukri-Fishere's book into English.

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