Words Without Borders: The Syria Issue

The latest issue of Words Without Borders is devoted to Syria. The poet and frequent Nobel candidate Adonis naturally gets a mention, but they also have poems and stories by Ibrahim Samu’il, Haifa’ Bitar, Hasiba Abd al-Rahman, and Faraj Bayraqdar. Poor Nizar Qabbani is mentioned last. Then there is “The Lanterns of Seville,” a mesmerizing story by Abd el-Salam al-Ujayli about Moorish Spain.

“People say that it is a myth, but in Meknes alone I know of ten houses where the Keys of Return hang from their portals. Five centuries ago our ancestors, yours and mine, dear cousin, were forced out of this country to the shores of Africa. In the confusion of defeat and the humiliation of loss, they could not carry with them the land that they had watered with their blood nor the palaces their hands had built or the art treasures they had created in the paradise of Andalusia. They left everything behind, fleeing with their lives. But some carried with them to the other shore the keys of their palaces as mementos of the lost paradise and as prompts for the return. If by chance you were to enter the old homes in the alleys of Meknes, Fez, Melilla, all the way to Kayrawan, you will find in any one of them, at the entrance, a rusty key, its meaning forgotten by the present owners who think that it is nothing but a useless object. But if you really know the extent of what the world owes our ancestors, you had better kiss that rusty metal object and lift it up to your forehead in reverence, for it is one of the many Keys of Return.”

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