Klaus Merz is one of the most prominent, prolific, and versatile Swiss writers writing today. Born in Aarau in 1945, he worked as a secondary school and adult education teacher before devoting himself full time to writing. He has written more than two dozen books of poetry, long and short fiction, essays, and commentary, along with screenplays for television and film, and stage and radio plays. His projected seven-volume Collected Works is being published by Haymon Verlag. Merz has won numerous important prizes, most recently the 2012 Friedrich Hölderlin Prize.
In 2016, Seagull Books will publish his three novellas, Jacob Asleep, A Man’s Fate, and The Argentine in a single volume entitled Stigmata of Bliss in Tess Lewis’ translation.
Ibrahim al-Koni, like Joseph Conrad, has found international acclaim as a novelist while publishing primarily in his second language, Arabic, which he learned to read and write at the age of twelve. The Tuareg language, Tamasheq, has its own alphabet, Tifinagh, that dates back at least to the third century BCE. The American scholar and translator Elliot Colla, in a piece written for al-Ahram after al-Koni’s most recent award, remarked that “Al-Koni’s reception with Arab audiences is particularly significant since it reminds us of one of the oldest strengths of Arabic literature, namely that for its entire history, the Arabic language has served as a universal literary language.”
In the same article, Colla also commented: “By now, al-Koni has earned as many literary awards as any other living Arab author, and he has done so across the entire breadth of the Arab world, from the Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike most Arab novelists who still tend to be read as national writers (Egyptians, Lebanese, Iraqis and so on), al-Koni is one of a few whose reception has effectively transcended the national borders that divide the Arab world.”
The excerpt featured here is the final chapter from the final volume of a trilogy consisting of “New Waw,” “The Puppet,” which was released by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 2010, and “The Scarecrow.” This trilogy traces the rise (first volume), flourishing (second volume), and destruction of a Tuareg (nomadic Saharan Berber) oasis community. The novel is set in the mythological past, but the oasis also represents the modern state of Libya. The final ruler of the oasis is literally a demon who has adopted a human form, which he sheds when the armies of the world are besieging the oasis. Some readers may choose to understand the portrait of this final ruler of this oasis community, which was named for the lost paradise of the Tuareg people, the original Waw, as a caricature of a current head of state.
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
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