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In Translation: 5 Exciting Arabic Short Story Collections for 2019

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M. Lynx Qualey

Staff Writer

M. Lynx Qualey is the founder of, a website that brings together translators, authors, publishers, critics, academics, and readers around discussions of Arabic literature in translation. She works as a book critic, reader, editor, and ghostwriter. You can follow her at @arablit.

At least five fresh Arabic short-story collections are coming to English translation in 2019. They center on Palestine, Egypt, and Sudan.

Add these 5 exciting 2019 Arabic short story collections in translation to your TBR. short story collections | short stories | short stories in translation | arabic stories in translation | book lists | books in translation | books in translation to read 2019


Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf, translated by Jonathan Wright, Granta Books (January, 2019)

Why: This book was the first-ever winner of the Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story in December 2017. Mazen Maarouf first came to acclaim as a poet. Jokes was the Palestinian-Icelandic author’s first prose work, and it brings together a wonderful child-like voice and poetic vision. Translated by the award-winning Jonathan Wright.

The Sea Cloak by Nayrouz Qarmout, translated by Perween Richards, Comma Press (February, 2019)

Why: This book won a PEN Translates! Award in 2017. I first came across Nayrouz Qarmout’s writing in the anthology The Book of Gaza, edited by one of my favorite writers, Atef Abu Saif. Her short story “The Sea Cloak” was a stand-out. You can hear it read aloud by actress Grazyna Monvid. This is a collection full of Nayrouz’s stories.

Palestine + 100 edited by Basma Ghalayini, with stories by: Talal Abu Shawish, Awad Saud Awad, Liana Badr, Ramzy Baroud, Selma Dabbagh, Samir El-Youssef, Anwar Hamed, Mazen Maarouf, Ahmed Masoud, Nayrouz Qarmout, and Rawan Yaghi, Comma Press (May, 2019)

Why: This is a follow-up to Comma’s popular Iraq + 100 collection. If you can read SF stories by writers like Liana Badr, Selma Dabbagh, Mazen Maarouf, and Nayrouz Qarmout—all in one convenient, easy-to-carry package—how could you miss your chance?


The Book of Cairo edited by Raph Cormack, Comma Press (March, 2019)

Why: This ten-story collection is set to feature work by Cairene literary stylists Hassan Abdel-Mawgoud, Eman Abd El-Rahim, Nael el-Toukhy, Areej Gammal, Hatem Hafez, Hend Jaafar, Nahla Karam, Mohammed Kheir, Ahmed Naji,and Mohamed Salah El Azab.

These are not the “classics” of the Egyptian short story. This is not where you’ll find your Yusuf Idris and Ibrahim Aslan. All in The Book of Cairo are younger writers, born in the ’70s or ’80s. Only two have books published in English translation: Nael Eltoukhy has Women of Karantina (translated by Robin Moger), and Ahmed Naji has Using Life (translated by Ben Koerber). Exciting, fresh, young, new.


13 Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette, Comma Press (March, 2019)

Why: This is another short story writer who first participated in one of Comma’s city collections (Book of Khartoum) and now has her own stand-alone work. Lissie Jaquette won a PEN/Heim grant to bring this work into English.

You can read several excerpts of Mamoun’s work online.