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Ahmad Al-Shahawy -Egypt-

Ahmad Al face and logo 2015

Born in Damietta, Egypt, 1960, Shahawy graduated from the Journalism Department, Sohag University, where he contributed to establishing a local newspaper. In 1985, he started working at the News Department of Al Ahram newspaper. He has been Managing Editor of NISF ELDUNIA – a weekly magazine published by Al-Ahram – since 1990. In 1991 he attended the International Writing Program in the United States. He was the recipient of UNESCO Literature Prize in 1995, and Cavafy Poetry Prize in 1998. The Rotterdam International Poetry Festival published two collections of the poet in English and Dutch in 2004. His poems have been translated into many languages including Turkish. Since 1987 he participated in many poetry festivals organized in many countries of the world. His published works: Two Prayers for Love (1998), Conversations I-II (1991, 1994), States of the Lover (1996), Book of Death (1997), Say That it is Her (2000), Water in the Fingers (2002), The Commandments on the Love of Women I-II (2003, 2006), Tongue of the Fire (2005), One Gateway but So Many Abodes (2009), I Drive Clouds (2010), A Heaven in my Name (2013). The translation of his last book into Turkish was published by Kırmızı Yayınları in 2014.

Ahmad is NOT His Name A nouveau riche I am, I know; I struck it rich and came upon me a wealth so late, but it did, at last and hereby I make it known to all: in silence, I trade and in tears as well: I sell darkness and make no profit at all; I sell sleep for them whose heads shine with lanterns that never go out. I shroud defeats, however, and corpses of memories I burn, too, for a very modest fee, in order that lovers may be oblivious, and steal their souls if they like it so. I lend a triumph to those who find hope in the wildlife; for seclusions, to those who’ve lost their teeth in earthly ruptures, not knowing yet where Noah used to dwell. I shall not lend at interest, nor shall bargain, or overprice, even though we trade in blame as pure as rain and make an offer for owners of the Elephant so that they may not destroy the Cube of love, again. I trade in dust of graves so that the dead may remember less. There is no room for mortgage in my shops, nor shelves for love, since the one who sells love in the marketplace His name is not Ahmad. Translated from Arabic by Bahaa-eddin M. Mazid  Translator’s notes:

  1. “blame as pure as rain ” – Lit. “water of blame”, citing a line of poetry by Abu Tammam.

  2. “for Owners of the Elephant, so that they won’t destroy the Cube of Love again” – an allusion to the Story of Elephant in the Quran. “Cube of Love” is a rendering of the Ka’aba of love, alluding to the Muslims’ Holy Ka’aba in Mecca

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