Fiction in Translation
English edition  
168 pp.
10 b/w photographs 
15X23 cm
ISBN 9789774166105
For sale only in the Middle East



Portrait of a City Mohammed Khudayyir
Translated by William M. Hutchins

A new paperback edition of the multifaceted fictional recreation of the Iraqi city of Basra

Basrayatha is a literary tribute by author Mohammed Khudayyir to the city of his birth, Basra, on the Shatt al-Arab waterway in southern Iraq. Just as a city’s inhabitants differ from outsiders through their knowledge of its streets as well as its stories, so Khudayyir distinguishes between the real city of Basra and Basrayatha, the imagined city he has created through stories, experiences, and folklore. By turns a memoir, a travelogue, a love letter, and a meditation, Basrayatha summons up images of a city long gone. In loving detail, Khudayyir recounts his discovery of his city as a child, as well as past communal banquets, the public baths, the delights of the Muslim day of rest, the city’s flea markets and those who frequent them, a country bumpkin’s big day in the city, Hollywood films at the local cinema, daily life during the Iran–Iraq War, and the canals and rivers around Basra. Above all, however, the book illuminates the role of the storyteller in creating the cities we inhabit. Evoking the literary modernism of authors like Calvino and Borges, and tinged with nostalgia for a city now disappeared, Basrayatha is a masterful tribute to the power of memory and imagination.
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Mohammed Khudayyir was born in Basra, Iraq, where he still lives. He is the author of several collections of short stories. He was awarded the Oweiss Prize in 2004. William M. Hutchins, professor in the philosophy and religion Department at Appalachian State University, is the principal translator of Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, and the translator of numerous other works of Arabic fiction. He was awarded the 2013 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of A Land without Jasmine by Wajdi al-Ahdal.

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“charming and sensitive”—The Times (London) //endoftext//endoftext

“reminds us that Basra does not have to be synonymous with war and suffering”—The Times (London)//endoftext//endoftext

“The writer still lives in Basra and has witnessed its decline and shared in its suffering. But his story at least offers the hope that happier times may yet return to this luckless city.”—The Times (London)//endoftext//endoftext

“Scintillating… one of the most beautiful works in Arabic prose about a writer’s human relationship to a time and a place.”—Gamal al-Ghitani, author of Zayni Barakat and Pyramid Texts//endoftext//endoftext

“A condensed portrait, brimming with truth, sharp observations, sensitivity, and a lyricism that will bring readers to silent tears.”—Barid al-Janoub (London)//endoftext//endoftext

“In captivating prose, Mohammed Khudayyir has crafted this narrative as a series of fragmented texts—each one unique and separate from the others, all the better to approach the city up close while beautifully and sympathetically embracing it.”—al-Sahafa (Tunis)//endoftext//endoftext

“With its imagined dreamscapes, [Basrayatha] carries on a dialogue with the literary world of Italo Calvino.”—al-Nahar (Beirut)

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