And Other Stories  will publish The Book of Disappearance by Ibtisam Azem, translated from Arabic by Sinan Antoon, in the UK after Senior Editor Tara Tobler acquired UK, Europe & Commonwealth (excl. Canada) English-language publication rights from University of Syracuse Press and World Translation Rights (excl. Arabic, German, Hebrew and Italian) from the author.

Originally published in North America by the University of Syracuse Press, this English translation of a widely acclaimed novel in Arabic has been described by Kamila Shamsie as ‘brilliant and audacious’. The book came to And Other Stories’ attention after commissioning editor Preti Taneja met Azem in the West Bank for the Palestine Festival of Literature in early 2023. And Other Stories will publish a revised and updated edition of The Book of Disappearance in August 2024 and publisher Stefan Tobler and And Other Stories’ subagents will represent the author’s translation rights.

 

About The Book of Disappearance:

Alaa, a young Palestinian, is haunted by his grandmother’s memories of being displaced from Jaffa and becoming a refugee in her homeland. Ariel, Alaa’s neighbour and friend, is a liberal Zionist, critical of the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza yet faithful to the project of Israel. When he wakes up one morning to find that all Palestinians have suddenly vanished, Alaa included, Ariel begins searching for clues to the secret of the collective disappearance; that search, and his reaction to it, intimately reveal the fissures at the heart of the Palestinian question. Between the stories of Alaa and Ariel are the people of Jaffa and Tel Aviv – café patrons, radio commentators, flower-cutters – against whose ordinary lives these fissures and questions play out.

Critically acclaimed in Arabic, spare yet evocative, intensely intelligent in its interplay of perspectives, The Book of Disappearance is an unforgettable glimpse into contemporary Palestine as it grapples with both the memory of loss and the loss of memory.

 

Ibtisam Azem is a Palestinian novelist, short story writer, and journalist based in New York. She has published two novels in Arabic: The Sleep Thief (2011) and The Book of Disappearance (2014). Her first short story collection, I Wish I Were a Hoopoe, is forthcoming in Arabic in the summer of 2024. The Book of Disappearance has been translated into English, Italian, and German. Azem holds an MA in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies with minors in German and English Literature from Freiburg University, as well as an MA in Social Work from NYU.

Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, and translator. He holds degrees from Baghdad, Georgetown, and Harvard, where he specialized in Arabic literature. He has published five novels and three poetry collections. His most recent work is Postcards from the Underworld (Seagull 2023). His translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s In the Presence of Absence won the 2012 American Literary Translators’ Award. He is an associate professor at New York University.

 

Ibtisam Azem on the acquisition:

I grew up in a small town in historic Palestine and was lucky to have a grandmother and a father who related stories often. They preserved memory and protected our stories; the ones we were forbidden to learn in schools under a settler-colonial system. I lived with their stories and saw houses and worlds that were displaced, and from which we were displaced. I was also fortunate to have a mother and a maternal grandfather who were often silent. So I learned early on to listen to what is unsaid and to see what many don’t want to see. I write these stories in Arabic against forgetfulness, but for a better future as well. When these stories are translated they acquire new wings and can fly beyond the skies of Palestine.

A work of literature begins with a dream and a desire to tell those stories that were left in a dark corner of the heart, mind, or a street corner, where no one notices them. They are on the characters’ tongues waiting impatiently to finally speak. A writer spends months, or years of pain, but pleasure too, to get to the finish line. When she is finally done there is no guarantee that a publisher will take the risk, nor if a translator will.

Each translation gives a work a new life. Thanks to Sinan Antoon’s translation, The Book of Disappearance got to visit and inhabit new homes. It now gets a second life with And Other Stories. Writing has always given me a home. Thanks to And Other Stories, I, and my stories, have another home in the United Kingdom. I am indebted to the team for their exceptional support and enthusiasm. I am honored and happy, as are my characters.

 

Tara Tobler on the acquisition:

So much of fiction is linear, more or less, and while you get the odd looping or quirky structure, it’s hard to avoid the fact that stories and sentences unfold forwards in time. But what does that kind of story-making mean if you’re living in a colonised territory, and every day forward seems to take you further from the land you knew and loved? What Azem’s work does is show us the psychological cost of maintaining the old sustaining stories in the face of a settler culture that can’t see past its own myths of progress. With complex layers of present, past, and a deep past that’s always under foot and under skin, set next to a mysterious disappearance that happens out of time and could un-happen at any moment, Azem has given us a story where memory and tense have the power to change everything. Her writing is gorgeous and her sense of place as lush, as gem-toned, as life-loving as the sea. This book is extraordinary.

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