Jonas Hassen Khemiri
(Sweden, 1978) has a Tunesian father and a Swedish mother. He studied literary theory in Stockholm and economics in Paris. In 2003 he made a successful debut with the novel Ett öga rött which was published in a Dutch translation in 2007 (A camel without a hump). In it an Arab pupil struggles with his identity in Stockholm and sets his own cultural background against the social reality around him. The novel was adapted for film. Khemiri's first play, Invasion!, gives an image (of the abuse) of the fear of the other. It was successfully staged in Sweden, Germany and France. Khemiri's second novel, Montecore, is being translated in Dutch.(WIN2008)
Archive available for: Jonas Hassen Khemiri
Shabandar Café is a programme by Gemak, the new centre for western and non-western art, politics and debate, of The Hague Gemeentemuseum and the Vrije Academie. With Shabandar Café Gemak links up with the Winternachten festival. Gemak is named after the famous meeting place of artists and intellectuals in Bagdad. Enjoy the most refined forms of Iraqi culture: live classical Arab Moqam music, an Iraqi storyteller and poetr, a short Iraqi documentary on Café Shabandar, tea and the tastiest Iraqi snacks.
The exhisition space of Gemak has been decorated for the occasion in that of the original café, destroyed in March 2007. Honorary guests: the Arab writers taking part in festival Winternachten. An English-Arabic language programme, compiled by the Iraqi visual artist Rashad Selim.
For more information on the programme see www.gemak.org. In English and Arabic
Shabandar is the name of a café on Al Mutanabi Street
where for decades Baghdad's cultural elites met
discussing books, poetry and politics
or dropping in for a coffee after visiting the book vendors' stalls
on the busy street outside
Everybody interested in books came here
to buy them in the good years
to sell them during the sanctions
to be transported by their covers
if they were penniless
On the 5th of March 2007
one car bomb attack among many
and the book market outside
Shabandar Café has left Baghdad
even if its walls are rebuilt
5000 years of urban culture
scattered to the four corners of the Earth
Is this a coincidence? Three debuts from countries far apart, showing striking resemblances. The novels of Jonas Hassen Khemiri (Sweden), Hassan Bahara (Netherlands) and Ahmad al-Aidi (Egypt) are set in the big city, in multi-ethnic surroundings, and the main characters share the same radical anti-attitude: they rebel against the dominant culture or against their own insensitive milieu. How to rebel? By manipulating, bastardising, by silencing language, by, as is the case with Al-Aidi, mixing street language with classical Arabic. These young urban writers give us their image of contemporary, chaotic city life and although this is not particularly cheerful, at least their free use of language makes for an agreeable vitality. New literature of the 21st century. Interviewer: Paul van der Gaag. In English.