Where Not to Be Born

By Safaa Fathy

Translated by Rawad Z. Wehbe


Litmus Press
Original Language(s)
Additional Credits
Cover Art by Taraneh Mosadegh
Design by HR Hegnauer
Poetry, Translation
Edition, Year
First, 2024
Available to Purchase, In Print

Where Not to Be Born encompasses a selection of works representing Safaa Fathy’s wide-ranging, richly allusive, and cinematically-inflected poetic practice. Bringing together  poems from four Arabic-language books that were published between 1989 and 2010, Rawad Wehbe’s luminous translation invites English-language readers into Fathy’s densely populated image-scape that is both an affectionate paean and pronounced divergence vis-à-vis traditional Arabic literary forms. As Wehbe writes in his introduction, “liberated from the discourse of the qasida’s hegemony, and defending the vanguard of the Arabic prose poem, Fathy strikes and claws at the heart of language.” This volume is presented in English and the original Arabic and includes a postface by Jean-Luc Nancy.

Safaa Fathy
Safaa Fathy was born in Egypt. She is a poet, essay writer, and filmmaker. She is the author of Al Haschische (Pamenar Press, 2023), an experimental book of poems. Her plays Terror and Ordeal (Lansman, 2004) were prefaced by Jacques Derrida, with whom ... Read More
Rawad Z. Wehbe
Rawad Z. Wehbe is a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations where he studies Arabic literature. His research explores early Islamic poetry in Arabic at the intersection of emotion, ... Read More

Praise for Where Not to Be Born

Vibrating with rich imagery rooted in Fathy’s long experience in film, this is a distinctly urban poetry that demands accountability while also offering compassion rooted in deep listening—to the body, to history, to others—and to the ongoing conversation that is the attentive life. The I and the you at the heart of this collection continually shift and overflow to encompass a vigorous humanity. A riveting work that gives English readers new access to this important voice in contemporary Arabic poetry in all its great range.
— Cole Swensen

It is refreshing to witness the publication of حيث لا نولد, a bilingual edition that not only reaffirms Rawad Z. Wehbe’s expertise in translation but also offers Arabic readers the opportunity to embrace the potent sonic resonance of Safaa Fathy’s elegant and enigmatic constellated imagesan alchemical transformation of song, pain, and imagery into polyvalent poetry. This collection encapsulates Safaa Fathy’s cinematographic and philosophical renderings, while tenderly celebrating humanity’s capacity for revolt. She navigates the currents of language, swimming through depths while also fiercely resisting its constraints: “Perhaps I might speak in another language so as not to put names onto things, things that rotate around the axis of their names.”
— Ghazal Mosadeq

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