I recently translated a short story by Ibrahim El-Koni, and it wasn’t until after I was done sweating it out — the prose was difficult and sometimes archaic– that I appreciated how much craft went into his sentences and images. Ferial Ghazoul writes about Koni’s particular brand of fabulism–its roots and effects– in El-Ahram. A little something about Koni:
Born in 1948 in Ghadames Oasis, al-Koni was brought up on the tradition of the Tuaregs, popularly known as the veiled men or the blue men. He learnt Arabic at the age of 12 and went on to study comparative literature at the Gorky Institute in Moscow where he wrote his thesis on Dostoevsky. Mythological elements, spiritual quest and existential questions mingle in the writings of al-Koni who has been hailed as magical realist, Sufi fabulist and poetic novelist.