Egypt: (If the Sun Drowns) إذا الشمس غرقت | Ahmed Fouad Negm

If the sun drowns in a sea of clouds
And extends a wave of darkness onto the world
And vision dies in the eyes of the vigilant
And the road is lost in lines and circles
O shrewd traveler in straight lines and in circles,
You have no guide but the eyes of speech 

Arabic Original
إذا الشمس غرقت في بحر الغمام
ومدت على الدنــيا مــوجة ظــــلام
ومات البصر في العيـون والبصايــــر
وغاب الطريق في الخطوط والدواير
يا ساير يا دايــر يا ابــو المفهومــــية
ما فيش لك دليـل غير عيون الكلام

Ahmed Fouad Negm (1929-2013), popularly known as el-Fagommi الفاجومي, was an Egyptian vernacular poet. He was widely regarded for his work with Egyptian composer Sheikh Imam, as well as his patriotic and revolutionary Egyptian Arabic poetry.


The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.

Culled from:

Black Mamba Boy

Who: Jama

What: Traveling through Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea to find his father.

Should I read it: Absolutely. It’s a thrilling coming-of-age tale with important historical narratives.

Qq: “His mother, his father, his sister, Shidane and maybe Abdi were roaming among the stars, arguing, laughing and watching….He would join them eventually, but not until he had delivered all the seeds that the pomegranate world offered” – Pg 285

Black Mamba Boy is a beautifully written tale of perseverance and hope set against the rough sands of Somaliland, Sudan, and Eritrea as a young beggar boy named Jama sets out to find his father after his mother’s death.

Jama is a wry, yet oddly noble, character who is fostered by a sense of awe at the world outside his little Aden corridor. Nadifa Mohamed’s writing is brilliantly engaging, her research creates an altogether realistic and haunting image of North Africa under Italian and then British colonial rule in the 1930’s.

The characteristic red dust of Jama’s hometown lingers through every page as Jama grows from an agile child to a keen man, learning from his mistakes, falling in love and bearing the consequences of his actions, eventually discarding the ghost of a father he sought for protection and instead emerging as his own strong, capable man.

This is not a romantic story, if anything it is an epic roman à clef that focuses on a slice of North African history the world ought to remember. Black Mamba Boy captures your attention and doesn’t relinquish its hold until you have laughed, shuddered, nursed a small bitterness at the barbaric injustices of imperialism, and ultimately triumphed with Jama and the lands he traverses. Black Mamba Boy is one for the bookshelves.

A Simple Lust By Dennis Brutus

Born in 1924 in Salisbury to South African parents, Brutus is best known for his protest poetry which challenged the South African apartheid while celebrating freedoms all men ought to have. He was instrumental in the exclusion of South Africa and Rhodesia from the 1964 Olympics on the grounds of racism. His activism led to his being banned from all political and social activity and in 1973 he was arrested but escaped while on bail. He was later re-arrested and sentenced to eighteen months in prison. He spent those months on Robben Island, in a cell next to Nelson Mandela. Described as “A fearless campaigner for justice, a relentless organizer, an incorrigible romantic, and a great humanist and teacher,” Brutus died on 26 December 2009, at his home in Cape Town, South Africa.

584232-2A Simple Lust is a beautiful collection of Brutus’ poems during his time as a political prisoner and exile traveling the world unable to return to South Africa. Brutus captures the alternating awareness of limitations and challenges such restrictions in his poems about the land of South Africa, “A troubadour I traverse all my land… and I have laughed, disdaining those who banned/ inquiry and movement…choosing, like an unarmed thumb, simply to stand…” (2)

And stand he does, in his resistance to the forces of oppression and his insistence on delimiting the land as his, he captures the emotional gamut of black and colored South Africans, from the desire to fight for freedom, “Sharpevilled to spearpoints for revenging…” (9) to a simple resolute appreciation for just surviving, “Somehow we survive,/ and tenderness, frustrated, does not wither” (4).

Little can match  the well of understanding and emotion Brutus deftly disperses throughout A Simple Lust, yet his writing style and keen sense of observation elevate the reader’s experience even more. Brutus does to words what Achebe did to African Literature, he expands our appreciation of them. With words such as ‘air-live,’ ‘harsh-joy,’ ‘lovelaughter,’ he pushes their limitations past meaning into feeling.

A Simple Lust takes the reader from the darting eyes of a prisoner in his cell describing the effects of confinement on the psyche, to desolate beaches in Algiers, through the sorrowed longings of a wife separated from her husband, presenting cold reflections on ‘Amerika…the home of the brave’ (144), and on. Brutus welcomes the reader into a lush, experienced, understanding of oppression and resistance. More importantly, it offers a profound sense of what it means to carry joy as hope and to, as Brutus, reject desolation as the only reality.

“Peace will come./ We have the power/ the hope/ the resolution./ Men will go home.” (96)

A Simple Lust by Dennis Brutus

African Writers Series | 1979 | ISBN: 0 435 90115 X | HEB 115