Ursula Lindsey writes about culture, education, and politics in the Arab world, and cohosts BULAQ, a podcast on Arabic literature. 
She has lived in Egypt and Morocco and is now based in Amman, Jordan.
 (July 2020)


Family Values

Leila Slimani; illustration by Johnalynn Holland


by Leila Slimani, translated from the French by Sam Taylor

The Perfect Nanny

by Leila Slimani, translated from the French by Sam Taylor
The women in Leila Slimani’s novels are unhappy. The men are dissatisfied too, but they are secondary, more oblivious characters. The women are unhappy because their husbands don’t understand them, because their children are a burden on them, and because their existence strikes them as humiliatingly humdrum. They love those husbands and children, but their joy in their families is always short-lived and compromised. They daydream of free, glamorous, and extraordinary lives. The truth is that they aren’t sure what they want, exactly. They just know they do not—and almost surely cannot—have it.

‘This Land Is Mine’

Mahmoud Darwish, Cairo, circa 1971

Palestine as Metaphor

by Mahmoud Darwish, translated from the Arabic by Amira El-Zein and Carolyn Forché

In the Presence of Absence

by Mahmoud Darwish, translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon
The late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941–2008) liked to write in the mornings, preferably in a narrow room with a window overlooking a tree. He required solitude and coffee; he wrote in black ink on loose, thick, white paper. He often listened to music. His poems, he told the journalist …

Egypt: Between Order and Chaos

Volunteers clearing trash and debris from Tahrir Square the day after President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, Cairo, February 2011

The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution

by Peter Hessler
Most foreign correspondents are in a rush—hurtling along with the news, racing to meet deadlines. They rarely have the opportunity to step back from the moment. Peter Hessler had the uncommon luxury of being able to spend five years in Egypt, from 2011 to 2016, reporting for The New Yorker …

Coup de Théâtre

The Comédie-Française performing Sa‘dallah Wannous’s Rituals of Signs and Transformations, Paris, May 2013

Sentence to Hope: A Sa‘dallah Wannous Reader

translated from the Arabic and with an introduction by Robert Myers and Nada Saab
In the spring of 1967, Sa‘dallah Wannous, a young Syrian journalist and playwright, was studying theater at the Sorbonne in Paris. That June, after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, it gained control of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Sinai; about 100,000 Syrians were driven …

Is Tunisia Ready for Gender Equality?

Demonstrators on National Women’s Day, Tunis, August 13, 2018. Earlier that day President Beji Caid Essebsi had announced that an inheritance equality bill would be submitted to parliament.
On January 14, the eighth anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, I joined the crowds passing through metal detectors to gather in Tunis’s Avenue Habib Bourguiba. A few people carried pictures of protesters killed in 2011. Children waved little Tunisian flags. At one end of the avenue, a concert was taking place. Most political parties had set up stands, and there were speeches about how much the revolution had accomplished so far (from parties in the government) and how little (from the opposition). Strangers in the street engaged in polite but animated political arguments, and small groups leaned in to listen. Eight years after the Arab Spring began in Tunisia, this is the only country in the region where such scenes of spontaneous public debate can still be witnessed.


Pandemic Journal, March 23–29

A running series of brief dispatches by New York Review writers documenting the coronavirus outbreak with regular updates from around the world, including Michael Greenberg in Brooklyn, Raquel Salas Rivera in San Juan, Aida Alami in Paris, Rahmane Idrissa in Niamey, Verlyn Klinkenborg in East Chatham, Tolu Ogunlesi in Lagos, Merve Emre in Oxford, Yasmine El Rashidi in Cairo, Keija Parssinen in Granville, E. Tammy Kim in Brooklyn, Adam Foulds in Toronto, Tom Bachtell in Chicago, Ivan Sršen in Zagreb, Sue Halpern in Ripton, Michael S. Roth in Middletown, Ben Mauk in Penang, Martin Filler in Southampton, Eula Biss in Evanston, Richard Ford in East Boothbay, George Weld in Brooklyn, Nilanjana Roy in New Delhi, Ursula Lindsey in Amman, Zoë Schlanger in Brooklyn, Dominique Eddé in Beirut, Lucy McKeon in Brooklyn, Yiyun Li in Princeton, Caitlin L. Chandler in Berlin, Nick Laird in Kerhonkson, Alma Guillermoprieto in Bogotá, Lucy Jakub in Northampton, Rachael Bedard in Brooklyn, Hari Kunzru in Brooklyn, Minae Mizumura in Tokyo, Jenny Uglow in Keswick, Sylvia Poggioli in Rome, and more.

The Lebanese Street Asks: ‘Which Is Stronger, Sect or Hunger?’

A Lebanese anti-government protester, draped in a national flag, sitting atop The Egg building overlooking the Mohammed al-Amin mosque and the Martyrs’ Square, Beirut, Lebanon, November 14, 2019

“Sectarian leaders have been keeping voters captive,” Karim Emile Bitar, a political scientist and professor at Lebanon’s renowned Saint Joseph University, told me, when we met for dinner in Beirut in mid-November. “If you are pessimistic you can say that sectarianism will be back with a vengeance. That this [series of protests] is a mirage rather than a miracle,” he said. And if you’re optimistic? “You could argue that we are witnessing the emergence of a post-sectarian Lebanon, and that citizenship has finally prevailed over narrow communal affiliations.”