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The Diesel

The Diesel

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Fiction, 4,5" x 8", paperback, 88 pages, ISBN 9780983868316

With an introduction by translator William M. Hutchins

“This little work of fiction, with its wild metaphors and surprising turns, seems as tipsy as a dancer with too many drinks. It celebrates the Dionysian element in Arab culture we've seen much too little of these recent decades.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR’s All Things Considered

In a small Arab community, one accustomed to ancestral attitudes and social constraints, a new world of radical sexual strength is evolving in secret, driven by a long dormant demon: The Diesel.

Nearly two decades before the rest of the world ever envisioned an Arab Spring, Emirati author Thani Al-Suwaidi saw a cultural shift on the horizon. Critically shunned when it was first published in 1994, his story is now a revelation for the modern world—a stream-of-consciousness dissection of our orthodox past and the perilous future we can no longer prevent.

The power of petroleum may be greater than any society could have ever imagined, especially in the Middle Eastern communities where it's actually produced. Amongst contrasting Arab cultures, characters and mystical creatures, The Diesel challenges its inhabitants to consider who they are and what they desire. This is a force that ultimately segregates fathers and sons, villages and empires, love and lust. And it’s been lingering beneath the soil since the world began.

Thani Al-Suwaidi was born in what is today the United Arab Emirates on July 1st, 1966. He has published two collections of poetry: Liyajiff Riq al-Bahr (So the Sea’s Foam May Dry Out, 1991) and al-Ashya’ Tamurr (Stuff Happens, 2000). Translations of six of Al-Suwaidi’s poems appear in Gathering the Tide: An Anthology of Contemporary Arabian Gulf Poetry (2011). His novella, al-Dizil (The Diesel) was published in 1994 in Beirut, reprinted in Baghdad in 2006 and in Cairo in 2008; this is the first English-language edition.

William Maynard Hutchins, who teaches at Appalachian State University of North Carolina, was educated at Berea, Yale and the University of Chicago. His translations appear in Words Without Borders, InTranslation at Brooklyn Rail and Banipal Magazine of Modern Arabic Literature. The Arabic novels he has translated include Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street, and Cairo Modern by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz; Basrayatha by the Iraqi author Muhammad Khudayyir; The Last of the Angels, Cell Block 5 and The Traveler and the Innkeeper by the Iraqi author Fadhil al-Azzawi; Return to Dar al-Basha by the Tunisian author Hassan Nasr; and Anubis, The Seven Veils of Seth and The Puppet by the Saharan author Ibrahim al-Koni. He has received two Literary Translation Awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, both for works by al-Koni. His most recent translations, in addition to The Diesel, are A Land Without Jasmine by the Yemeni author Wajdi al-Ahdal, The Grub Hunter by the Sudanese author Amir Tag Elsir and a newly revised translation of Return of the Spirit by Tawfiq al-Hakim.

Cover and book design by John Gall

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