Writing a Monotonous Chaos: The Arab World in Fiction, Politics and Poetics


Friday, 13th May 2022, 19:00 - 20:30


Atef Alsher in conversation with Hisham Bustani. UK launch of Hisham Bustani's newest book in English translation.


The Monotonous Chaos of Existence, translated from the Arabic by maia tabet, and published by the indie US publisher Mason Jar Press, tackles issues pertinent to the turbulent transformations in contemporary Arab societies. From a diverse range of perspectives, it approaches crises of identity, social conformity, the opportunism of intellectuals, and the always-looming oppression at the hands of the ever-present and watchful tyrant, who makes several guest appearances.

The stories in the book cast a piercing and questioning gaze at the layers and forms of oppression and tyranny, from colonialism to political regimes and patriarchy. They dissect issues of identity in a region of the world where identity politics play a defining role in contemporary struggles and conflicts, but also look into the inner turmoil of individuals and their relationships to other individuals, as well as to spaces, cities, geographies, and histories. They examine gender roles and societal pressures; identity politics in Jordan and the Arab region; neoliberalization, transformation and commercialization of urban spaces; oppressive regimes’ different representations and incarnations; Palestine and settler colonialism; in addition to modern-day ecological-existential concerns.


Hisham Bustani is an award-winning Jordanian author of five collections of short fiction and poetry. He is acclaimed for his bold style and unique narrative voice, and often experiments with the boundaries of short fiction and prose poetry. Much of his work revolves around issues related to social and political change, particularly the dystopian experience of post-colonial modernity in the Arab world. Hisham’s fiction and poetry have been translated into many languages, with English-language translations appearing in journals including The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The Georgia Review, Black Warrior Review, The Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, World Literature Today, and The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly. His fiction has been collected in The Best Asian Short Stories, The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human: Tales from Many Muslim Worlds, The Radiance of the Short Story: Fiction From Around the Globe among other anthologies. In 2013, the U.K.-based cultural webzine The Culture Trip listed him as one of Jordan’s top six contemporary writers. His book The Perception of Meaning (Syracuse University Press, 2015) won the University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award. Hisham is the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Fellowship for Artists and Writers for 2017. His most recent book, The Monotonous Chaos of Existence, has just been released by Mason Jar Press.


Atef Alshaer is a researcher interested in discourse analysis, literature, postcolonial studies, and the politics of the Arab world, and have published several books, papers and reviews in these fields. Among his many publications, Alshaer is the author of Classical Arab Poets (I.B. Tauris, 2021), and Poetry and Politics in the Modern Arab World (C Hurst & Co, 2016); and the editor of Love and Poetry in the Middle East: Love and Literature from Antiquity to the Present (C Hurst & Co, 2021) and A Map of Absence: An Anthology of Palestinian Writing on the Nakba (Saqi Books, 2019). He currently teaches at the University of Westminster.