The recent release pf Jokes for the Gunmen in English, originally published in Arabic in 2015, has already hit the literary world, and translations are under way in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Icelandic, Swedish, Norwegian, Turkish and Catalan.
Mazen Maarouf was born in Beirut to a family of Palestinian refugees who had to flee Tal El-Zaatar in the beginning of Lebanese civil war. He holds a bachelor’s degree in general chemistry from the Lebanese University (Faculty of Sciences). Marouf worked for several years as a Chemistry and Physics teacher before drifting in 2008 into the literary field.
Facing threats and persecution related to his literary production and merits, he became the first ICORN writer-in-residence in the city of Reykjavik in 2011. Well arrived in his City of Refuge, Marouf got to know, and work with, fellow Icelandic writers. His poetry collection An Angel Suspended on a Clothesline was translated to Icelandic, and he started translating Sjón and a wide number of other Icelandic writers’ work to Arabic.
Sjón, one of the ICORN founders of Reykjavik City of Refuge, says if Jokes for the Gunmen:
- Mazen Maarouf’s stories in Jokes for the Gunmen are a powerful reminder that it is only through the imagination we can hope to make sense of the brute senselessness of reality.
Granta Books, his English publisher, characterises the book as follows:
- A brilliant collection of fictions in the vein of Roald Dahl, Etgar Keret and Amy Hempel. (…) These are stories of life in a war zone, life peppered by surreal mistakes, tragic accidents and painful encounters. These are stories of fantasist matadors, lost limbs and perplexed voyeurs. This is a collection about sex, death and the all-important skill of making life into a joke. These are unexpected stories by a very fresh voice. These stories are unforgettable.
Mazen Maarouf has already published a new collection of short stories, Rats that licked the karate champion’s ear, and is currently working on his first novel. Do not be surprised if Mazen Maarouf turns up reading from Jokes for the Gunmen in a city near you in 2019!
Review in the Guardian 20 January 2019: Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf review – strange tales from dark places