Essayist and aphorist, Yahia Lababidi is quite the character. He’s a philosopher, a wizard of words and basically, a genius. If you’ve read his past three releases, Trial by Ink, Signposts to Elsewhereand Fever Dreams, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Having had his work translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Slovak, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish and Italian, he’s one of Egypt’s most important modern literary exports.
This time round, Lababidi sits down with fellow aphorist Alex Stein who has transcribed, organised, edited and commented on their conversations for their joint release The Artist as Mystic. Reading the book, which is divided into five sections, is like eavesdropping on a philosophical and lyrical back-and-forth that only two truly inspired (and sometimes tortured) poets like Stein and Lababidi can have. Summoning up, deciphering and discussing the works of Kafka, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Rilke and more, as well as imparting their own thoughts and experiences, it becomes clear that the book is deeplypersonal. What Stein and Lababidi discuss about philosophers and poets past continues to haunt them today, and this is exactly what makes reading The Artist as Mystic so special. We got our hands on a pre-release copy of the book. Below is a short excerpt:
Yahia believes the condition of the artist is exalted.
“Even if the artist lives in disregard?” I ask.
“Yes,” Yahia insists.
“Even if he is scorned and impoverished?” I ask.
“Still, yes,” says Yahia.
“What does that mean, then—exalted?” I ask.
“It means,” says Yahia, “called to service.”
“Oh,” I say, a sinking feeling coming over me, “you mean that soldiery of light, that brigade, born to march into the Valley of the Shadow?”
“Yes,” replies Yahia, “precisely!”
The Artist as Mystic: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi by Alex Stein will be released in July 2012 and will be available in Diwan, AUC Bookstore and Amazon.com