Design a site like this with
Get started

Sabaho everyone

and thanks for your interest in this madness!


Cultograph workshop ongoing

Screen Sho

First of all, here are 66 random reading recommendations in English.

Secondly, my general strategy for working with you will be to focus, in turn, on: (1) setting, plot and narration, a topic we’ll think about in relation to Italo Calvino’s version of an Italian folk tale; (2) character, voice and viewpoint, through a very short, parable-like piece by Kafka; and (3) genre, structure and form, which we’ll discuss in the context of the late Agha Shahid Ali’s English adaptation of the ghazal, a classical Farsi-Urdu poetic form.

Here is a tentative curriculum. Arabic reading material for the first three sessions can be accessed here.


Still, I’d very much like you to take part in deciding how we work together. That’s why the first session or at least half of it is dedicated to introductions: getting to know each other a little, then figuring out how to proceed. We will all present work and we will all take part in every discussion – that’s the only rule. Part of the point of the workshop is for you to build the confidence to share your work and have it critiqued – and of course respond honestly to work by other people too.


Now, before we go onto some stimulation, it’s always good to remember the words of Mawlana Roberto Bolaño:

The truth is, I don’t believe all that much in writing. Starting with my own. Being a writer is pleasant—no, pleasant isn’t the word—it’s an activity that has its share of amusing moments, but I know of other things that are even more amusing, amusing in the same way that literature is for me. Holding up banks, for example. Or directing movies. Or being a gigolo. Or being a child again and playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. Unfortunately, the child grows up, the bank robber is killed, the director runs out of money, the gigolo gets sick and then there’s no other choice but to write. For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing.

— from BOMB magazine interview, translated by Margaret Carson

That is, it was the fear that afflicts most citizens who, one fine (or dark) day, choose to make the practice of writing, and especially the practice of fiction writing, an integral part of their lives. Fear of being no good. Also fear of being overlooked. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear that one’s efforts and striving will come to nothing. Fear of the step that leaves no trace. Fear of the forces of chance and nature that wipe away shallow prints. Fear of dining alone and unnoticed. Fear of going unrecognized. Fear of failure and making a spectacle of oneself. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear of forever dwelling in the hell of bad writers.

— from 2666, translated by Natasha Wimmer

الورشة بالنسبالي تحولت لأهم حدث بيحصل بشكل أسبوعي في فترة الحجر الصحي المنزلي، لأن يوسف رخا قدر يوفر المناخ المناسب لولادة الإبداع الأدبي: مناخ مبنى على تعدد الآراء والتصورات ومشاركة الجميع بشكل نقدي خلاق. يوسف كان قادر يدرك خصوصية كل كاتب وطبيعة نصوصه، ويشتغل معاه عليها بحيث يخرج نصه في أفضل صورة ممكنة، بدون إقحام لتصورات ومعايير مسبقة وجامدة عن الأدب والكتابة. اللي أقصده إن النقد في الورشة كان بيتحول لعملية إبداعية مماثلة لعملية الكتابة الأدبية. النقد هنا مش عملية تقييم لكتابات المشاركين، لكن اشتباك حقيقي مع نصوصهم بغرض فهمها وتطويرها. اللي أقدر أقوله في النهاية إني خرجت من الورشة بحيوية وذهن مستعد أكتر للكتابة بعد فترة انطفاء بسبب أجواء التكرار والسأم الملازم للقعدة في البيت

كريم محسن كاتب قصة شاب، شارك في مشروع معهد جوته “قصص القاهرة القصيرة” ونشر مقالات ونصوصاً فضلاً عن القصص في أمكان متعددة قبل أن يشارك في ورشة كالتوغراف الأولى على النت

كريم محسن

It was amusing to see someone speak of the Beat Generation experimentations, the linguistic features of Al-Jahiz, and the latest film by Von Trier in the same breath and with same ease and clarity. It was amusing and educational to the greatest extent.

I had been really curious to find out what Youssef Rakha was going to say in his workshop.When I first saw his poems by coincidence on the internet, and then read his travels volumes, it was like finding a long-searched-for treasure. So, naturally, when he told me he was going to do a writing workshop, and I was invited to join it, I was very eager and curious to know what instructions, methodologies and rules he would give. I was really surprised.

There was none of that. The first and important lesson I learnt from Rakha’s workshop was that there are no such things as ready-made instructions, fixed rules or holy commandments in writing. The workshop sessions moved on organically from the ideas, writing and sensibility of every participant, which he masterfully managed to guide to take their course, or, if necessary, transform or combine with something else. And then there were the in-depth commentaries on the texts read by everyone and the incredibly insightful discussions that emerged from them around a wide range of topics like literature, language, creativity, talent, writing techniques, philosophy, books, poets, publishing, translations and the list goes on.

My writing school was Youssef Rakha.

— Mina Nagi is a writer and journalist who took the Kotobkhan writing workshop (2010-11)

Mina Nagi