A Friend's Kitchen

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi


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The Poetry Translation Centre
15 June 2023
ISBN: 9781739894849
66 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Bryar Bajalan & Shook

‘This is the sort of poet for whose work one wants to learn a language.’ Fiona Moore

‘One of the most revered poets currently writing in Arabic’ - Poetry London

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi is one of the leading African poets writing in Arabic today. Born in Khartoum, Sudan, he has lived in exile in London since 2012.

The poems in this World Poet Series book emerged in the aftermath of Al-Raddi’s arrival, when he was separated from his wife and children for nearly five years. During late, uncertain nights awake in a strange city, he would write brief, mystical, often stream-of-consciousness texts to post on Facebook, his primary means of communication with loved ones in Khartoum. These texts grew over time into A Friend’s Kitchen, a profound collection that deals with both the spiritual incomprehensibility and physical reality of exile. It is rendered into English by the translator Bryar Bajalan working with Al-Raddi’s friend and fellow poet Shook.

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi’s new book manages to be several things at once. It’s certainly a political protestation, an act of resistance of the spirit to oppression in Sudan and to the pressures the UK places on political exiles. But it is at the same time an ecstatic, disorienting celebration of language and the imagination, and a raw, grieving set of eulogies to the loss of love, friendship and imaginative freedom … We owe his translators a great debt, in that they manage successfully to convey what anyone who has heard him read knows is the dizzying rhetorical power and force of his Arabic.’ — W.N. Herbert, author of The Wreck of the Fathership

A Friend's Kitchen is a book to be entered rather than read. Emerging from a Dadaist-inspired stream-of-consciousness process of writing, these poems capture a mind moving through the lived moment, illuminated as though by a struck match. The lucid translation by Bajalan and Shook retains the beauty and integrity of the original, with poems that are clear-eyed, alive to grief and wonderment. Al-Raddi holds a mirror to the experience of living apart from family and home, and in doing so shows us we are not alone in our loneliness.’  Shazea Qureishi, author of The Glimmer

A Friend’s Kitchen by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi is a dazzling gem. This poetry collection sheds light on what it means to be a poet of the diaspora, being forced into exile from his native Sudan to his new home in London as a refugee. His powerful poetry of protest and hope, skillfully translated from Arabic by Bryar Bajalan with the poet Shook, offers the reader a unique view of the land and people that have suffered so much under the regime of Omar al-Bashir. It is a book filled with grief, beauty and love, enhanced by its power of denouncement. Al-Raddi's voice is an outstanding contribution not only to African poetry but to world poetry. An extraordinary achievement.’ — Leo Boix, author of Ballad of a Happy Immigrant

'Here, in this remarkable collection, grief and language move like water, like a force that cannot be contained. Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi’s poetry brilliantly explores the ways in which community is fostered through the written word, and subsequently how the written word is fostered through community. Bryar Bajalan and Shook both perform the graceful tightrope walk of translation, empowering Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi’s words in a new language while containing the intention of their original script. This is a masterful collection, one that should be returned to again and again even as we toast our deaths and survive.' — Aaron Kent, author of The Working Classic


'Bajalan and Shook’s translations of the exiled Sudanese poet Al-Raddi contain tender poems marking absence and the melancholy of exile, “a cup of coffee less warm / Than your kiss at my goodbye”. Written in London during the 2019 uprisings against Omar al-Bashir, these poems began as a stream of consciousness steeped in allusion and mysticism. This is a fantastic translation of a poet in disconnection, living “on a slight thread of aroma” from back home.' — Shash Trevett for the Poetry Book Society