Revolution Goes Through Walls


Safaa Fathy

Translated by Pierre Joris with Safaa Fathy





Revolution goes through walls was first published in Arabic by Sharkyat in 2014. Tarabuste Editions published a French edition, Révolution traverse des murs, translated into French by Hélène Nancy, Hedi Djebnoun, and Jean-Pierre Daumard, with a preface by Jean-Luc Nancy, in 2017. Portuguese and German editions are forthcoming.

"It is a story of walls. They bar the way, resist, stand against. But they have fissures too. And one also can stick photos placards graphs poems screams on them."

– Jean-Luc Nancy

"Revolutions threaten poetry with loss of the intimate and the aesthetic. Safaa delves into this threat head-on in order to produce a book that is both beautiful and intimate, where the revolution becomes the daily gesture: "when the tear gas entered my lungs, I decided to start smoking again." This book doubles as an elegy for Safaa's brother Mohammad, lost to kidney illness and dialysis machines, and whom she glimpses reflected in the revolution martyrs he might have joined. But the poet declares that she doesn't know the road to "paradise" and cannot guide Mohammad or the marchers. When the world gave up on the notion of revolution, the Tunisians and Egyptians filled the streets to revive it. Revolution goes through walls is political poetry at its best, intimate telling. Where a poet doesn't scream her revolt, she murmurs it."

– Maged Zaher

Safaa Fathy was born in Egypt; she has been a director of program at the International College of Philosophy in Paris. A poet, filmmaker, and essayist, her most recent films are Mohammad Saved from the Waters, Derrida’s Elsewhere, and a film poem Nom à la mer. Jacques Derrida, with whom she wrote the book Tourner les mots au bord d’un film, prefaced her plays Terreur and Ordalie.

Translator Pierre Joris's most recently published The Book of U / Le live des cormorans (with Nicole Peyrafitte, 2017);The Agony of I.B. (a play, 2016); Barzakh: Poems 2000-2012 (Black Widow Press 2014); and Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan (FSG 2014). When not traveling he lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with his wife, the artist and writer Nicole Peyrafitte.

Preface author Jean-Luc Nancy is one of the most celebrated living philosophers. In The Experience of Liberty and Being Singular Plural he famously argues that all being is “being-with,” or that all existence is co-existence. Nancy has followed this thesis in many directions, including national sovereignty, war, technology, and identity.