16th March 2016, 18:30 – 20:30


This award-winning collection of seventy-eight pieces of flash fiction presents an intense and powerful vision of today’s world seen through the eyes of an alienated and sardonic author. The Perception of Meaning reads like an alternative history to our world—a collage of small nightmares brought to life by a canon of unlikely historical figures, including Mark Zuckerberg, the lead singer of Megadeth, Stanley Kubrick, the Korean activist Lee Kyoung Hae, and the Mayan poet Humberto Akabal, among others. 

A dazzling exemplar of contemporary experimental Arabic literature, The Perception of Meaning deftly captures a historical moment in which Arab societies are increasingly questioning the status quo and rebelling against it. Bustani’s stories speak powerfully to the present and look to the future with a wary eye. 

The Book Launch will include a short talk about the book by the acclaimed British writer Clive Sinclair, a tri-lateral informal panel discussion on the book, new Arabic literature, and translation, in which the author Hisham Bustani will participate alongside his translator Thoraya El-Rayyes and the British writer/translator Alice Guthrie, followed by readings from the book in both Arabic and English. 


Hisham Bustani was born in 1975 in Amman, Jordan, and has four published collections of short fiction. Renowned for his contemporary themes, style, and language, he has been described as “bringing a new wave of surrealism to [Arabic] literary culture, which missed the surrealist revolution of the last century.” He is passionate about collaboration across artistic disciplines, and has worked with other artists combining literature with music, painting, contemporary dance, and hip-hop. Bustani’s work has been translated into four languages, with English-language translations appearing in prestigious journals across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, including World Literature Today, The Common, and The Literary Review. In 2013, he was named one of the top six contemporary writers from Jordan by the UK-based webzine The Culture Trip. His third collection, The Perception of Meaning, was awarded the 2014 University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award, and was recently published by Syracuse University Press.

Clive Sinclair has published numerous short story collections, novels, and works of non-fiction. He was the winner of the Somerset Maugham Award for the collection Hearts of Gold in 1981. In 1983, he was recognized in Granta’s list of Best Young British Novelists. He has also been the British Library Penguin Writer’s Fellow, as well as a visiting lecturer at the University of East Anglia and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Sinclair was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1983. His most recent book is Death & Texas.

Thoraya El-Rayyes is a writer and literary translator living in Amman, Jordan. Her work has appeared in publications including World Literature Today, The Outpost, CutBank and other publications in the US, UK, Canada and the Middle East. In 2014, she received the University of Arkansas Award for the Translation of Arabic Literature.

Alice Guthrie’s translations of contemporary literature and journalism from across the Arab world have been published by a wide range of UK and US presses and venues. She edits Arabic-English translations and original English writing, and her own (non-translated) journalistic work has been featured by the Guardian and the BBC, among others.