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New Waw, Saharan Oasis

New Waw, Saharan Oasis
Translated by William M. Hutchins

By the award-winning author of The Puppet, this novel weaves myth and contemporary life into a tale of a desert community whose nomadic way of life is irrevocably changed by an unpredictable turn of events.

Series: CMES Modern Middle East Literatures in Translation

Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin
January 2014
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166 pages | 5.5 x 8.5 |

Upon the death of their leader, a group of Tuareg, a nomadic Berber community whose traditional homeland is the Sahara Desert, turns to the heir dictated by tribal custom; however, he is a poet reluctant to don the mantle of leadership. Forced by tribal elders to abandon not only his poetry but his love, who is also a poet, he reluctantly serves as leader. Whether by human design or the meddling of the Spirit World, his death inspires his tribe to settle down permanently, abandoning not only nomadism but also the inherited laws of the tribe. The community they found, New Waw, which they name for the mythical paradise of the Tuareg people, is also the setting of Ibrahim al-Koni’s companion novel, The Puppet.

For al-Koni, this Tuareg tale of the tension between nomadism and settled life represents a choice faced by people everywhere, in many walks of life, as a result of globalism. He sees an inevitable interface between myth and contemporary life.


National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators AssociationWinner, Prose Category

  • Introduction
  • New Waw
  • I. The Winged People
  • II. The Prophecy
  • III. The Departure
  • IV. The Chaplet
  • V. The Successor
  • VI. The Lover
  • VII. The Dyadic Bird of the Spirit World
  • VIII. The Western Hammada
  • IX. Forgetfulness
  • X. The Crow
  • XI. The Dagger’s Secret
  • XII. The Torrents
  • XIII. The Sacrifice
  • XIV. New Waw
  • About the Author

Born in 1948, Ibrahim al-Koni is an award-winning Arabic-language novelist and has already published more than seventy volumes. A Tuareg whose mother tongue is Tamasheq, he was educated in Moscow and now lives in Spain. He is one of the prime authorities on Tuareg culture and folklore.

William Hutchins, Professor in the Philosophy and Religion Department at Appalachian State University, has translated numerous works of Arabic literature into English, including four novels by the Nobel Prize laureate Naguib Mahfouz. He has received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for literary translation, both for works by Ibrahim al-Koni. His most recent NEA award was for this novel.


“So too, perhaps, the tales in New Waw are purely experiential, without some coded meaning, offering a taste of that desert beyond the Law. This is writing in a different light, offering a view of a new horizon”
Rain Taxi

“William M. Hutchins' translation of New Waw: Saharan Oasis masterfully channels the poetic rhythms of Ibrahim al-Koni's tale of a group of Tuareg, struggling with their evolution from a nomadic tribe to a settled community and the tensions that inevitably arise.”
American Literary Translator's Association

“Oscillating between fatalism and idealism, myth and reality, New Waw: Saharan Oasis is at once disconcerting and enlightening. Reading it is intoxicating, and setting the book down is like a rude awakening from a fantastical dream that had not yet reached its end.”
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs




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