On Small Magazines

By Etel Adnan

A little magazine is like the start of a river. Sometimes you see a river alongside a mountain and it looks like nothing — it’s only trickling. Think of Holderlin’s poem about the Rhine. What I like most about that poem is the beginning — he starts in a little crevice, like a little hole, at the beginning of the Rhine. And that’s what little magazines are. That they rarely last is almost part of their nature. They are not meant to last. They are meant to follow one person’s impulse, to gather bits and pieces, works by poets, writers, and artists, which may become literature much later. In this way, small magazines are full of hope. We don’t know how long they will live, and they often disappear; but better to disappear than to become a bad magazine.

I started out with magazines of this sort both in Beirut and in the US. I was first published in America in a little magazine from New York called The Smith. It later disappeared. When a little magazine comes in the mail, it’s like receiving news of a birth. There is something charming, unpretentious, adventurous about them. As they get bigger, they start to have editorial policies and complications and the more they look for famous names. Well, how can you become famous if you don’t start somewhere? A little magazine is like a little gallery in an obscure, forgotten corner. What a pleasure to know a little place where you might discover one or two or three new things. Twenty years later, you discover that this or that person has become known — and usually less good, by the way.

In Beirut, I remember Antoine Boulad, who had started a little magazine called Mauvais Sang. I gave him some of my poems.

In Beirut, too, there was Shi’ir. Youssef Al Khal, Shi’ir’s editor, changed Arabic literature forever. Shi’ir was the most important literary event of the 1950s and 60s. Thanks to Shi’ir I was encouraged to return to Lebanon. I remember walking in Beirut and encountering what was one of the first galleries in the city. It was called Gallery One and it was run by Youssef and his wife Helen. We talked about poetry, because he was really a poet. He said to me, You write poetry, why don’t you send me some poems? I saw him a second time and he said, What are you doing in America? There’s a movement here! He had such enthusiasm, so I eventually sent him some poems from California, where I was living at the time, and before long I began to see him regularly. He was like a best friend to me.

Eventually, they closed the gallery and rented a basement across the street from his home in the Zarif neighborhood. Simone and I used to go there and very often there were young Lebanese emigres passing by during the summer. We would drink whiskey and wine and at midnight Youssef would say, Let’s see the paintings! He would open up the gallery and everyone would leave with a tableau under their arm.

In Morocco, there was a little magazine called Souffles run by Abdellatif Laabi. In July of 1966, I went to North Africa for the first time. I was in Rabat and the night before I had found a magazine in the street under the arcades. It was the fashion in Arab cities to have books spread on the sidewalk and people sitting on the floor looking at them. I looked through this magazine and was reminded of a man who had been a teacher in Beirut — my teacher — a French writer called Gabriel Bounoure. He had left Beirut in 1953 for Cairo, and a few years later, for Rabat. I didn’t see his name anywhere, but I read a few lines and thought, These must be his students. He had been like a guru for poetry, not at all a classic academic person. He had a way to give to poetry its full importance. Like Heidegger did. When I found that issue of Souffles I recognized in the poems the rarefied air, the intensity, the rigor, and the heated quality of the poems that Bounoure would have taught in his classes. Of course, I knew he had been banished from Lebanon by the French government, as he had openly criticized French policies in Algeria during the war.

Inside the magazine there was an address. It was published out of a house. So I looked it up and knocked on Laabi’s door at 8pm and a French woman came out. It was his wife’s mother, who told me that Abdellatif was at the hospital because his first child was about to be born, but she was expecting him home soon. I waited, and at 9pm or later he arrived. I said I am sorry, I am leaving tomorrow and I saw Souffles and I was sure you were one of Gabriel Bounoure’s students. He said Yes, of course I am.

During those years, we still believed in Arab unity, and people like Laabi wanted a United States of Arabia. I said to him that we won’t wait for the government: we will make our own Arab unity. I told him I was going to Beirut soon and I would talk about Souffles there. Later, he invited the Syrian poet Adonis to contribute to his magazine. I suppose I was the first one to make the connection between those two literary universes. Later, I sent him my poem on Palestine, “Jebu” — not the whole poem, but large excerpts. We remained great friends.

Souffles had a fantastic influence. A first generation of French Moroccans had a place to publish. It was a political magazine, too, and they took many risks. One of my favorite North African poets, Mostafa Nissaboury, published in Souffles, as did Tahar Ben Jalloun.

Years later, when Abdellatif was in prison, I wrote to him a lot. I stayed in touch with his wife and I remember her telling me that she had taken him the complete works of Engels to read. I thought, These books were so hard to read, so I sent him some art books to bring color to his jail cell. He would always say that our friendship had the same age as his first daughter.

-September 22, 2015, Paris

Click here to read Issandr El Amrani’s piece about Souffles in Bidoun 13

Bidoun Booth at Frieze New York

Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Passport

Bidoun Projects Presents: Hal Foster’s Breath Mints, Lawrence Weiner’s Gold Tooth, Cindy Sherman’s Eyeliner, Tala Madani’s Body Lotion, Yto Barrada’s Third Grade Report Card, Wade Guyton’s Nikes, Jeremy Deller’s iPod, Tony Shafrazi’s Pain Killers, Anicka Yi’s Brain, Julie Mehretu’s Golf Ball, Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Passport, Bjarne Melgaard’s Christmas Card From a Serial Killer, Laura Owens’ Bus Pass, Shirin Neshat’s Kohl, Darren Bader’s Junk Mail, an ongoing Poster Series by Taryn Simon, and much more.

Frieze New York
Booth A16
May 13-17, 2015

Signed limited edition posters of Taryn Simon’s portraits of Wade Guyton and Lawrence Weiner will be available Saturday and Sunday at the fair.

For a full inventory of auction material and to bid, see Auction runs through Wednesday May 26 and all proceeds will support Bidoun’s not-for-profit activities.

Items are available for auction via

Bidoun Singles at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair

Los Angeles Art Book Fair
January 30 – February 1, 2015
Bidoun Singles Launch Event: Saturday January 31, 6-7 pm
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Please join us for an eclectic reading session celebrating the launch of BIDOUN SINGLES, a new series of limited edition books featuring original commissioned artworks paired with new & old essays drawn from the Bidounisphere. For this first iteration, Los Angeles-based artist Tala Madani has prepared unique covers for classic Bidoun essays by Gary Dauphin (on American Jihadi John Walker Lindh), Anand Balakrishnan (on the Zionist vegetable and other allegories) and Sophia Al-Maria (on losing her virginity, again).

Stay tuned for future iterations of Bidoun Singles!

Bidoun is Ten Years Old!

Thanks to all of you who celebrated the last decade with us this past October at glorious Shishawy in London.

Special thanks to our generous host committee: Mohammed Afkhami, Sara Alireza & Faisal Tamer, Aarthi Belani, Brian Boylan, Claudia Cellini and Sunny Rahbar, Iman Dakhil, Zeina Durra and Saadi Soudavar, Maryam Eisler, David Elghanyan, Lisa Farjam, Dana Farouki, Coco Ferguson, Raghida Ghandour, Tala Gharagozlou, Fati Maleki, Shirin Neshat, Maya Rasamny, Rana Sadik, Dania & Kareem Sakka, Alia Al Senussi, Andree Sfeir, Maria Sukkar, Nayrouz Tatanaki, Burkhard Varnholt, Sheena Wagstaff

And our readers: Knight Landesman, Maryam Eisler, Sunny Rahbar, Andree Sfeir, Dana Farouki, Stuart Comer, and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

More photos
Purple Magazine coverage
Artforum scene & herd
New York Times T Magazine
Vogue Frieze diary

The Authoritarian Turn: On The State of the Egyptian Intelligentsia

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 7pm
NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
19 Washington Square North, New York

On the occasion of New Directions ’ publication of the writer Sonallah Ibrahim’s Stealth (Al Talassus), Bidoun and the legendary publishing house bring together a distinguished group of writers and scholars to reflect upon the predicament of the Egyptian intellectual in the year since President Mohamed Morsi’s dramatic fall. From Ibrahim himself to the bestselling author Alaa Al Aswany, countless writers and artists–many of them of historically contrarian bent–have expressed their support for a military-backed government whose abuses and excesses have on occasion surpassed those of the Mubarak era. How to begin to understand the role of the public intellectual in such times? Khaled Fahmy (American University in Cairo), Mona El Ghobashy (independent scholar), and Robyn Creswell (Yale University and poetry editor at The Paris Review) reflect on a year in which moral compasses have been cast hopelessly askew.

To be moderated by Negar Azimi.

Tehran vs. Tehrangeles: A Special Screening of Maxx

Wednesday August 27, 2014 at 8pm
Ooga Booga 2
356 S. Mission Road, Los Angeles

The cultural wars between Iran and its left coast diaspora have long been played out in the realms of cinema, television, and music—from pre-revolutionary films such as Mamal Amrikai to the lyrics of pop songs such as Sandy’s Talagh. State television vs. satellite; aging divas vs. youthful rappers; parkour vs. the Shahs of Sunset: the Tehranis have historically portrayed the diasporic Iranian as effeminate, gaudy and morally loose, while the Tehrangelenos see the the Iranians as illiterate, perverted, obscurist bumpkins—that is, if they even acknowledge them at all! Maxx (Saman Moghadam, 2005) is an artifact from the Khatami-era of cross-cultural dialogue, where old stereotypes get some new clothes. The film was a domestic success in Iran, and one of the earlier instances of a non art-house film finding an audience within the diaspora. Can Tehran and Tehrangeles learn to love each other?

Post-screening discussion will be led Bidoun editors and accompanied by Armenian arak and ice cream generously provided by MILK.

Maxx, Saman Moghadam, 2005, 110min, in Persian with English subtitles

Bidoun at Frieze New York

Bidoun Frieze New York 2014

Bidoun at Frieze New York
May 9–12, 2014
Randall’s Island, New York

Stop by our booth this week at Frieze New York to peruse our eclectic printed matter selection, chat with Bidounis, and pick up our brand new 10th anniversary Donkey-Ouroboros-Nasreddin tote bag! :P

LA Art Book Fair + Etel Adnan Readings + Screening

Bidoun Presents Etel Adnan: To look at the sea is to become what one is

Bidoun at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair
January 31– February 2, 2014
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Bidoun presents Etel Adnan: To look at the sea is to become what one is
Sunday, February 2, 2014, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum
Across the courtyard from the Geffen Contemporary

Stop by our booth this week at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair and join us Sunday morning for a special screening and reading event to celebrate the forthcoming anthology To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader (Nightboat Books, 2014) starring Bruce Hainley, Hedi El Kholti, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Rijin Sahakian, and Noura Wedell.

The Otolith Group‘s film I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another (2012), shot largely in Adnan’s Paris apartment, centers on a reading of the first chapter of the renowned Lebanese-American artist’s poem, Sea and Fog. The sound of Adnan’s gentle voice, and the quiet but ever present ambient noise in her apartment, create a powerful, meditative atmosphere. If poetry can be understood as a study in constraint, the film, I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another, can be understood as an experiment in concentration and a study of gestures, that speaks of the mobility of language and the movement of the ocean.

Bidoun at the Frieze Art Fair, London

Bidoun at Frieze Art Fair 2013

Frieze Art Fair
October 17-20, 2013
Regent’s Park, London

Bidoun is back in London for the Frieze Art Fair. Come by the booth, buy rare back issues, say hello to any one of our editors in town, and learn about our exciting plans for the future!

The Bidoun Library at the 2013 Carnegie International

The Bidoun Library at the 2013 Carnegie International

The Bidoun Library at the 2013 Carnegie International
October 5, 2013–March 16, 2014
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

The Bidoun Library is a presentation of printed matter, carefully selected with no regard for taste or quality, that attempts to document the innumerable ways that people have depicted and defined—slandered, celebrated, obfuscated, hyperbolized, ventriloquized, photographed, surveyed, and/or exhumed—that vast, vexed, nefarious construct known as “the Middle East.” The result is banal and offensive, a parade of stereotypes, caricatures, and misunderstandings, all the trappings of the Middle East as fetish: veils, oil, fashion victims; sexy sheikhs, sex with sheikhs, Sufis, stonings; calligraphy, the caliphate, terrorism; Palestinians. We wanted to see what would happen if we put together a library without regard to aptness or excellence; to choose books not for their subjects, but their contexts; not for their authors, but their publishers; not for their qualities, but in their quantities.


“Water was the first type of drilling fluid to be used, but when it became evident that superior drilling fluids could be made when certain clays were added, the art of mud control began.”

Kuwait Oil Company, Crude to Carrier, The Epic of Oil. Kuwait City: Information Department, 1967.


“The life of an immigrant family of three. Having been a violinist, the man is used to play violin when he is alone. The woman is working in an office and the eight-year-old child attends school. The man has problems with his wife. Being in a bad situation the couple can not help each other. But the child is aware of the problems.”

Mohammad Aghili, Hossein Mahini, A Prospect of Iran’s Film in Exile. Gothenburg: FRI Fil, 1993.


“Choose Your Own Adventure is the best thing that has come along since books themselves.”
– Alysha Beyer, age 11

“I didn’t read much before, but now I read my Choose Your Own Adventure books almost every night.”
– Chris Brogan, age 13

“I love the control over what happens next.”
– Kosta Efstathiou, age 17

Shannon Gilligan, Choose Your Own Adventure: The Terrorist Trap. New York: Bantam-Skylark, 1991.

Bidoun Benefit Dinner 2013

Orhan Pamuk and Shirin Neshat

A big thank you to all who joined us this past Sunday evening for the Bidoun Benefit Dinner. It was really really fun!

A special thanks to our readers: Chelsea Clinton, Stuart Comer, Lawrence Weiner, Lynne Tillman, Knight Landesman, and Orhan Pamuk & Shirin Neshat; and our host committee: Maria Baibakova, Yto Barrada, Aarthi Belani, Lisa Farjam, Dana Farouki, Coco Ferguson, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Leila Heller, Shirin Neshat, and Sheena Wagstaff.

Bidoun at the New York Art Book Fair

New York Art Book Fair
September 19–22, 2013
MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Queens

Bidoun is taking part in the eighth annual New York Art Book Fair at PS1 this weekend. Come visit, chat, and peruse your favorite Bidoun titles.

The fair begins this Thursday from 6-9 pm and runs through the weekend.

Also! On the final evening of the fair, Sunday the 22nd from 6-9 pm, join us for vodka, music, MFK Fisher’s favorite minestrone soup, and diverse readings on and about FOOD by Bidoun’s Michael C. Vazquez , who joins an illustrious cast including Gini Alhadeff , Clarissa Dalrymple , K8 Hardy , Gaby Hoffmann , Matthew Higgs , Emily Stokes , Lynne Tillman , Nicola Tyson , Wendy Yao , and more. Music by Bidoun’s Tiffany Malakoobideh. Look for signs of the pop-up cafe at the new MoMA PS1 storefront. Organized by Negar Azimi and Pati Hertling.

Bidoun Launch in Los Angeles!

Bidoun Launch Los Angeles
Sunday August 25, 2013 at 3pm
Ooga Booga 2, 356 S. Mission Road, Los Angeles

Join us for a celebrity-Bidouni-studded event with readings and performances and music and ice cream. Show begins promptly at 3!

Bidoun at 'Paper Weight — Genre-defining Magazines 2000 to Now' at Haus Der Kunst, Munich

Paper Weight — Genre-defining Magazines 2000 to Now
July 7 – October 27, 2013
Haus Der Kunst, Munich

Bidoun is pleased to be part of the exhibition ‘Paper Weight — Genre-defining Magazines 2000 to Now’ at Haus Der Kunst, Munich. Curated by PIN-UP editor Felix Burrichter and designed by Athens-based artist and architect Andreas Angelidakis, the exhibition features BUTT, Candy, 032c, and Sang Bleu among other publications.

Bidoun and Dirty Looks Present Pedro Almódovar's Labyrinth of Passion

Still from Labyrinth of Passion, Pedro Almodo, 1982

Labyrinth of Passion, Pedro Almódovar, 1982
Saturday July 27, 2013 at 2pm
El Charro Espanol
4 Charles Street, New York

Bidoun and Dirty Looks present an afternoon screening of Pedro Almodovar’s second feature film at the legendary Village restaurant El Charro Espanol. Labyrinth of Passion follows scantily disguised but heavily camped-up members of the Iranian royal family in their famous period of limbo following the revolution of 1979 as they are thrust into extravagant plot lines that weave hilariously between historical accuracy and ribald fantasy. “Toraya,” the disgruntled ex-empress is desperate to fertilize herself with royal seed via the young Crown Prince “Riza.” Riza, meanwhile, is busy attempting to cure himself of his homosexuality after falling in love with a nymphomaniac pop star named Sexilia, but his former lover Sadec (played by a young and nubile Antonio Banderas) is secretly a pro-Khomeini guerilla belonging to a group attempting to kidnap him. Plus: full body plastic surgery, doctors, laxatives, and other culturally appropriate themes.

The film’s elliptical Iranian historical connection has been tragically overlooked ― at worst misunderstood to be about a fictional Arab monarchy, and at best, mentioned in passing. Bidoun and Dirty Looks are pleased to host this absolutely essential revisiting of this deliciously queer retelling of an important moment in Iranian history.

BubuWeb at NYU Abu Dhabi


May 1, 2013
NYUAD Downtown Campus, Abu Dhabi
Free and open to the public

Kenneth Goldsmith, founder of UbuWeb, and Bidoun’s Tiffany Malakooti will be presenting an evening of experimental work from the Bidoun-o-sphere, including a variety of historical and contemporary films, music, and radio plays.

NYU Abu Dhabi

On newstands now: Bidoun #28 Interviews

Bidoun #28 INTERVIEWS features conversations among Giorgio Agamben, Sophia Al-Maria, Hossein Amanat, Negar Azimi, Omar Berrada, Leland de la Durantaye, Jeremy Deller, Mona Eltahawy, Lisa Farjam, Yasmine El Rashidi, Larry Gagosian, Conner Habib, Yasmine Hamdan, Zahi Hawass, Michelle Kuo, Ursula Lindsey, Navid Negahban, Sukhdev Sandhu, Anna Della Subin, Benjamin Tiven, Michael C. Vazquez and Marina Warner.