Issue 1: Inaugural Issue

Note From the Editor

Mirene Arsanios

I’m waiting to be picked up. A childhood friend I haven’t seen in years is driving my car in Beirut. I don’t have a car. The car is a large and sturdy orange Corvette. She parks it in the vicinity of the Corniche, in an underwater lot, swims back to the surface and strolls in a bathing suit with pineapples and grenades on it. Her body is in its forties but she has the voice of a six year old when she cries out from a street replete with dog shit: “Are you ready?”

98editions’ first issue of Makhzin is a little like my dream: it connects distant continents and jolted time zones, unconscious desires and uncanny details in an assemblage of texts impossible to imagine before it actually came together.

Before it existed, Makhzin didn’t know what it was going to be. It knew it was 98editions’ fifth publication and its first magazine. It knew 98editions was a small press that stemmed from 98weeks’ research On Publications. It knew, more than anything, that it wanted to give writers, established or not, a platform to publish writing that isn’t critical, academic, or essayistic. That it wanted to publish stories, poems and prose existing across genres and languages—English, Arabic, French, and all permutations in between.

Makhzin received about sixty submissions through an open call, and in collaboration with guest editors Omar Berrada, Lara Khaldi and Ghalya Saadawi. The criteria for selection emerged as we read, discussed, and debated the texts, being careful of not falling prey to literary dogmatism or flawless monolingualism.

With twenty-one contributions from Lebanon, Morocco, Austria, The United States, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, and Germany, in English, Arabic and French (as a first, second, or third language), Makhzin’s fifty-nine pages bind worlds and writings from different contexts, histories, and poetics. Yet, these texts share the same physical space: a makhzan, that is “a place for storing goods, especially military ammunition; a warehouse, a depot, a store”. A place bound by a “perfect binding”, laid out on 17x24 cm pages, whose existence relies on the authors’, editors’, designers’, and copy editors’ countless hours of unpaid work. These material conditions, paired with an unrelenting enthusiasm, create Makhzin, a place for readers and writers to inhabit and cohabit.

In such a collection of fiction, poetry, and cross-genre texts, clusters begin to emerge. Haig Aivazian, Alex Cuff and Raed Rafaei’s pieces explore skin as surface: an inner and outer layer that defines us as subjects and makes us subject to power. Gender, through social constructs, sexual longing, and material violence is also addressed in the fictions and reportage of Amira Hanafi, Mo Maria Sarkis, and Raafat Mazjoub. Hisham Bustani and Lina Morawetz write compelling micro-fictions. Nada Ghosn translated for this issue a satirical and quasi surreal fiction by the Yemeni author Wajdi al-Ahdal. Mariam Yassin writes texts combining vernacular speech and expressions in Arabic. Monica Basbous, Ruth Höflich, Chloé Griffin and Samuel Wilder’s contributions are both textual and visual: they chart distances, speak architecture, and trace horizon lines. Christopher Rey Pérez draws those lines into word grids and poems about sexualized Angels, IDF soldiers and almond trees.
Bassem Mansour and JK Rowling address the reader in unexpected ways, Mansour through a language that once existed and Nathan Witt through his nervous A Letter to Whom. Rim Battal, Jalal Maghout, Aya Nabih, Claire Wilcox and Robert Ostrom write poems on pronouns, lust, cats, peaking and what our days are made of.

Now it’s up for the readers to determine what place Makhzin will be for them.