Haytham El-Wardany is a writer, translator, and the author of How to Disappear (2013) and The Book of Sleep (2017). In a pocket-sized format, How To Disappear explores the potentialities of passivity and unproductive action. The Book of Sleep offers insight into the dialectics of sleep as it relates to resistance, change, and revolution. Combining fragments of poetry, philosophical reflection and storytelling, El-Wardany destabilizes the active/passive binary that is foundational to our perception of political resistance, instead circling around a subject rife with metaphor. “[Sleep’s] journey of descent continues and return is only accomplished when it ceases to be aware of any distinction between what is it and what is not. Here the self has reached a ground in which there is no differentiation, where all things are mixed with all things, where the self finds itself equally in everything which lies outside it and in everything which lies within it.”
During his time at Callie’s, El-Wardany organized a workshop titled Based in…, a continuation of his earlier workshop, Writing Catastrophe. Conducted in Arabic, the workshop addressed writers from the Arab world who had recently immigrated to Berlin. The group met from April to July 2019; among other things, the workshop considered how Berlin became a diaspora for many writers, artists, and scholars from the Middle East following defeated revolutions. The question of place was not limited to a geographical sense, but was stretched to reflect on “positionality” in writing and structuring perspective.
In November 2020, The Book of Sleep was released for the first time in English, translated by Robin Moger and published by Seagull Books.