“Pessimism of the Will & Optimism of the Intellect” (Antonio Gramsci)

Rebecca Ruth Gould in Isfahan (Iran) in 2016. Photo by the author.

Hello! Welcome to this short summary of myself. I define myself as a writer, reader, translator, teacher, lover of staying up late at night, of wandering through cities and watching the stars, coffee, documentary films, medieval ruins, and poetry in languages other than my own. My reading ranges across novels (Fyodor Dostoevsky and Virginia Woolf are among my favorites), philosophy (I adore Giambattista Vico and Walter Benjamin), and poetry (I love Mahmoud Darwish and Zbigniew Herbert, among others).

Instead of trying to summarize my life, I will show some…


The long-term income potential of your writing depends on it

Photo by Vish K on Unsplash

As someone who has recently been immersed in several contract negotiations for my books, I want to share here some of what I have learned. Although these guidelines are intended primarily for book authors, they apply broadly to any kind of rights to your work. I have included a few tips for selling the rights to your articles as well. They are based on my experience as a published author, translator, and editor of over ten books (some of which are currently in production). Learn from my mistakes!

Negotiate and contract with the words “all” and “exclusive”

In my first book contract (with Yale University Press) I was so…


The meaning of solidarity with Palestine

Mural of Solidarity with Palestine via Pixabay

The world’s attention has been transfixed by Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza. Palestinian voices and narratives have begun to filter through the mainstream American media channels that have suppressed their voices for decades. When the Israeli military bombed al-Jalaa Tower, which housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices in Gaza on 15 May 2021, it seemed to mark a turning point in wider public opinion. …


She wanted to make love to books, with her hands

Photo of Budapest’s Chain Bridge by Daniel Olah via Unsplash

When she was awarded a year-long fellowship in Budapest, Sarah Wallace was given the opportunity to invite anyone she wanted, anywhere in the world, to visit her during her stay in Hungary. She invited a famous scholar whose book she adored, and he declined. And then she remembered Yasin, the Uzbek scholar with whom she had crossed paths a decade earlier, in Amman. True, he might have no interest in Budapest, but what was the harm in asking? They shared a passion for manuscripts.

She searched her apartment for his number and came across a piece of scrap paper on…


What you can learn from the injustices done to other writers

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Having a literary agent is the dream of many writers. Countless blog posts, forums, and writers’ handbooks begin with the question: How do you get a literary agent? To these sources, it seems that all a writer needs to do is secure an agent, and every other problem, from finding a publisher to making a living as a writer, is solved.

However, there are many ways in which your relationship with a literary agent can go wrong, and end up causing more damage to your career than if you had never contracted to have that person represent you. This applies…


The perfect dedicatee for a book has yet to be born

Pablo Picasso, “Sleeping Drinker” (1902). Kunstmuseum Bern.

I have often been tormented by the blank space at the beginning of every manuscript. The space where you are supposed to pay homage to everyone who has mattered in your life and work. It is a test: have I lived the life I aspired to live, have I forged the bonds that would enable me to link someone so intimately to my book? Dedications are spaces of intimacy, but what if the bonds are too fragile to sustain such intimate relations? How does the author lay bare their heart on the dedication page, without covering herself in scorn and…


A historical fable about poetry and power

Bijan, a character in Ferdowsi’s Shahnama, rescued in the well (Fitzwilliam Museum, public domain)

One day, towards the beginning of the second millennium, a poem was born on a periphery of the Central Asian Ghaznavid empire, in a town called Lahore, in what is now Pakistan. The poem had a difficult birth. His creator was Masud Sad, son of Salman. He was incarcerated for eighteen years, first for conspiring against the sultan, and then, after he was released, simply for laughing at him.

The king’s ego is bigger than his crown, poets were beginning to learn.

The years the poet spent in chains and in prison shaped the content of his poem and altered…


A review of Ibn ‘Arabi’s The Translator of Desires, translated by Michael Sells


From the vantage point of the peoples colonized by Russian rule

Imam Shamil by Denier via Wikimedia (public domain)

High in the mountains running along the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia, in the garrison town of Zaqatala, former outpost of the famed Imam Shamil who in the mid-nineteenth century led the longest resistance to Russian rule, I meet an elderly woman crossing the street.

“Come inside and drink some tea with me,” she said. “I have lived in this town all my life,” she explains. “I have pictures to show you. I will tell you the history of everything.”

Rebecca Ruth Gould

Writing on poetry, politics, authors’ rights, the Caucasus, Iran, Palestine. Professor. Website: rrgould.hcommons.org. More info: https://linktr.ee/rrgould

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