• What Have You Left Behind? - ISHKAR

What Have You Left Behind?

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In 2015, a year after it started, Bushra al-Maqtari decided to document the suffering of civilians in the Yemeni Civil War, which has killed over 350,000 people according to the UN. Inspired by the work of Svetlana Alexievich, she spent two years visiting different parts of the country, putting her life at risk by speaking with her compatriots, and gathered over 400 testimonies, a selection of which appear in What Have You Left Behind? Purposefully alternating between accounts from the victims of the Houthi militia and those of the Saudi-led coalition, al-Maqtari highlights the disillusionment and anguish felt by those trapped in a war outside of their own making. As difficult to read as it is to put down, this unvarnished chronicle of the conflict serves as a vital reminder of the scale of the human tragedy behind the headlines, and offers a searing condemnation of the international community’s complicity in the war’s continuation.

‘An oral history of war’s folly in the tradition of Svetlana Alexievich, as devastating as Goya or Picasso. Al-Maqtari summons us to witness the innocent lives lost, and the love that survives in their wake.’
Matthieu Aikins, author of The Naked Don’t Fear the Water

Information
  • Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions 
  • Translated by Sawad Hussain
  • Published 19 October 2022, French paperback with flaps, 256 pages



Reviews

‘This is an extraordinary collection of testimonies. It’s almost unbearable to read, but averting your eyes from the suffering to which the book bears witness feels craven. Brave, painful, necessary and harrowing, Bushra al-Maqtari’s work confronts the reader with the devastation of the war in Yemen and gives a voice to those whose lives have been destroyed by it.’
Marcel Theroux, author of Strange Bodies

‘Bushra al-Maqtari’s boundlessly humane project of collecting firsthand accounts to document the nearly decade-long Yemeni Civil War – and the West’s complicity in it – is unblinking in its moral gaze. Every single voice collected in these pages is a blow to the heart. By the time I finished this book, I was consumed by sorrow and rage. This is an act of witnessing, and of making us engage in the witnessing of a disgraceful, criminal war that will shake your soul.’
Neel Mukherjee, author of A State of Freedom

‘For a conflict that has caused arguably the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the war in Yemen is often described in the most inhuman ways…Bushra al-Maqtari, a journalist, adds a human element to the conflict.’
The Economist

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The Story

The Author

Bushra al-Maqtari (b. 1979) is a writer and journalist who lives in Sanaa, Yemen. Her writings have appeared in various Arabic and international newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times. In 2013, she received the Françoise Giroud Award for Defence of Freedom and Liberties in Paris as well as the Leaders for Democracy Prize awarded by the Project on Middle East Democracy in Washington. In 2020, she was awarded the Johann-Philipp-Palm-Award for Freedom of Speech and Press, following on from the publication of What Have You Left Behind? with Ullstein Verlag in Germany.

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