Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich,What Have You Left Behind? powerfully draws together civilian accounts of the Yemeni civil war and serves as a vital reminder of the scale of the human tragedy behind the headlines.
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 200,000 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 civilians trapped in a war outside of their own making. As difficult to read as it is to put down, Bushra al-Maqtari’s unvarnished chronicle of the conflict in Yemen 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.
Bushra al-Maqtari 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.
Sawad Hussain is an Arabic-to-English translator whose work has been recognised by English PEN, the Anglo-Omani Society and the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, among others. She is a judge for the Palestine Book Awards and the 2023 National Translation Award. She has run translation workshops under the auspices of Shadow Heroes, Africa Writes, Shubbak Festival, the Yiddish Book Center, the British Library and the National Centre for Writing. Sawad has been selected to be the Princeton Translator in Residence in 2025.
‘When the fire of this war dies down, and the regional conflicting parties agree to a truce, and foreign entities are invited to rebuild the country, in those moments we will still have these heartrending stories, as a reminder of the sheer folly, empty grandeur and cold-blooded cruelty embodied by the war in Yemen.’ —Muhammed Nafih Wafy, Qantara
‘What sets this book apart is its narrative style, without being a novel, and its means of recording and documentation, without actually being a written record or document. ... What we read is painful, but our knowledge is enriched by the facts presented, as well as our literary experience with its language, marked by the pulse of life and death.’ — Al Quds