Things That Can’t Be Fixed

Things That Can’t Be Fixed
(working title)
ما لا يمكن إصلاحه
(Ma la yumkin islahuhu)

Written by

(هيثم الورداني)

Published by


A timely collection of stories about what happens when life suddenly goes wrong, from one of the finest authors of short fiction writing in Arabic today

By turns dark and tender, this short story collection revolves around a very timely theme: what happens when things go wrong. Sometimes these things are as ordinary as a family meal spoiled by an argument; sometimes they’re of a more mysterious or life-changing sort. Sunni is an ageing drug dealer and one of his associates has just been turned into a zebra, leaving the whereabouts of a valuable stash of goods a mystery. Marwa returns from a picnic with her daughter to find that the street in Neukölln where they live, has been sealed off because an unexploded second-world-war bomb has appeared in their back garden. Haytham El-Wardany is a master of the short form, and Things That Can’t Be Fixed is typical of his ability to craft a compelling story out of simple ingredients: lightly sketched characters, relatable situations, an occasional gothic twist. The characters in these stories are up against mistakes, breakups, glitches, spells and sheer bad luck—the question is what, if anything, they can do about it.

Approximate number of pages: 243 p.

Foreign rights: contact the author‘s agent


Genres: historical
Time periods: 2020s & 21th century

Reasons to publish this book

Things That Can’t Be Fixed brings together El-Wardany’s distinctive pared-down prose and dark imagination in a more approachable form than anything he’s had published in translation to date. The stories also capture a feeling of unease and helplessness that many people are experiencing right now, far beyond Egypt or Germany where they’re set, yet offer a glimmer of hope that perhaps some things, after all, can be fixed. Fans of Olga Tokarczuk will love this book.


  • English


    by Katharine Halls

    published as

    The Suspended Step in the United Kingdom in 2023 by Frieze Magazine, Issue 234

Prizes and awards

  • 2021 Cairo Book Fair prize for best short story collection


Novels by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine and Haytham El-Wardany Receive 2021 PEN/Heim Translation Grant by Brittle Paper, February 2021

Katharine Halls Wins PEN/Heim to Translate Haytham El-Wardany’s ‘Things That Can’t Be Fixed’ by ArabLit, January 2020

Reviewed by Katharine Halls