Yahia Lababidi

Yahia Lababidi


Egyptian-American Author — 7th book, “Where Epics Fail” (Unbound/Penguin Random House)

Writer, editor, and creative thinker.

Author of 7 books (in 4 genres) – amazon.com/author/yahialababidi – as well as numerous articles covering arts, culture and philosophy.

10 years working experience with the United Nations, in an editorial and communications capacity.

Commissioning editor for a news service.

Freelance publicist for an American theater.

As a creative writer, nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2010) with work featured in a best-selling anthology/ textbook used throughout US colleges.

Participated in international literary festivals in USA, Eastern Europe and the Middle East; with work translated into nearly a dozen languages.

Where Epics Fail

There is a Persian proverb that says:  “Epigrams succeed where epics fail.” I was so struck by this thought when I encountered it, and on so many levels, that I decided I would name my forthcoming collection of aphorisms, Where Epics Fail.  Composed over a 10 year period, the subtitle of my latest book of brief meditations is Art, Morality and the Life of the Spirit —  three live-giving spheres of our existence where the grand narratives seem to be failing to hold our attention or capture our imagination.

Growing up in Cairo, Egypt I was surrounded by a love of word play, and was attracted to the power of proverbs, since I was a young man. Wit and verse were viewed as a sport, where I came from, even a sort of national pastime (at least, during the three decades that I lived there. It wasn’t about being book-smart, proverbs were used as a form of street poetry or fossils of ancient philosophies merging with living truths. They were our oral tradition and inherited wisdom, rescuing keen psychological insights from the past, and passing it onto future generations, as shortcuts to hard-won life experiences. Good aphorisms aspire to this type of wisdom literature, as well.

In my late teens, some two and a half decades before Twitter, I began writing what would become my first collection of aphorisms.  Nearly one decade later, I was putting the finishing touches to Where Epics Fail, now based in the US, and coinciding with what seemed to be an Aphorism Renaissance in America.  Since last I aphorized, I observe that the inner and outer landscape had changed, dramatically.

On a personal level, I, who once lived for the life of the mind came to realize that, after decades of intellectual exploration I was humbled to discover that, spiritually, I still stand on the shore before a vast and limitless sea…  Meanwhile, of course, I was not the only one changing.  My old home, Egypt, and newly adopted one, America – as well as everywhere in between – seemed to be battling for its soul.  People more divided and less inclined to lend their ear to the heroic epic (in poetry or politics).  It was up to the epigram to remind us of our higher selves and larger allegiances to one another.

Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread, says poet Pablo Neruda.  As an immigrant and Muslim and writer living in Trump’s America, as well as being a citizen of our increasingly polarized world, I feel called upon to use my art to alleviate the mounting fear and loathing, directed at those of different backgrounds/faith traditions.

The over 800 aphorisms in Where Epics Fail are what is worth quoting from this soul’s dialogue with itself but they are, I hope, more than a series of personal reflections.  On one level, they are addressed at general readers and lovers of language, and specifically resonate with those who appreciate wit and wisdom: pithy sayings, inspirational or spiritual sustenance in a sentence. On another level, the aphorisms in new book are intended for seekers, thinkers, devotees of beauty and peace, who share my belief that it is art’s duty to try and ‘make a joyful noise’.


It is my wish, that in these short meditations, readers might encounter thoughts that might begin to liberate and heal (their wounded selves, and in turn, our wounded world).  Such aphorisms are headlines, but they are also the stories, too, inviting reader of conscience to complete them by living at a higher level of consciousness.


Aphorisms from Where Epics Fail:

  • Aphorisms respect the wisdom of silence by disturbing it, but briefly.


  • Poems are like bodies—a fraction of their power resides in their skin. The rest belongs to the spirit that swims through them.


  • Said a poem to a poet: Can I trust you? Is your heart pure to carry me, are your hands clean to pass me on?


  • Unlike prose, poetry can keep its secrets.


  • To write is to bow is to pray.


  • There are many ways to donate blood, writing is one.


  • Those for whom the natural is extraordinary, tend to find the extraordinary natural.


  • To acquire a third eye, one cannot blink.


  • Miracles are everyday occurrences, recognizing them is not.


  • If we ask life for favors, we must be prepared to return them.


  • Spiritual fast food leads to spiritual indigestion.


  • Paths are also relationships – to be meaningful, they require fidelity.


  • If we pay attention, we are ushered along our path in winks and nudges.


  • Trust in longing to sing itself.


  • If Love were not always a step ahead, how would it ensure that we kept up the chase?


  • One definition of success might be refining our appetites, while deepening our hunger.


  • It’s easier to be fearless, once we remember that we are deathless.


  • You can’t bury pain and not expect it to grow roots.


  • If our hearts should harden and turn to ice, we must try, at least, not to blame the weather.


  • To accept the world as it is isn’t realistic, it’s cynical.


  • The only failures are misanthropes.


  • Where there are demons, there is something precious worth fighting for.


  • Our salvation lies on the other side of our gravest danger.
  • At the heart of every vice sits selfishness, yawning.
  • The problem with being full of yourself is that you cannot fill up with much else.


  • Why announce to the world your few good deeds, when you hide your many bad ones—even from yourself?


  • As we make peace with ourselves, we become more tolerant of our faults—in others.


  • We can lend ideas our breath, but ideals require our entire lives.


  • All who are tormented by an Ideal must learn to make an ally of failure.


  • In the deep end, every stroke counts.


  • Poor rational mind, it would sooner accept a believable lie than an incredible truth.


  • The guardian of the riddle must speak in riddles


Previous articleFranca Palmieri
Next articleRyan Quinn Flanagan