On the rise of Arabic Literature in the West

In The Anglo Arab Encounter, Geoffrey Nash comments that “to the extent that Arab and Islamic oriented events in recent history have impacted on the West…the level of interest they have raised feeds into a dissemination and consumption of texts that might be deemed to interface with (and even partially “explain”) those events”.

These dynamics can be seen in an article on the Arabic novel published in the New Yorker in January 2010, “Found in Translation,” where Claudia Pierpont writes that while newspapers “keep responsible Americans up to date when trouble looms” the contemporary Arabic novel in translation offers “a marvellous array of answers to questions we did not know we wanted to ask”.

In an article published today on the rise of Arab literature, both in Arabic and in other languages, primarily French and english, Brian Whitaker asks:

But what are the consequences of this for writers and their readers? Does awareness of a wider (non-Arab) audience affect the way that Arab writers write? And in what ways do different audiences – not to mention publishers in different countries – have differing perceptions of their work?

Whitaker reports on the discussion of these questions during a panel discussion at the Shubbak festival in July, citing the comments of Robin Yassin Kassab and Sinan Antoon among others and highlights many of the issues of authenticity, censorship, representation and identity politics that face Arab writers who are published in “global” languages.

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