Halim Barakat, The Crane

The Crane by Halim Barakat is a short autobiographical prose work, its tone fluctuating between realism, interior monologue, poetic passages and political rhetoric. It begins as the narrator looks back on his childhood in the village of Kafrun in Syria and moves on to describe his travels and experiences as a student in the US … Continue reading Halim Barakat, The Crane

Sonallah Ibrahim: August Star

Sonallah Ibrahim's novel Najmah Aghustus (August Star 1974) was written over seven years, from 1966 to 1973, while the author was living in Berlin and Moscow and was banned in Egypt, with the first edition published in Damasucs in 1974. In 2003, Sonallah Ibrahim famously declined a government prize, pointing out "this government doesn't have … Continue reading Sonallah Ibrahim: August Star

The Search for Walid Masoud

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra's novel The Search for Walid Masoud (1978), recounts  the complex legacy left behind by Walid: a Palestinian author and political activist who has been living in Baghdad since 1948. At the beginning of the narrative, Dr Jawad Husni, the first narrator, tells us Walid disappreared six months ago, leaving his car on … Continue reading The Search for Walid Masoud

Making History in the Middle East

Glenn Lowry, former F|S curator of Islamic art and now director of the Museum of Modern Art, talks about contemporary art in the Middle East. In this presentation he looks at how history is constructed, in a region characterized by deja-vu, by the constant return of history. He mentions the Gulf and Levant, and in … Continue reading Making History in the Middle East

I Must Ask Permission of the Homeland

This is a picture of Nizar Qabbani. The title of this post is the title of one of his poems which deals with putting the homeland first. Because this is about literature in crisis, writing in extremis, and putting the immediate needs of the country before fiction and imagination. And in many ways, in his … Continue reading I Must Ask Permission of the Homeland

A Thousand and One Nights Revisted, Again

There is an interview on the Thousand and One Nights with Hanan Al-Shaykh and Marina Warner at Guernica which I missed, somehow, although I followed the launch and tour for Shaykh's translation of the Thousand and One Nights closely. Yes, Scheherazade and Thousand and One Nights provokes eye rolling for most people. Again, once more, forever? … Continue reading A Thousand and One Nights Revisted, Again

Comedy of Sorrows

"Written in direct response to the ongoing revolution in Egypt, Ibrahim El-Husseini's Commedia Al-Ahzaan (Comedy of Sorrows) follows a young university-educated Egyptian woman through a series of encounters with different members of society. Through these encounters, she comes to realize how little she understands her own country." So Ibrahim El-Husseini's post-revolution play has been translated … Continue reading Comedy of Sorrows

Ahmed Matar’s Black Humor

I have been listening to Ahmed Matar's poetry since childhood, when no long car ride was undertaken without the cassette tape of the Iraqi poet reciting poems, giving us lines which were a blend of humor and despair, ironic in  their tone, lacerating in their self-criticism, bringing us face to face with a shared Arab … Continue reading Ahmed Matar’s Black Humor