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Arabic literature

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Apparently the recent London Book Fair featured Arabic literature. That would have been really interesting to go to.

As compensation, I found an interesting article in the Guardian. They asked a good number of authors and academics about what it’s like to be an Arab or Egyptian author today and what books they would recommend or like to see translated into English.

Here’s an excerpt from the Guardian article:

Adania Shibli
Palestinian writer

I remember a story from four years ago in Ramallah. One night the Israeli army stormed a building in which somebody I knew lived. Everyone was told to get out. After a few hours, the army announced it wanted to blow up the building and gave the inhabitants 20 minutes to go up to their rooms and retrieve what they could. When my friend went up he didn’t know what to take; he had all of his life there, he was totally lost. He finally went to the washing machine, emptied it and went out with the washing, leaving everything else behind to be blown up a few minutes later.

In the same way, I could never say which text to have translated from Arabic into English; if I did, it might be the least important.

I keep thinking about him standing there with his arms full of laundry watching his home being destroyed.

Sadly, I found pretty much none of the mentioned authors available in English, but I did find a few in French. I’m going to try the bookshop at the Institut du Monde Arabe, they should have a good selection.

It’s wonderful to finally be able to read in another language — even if I still need my dictionary. The ones I learned in school and forgot don’t count because I was foolish enough to lose them. So now I’m discovering all kinds of new writers: French, Italian, Spanish, African, and on and on.

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