July 12, 2011KR BlogKR

Further notes on literature from the Middle East

As a follow-up to the interviews with Philip Metres, Sinan Antoon, Therese Soukar Chehade, and Nathalie Handal posted earlier this summer, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point to some of the great (English-language) curations and discussions of literature and the Arab spring that have been appearing around the web:

The July issue of Words Without Borders is “documenting the Arab Spring with literature from the countries of the uprisings. Following the sequence of events, we begin in North Africa with writing from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Tunisia.” This issue is part one, with a second installment to come next month.

Jadaliyya published this wonderful interview, “The Imagination as Transitive Act,” with Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim, interviewed by Elliot Cola:

EC: Is there such a thing as revolutionary literature?

SI: I don’t think so. There’s only two things: literature that is real and literature that is not. Real literature is not motivated by propaganda–whether on behalf of state power or against it. Real literature gives expression to people’s lives and the natural aspirations of a individual people. And this means that it necessarily runs against power. To be a real writer entails having a total image of society, history and the future. And this vision must certainly have a kind of oppositional, resistant stance toward lived reality and its limitations.

This is a good time to mention that Jadaliyya has recently launched a new culture section, which you should all go check out. Recent favorites of mine: some new short fiction by Adania Shibli.

And if you missed it, the June issue of Guernica, “From Alienation to Belonging,” was guest-edited by Randa Jarrar and devoted to Arab-American writing, including works by Diana Abu-Jaber, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, and more.

To note some ongoing great sources of literature from the Middle East & discussions thereof: KRO contributor M. Lynx Qualey keeps the blog “Arabic Literature (in English),” an inspiring and comprehensive source of news and notes on just that. Recent posts include “Ten Rules for Translating,” and “What Is the (Literary) Artist’s Role in the Revolution?

Banipal magazine, based in the UK and publishing “contemporary Arab authors in English translation,” just published its 40th issue, on Libyan fiction. Issue 41 will celebrate Adonis and Arabic writers in Sweden. (Well: I think issue 41 may have just been released, but I can’t quite tell…)

I recommend the arts and culture print magazine Bidoun, devoted to “new questions, images, and ideas about the Middle East.” I’ve just learned, too, of a new online magazine, Kalimat. So: let the reading begin!