Saturday, April 12, 2008

Books from the Arab World

Arabic literature faces many challenges including censorship, bureaucracy, and the problems of reaching a wider market. But here are signs that it has never been more vibrant. In the Guardian today authors and critics give their views.

This comment from Palestinian poet and writer Mourid Barghouti should give us all pause for thought :
Arabic literature, both classical and modern, is almost absent from the world stage. The dominant culture of our times, western culture, has not seen other languages, discourses and civilisations as equally worthy approaches to the world. We'll reach nowhere if the concept of "universality" is not re-examined. No western writer questions his or her universality; it is the Arabs, the Africans and the Asians who should aspire to reach it, through translation. Translation being a chance, a favour, a medal, a stamp of recognition and a password to open the space for the lucky newcomers.
If you are interested in finding out more, do also check out Arab World Books.

Books from the Arab world is also the market focus of the London Book Fair this year, and the British Council is also providing a shop window for Arabic Writers.

Postscript (25/4/08) :

Boyd Tonkin in the Independent also looks at books from the Arabic world and the problems faced by authors and publishers.


gnute said...

I quite like Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet's words.
Introduced to me via John Berger.

najibah (ummu fatimah) said...

Hi Sharon. Have visited your blog a few times before, but never leave any comments. Thank you for highlighting about the Arabic literature. I have a stint of Arabic education during younger years, but to me Arabic literature is something strange & almost non-existent. I believe it will be worth exploring on my part.

Anonymous said...

Yes women in the Arab world should speak up and dispel the rest of the world's notions that Arab society denies women some very basic human rights.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks for the link gnute. it's always good to hear of new writers

najibah - i think we have too narrow a view of literature and often ignore writers from other parts of the world when there is so much that we can share. i hope you find some good arabic reads and that you let us know what you discover! glad you left a comment and hope you do again!

anon - we need more women to write and talk about their lives - everywhere and this is certainly true also in malaysia. (where i can give you plenty of instances of men trying to shut down or discredit women's voices). i don't know how much of this also happens in the middle-east and would like to find out.

in some arab societies the literary world is very male dominated - look at al-mutanabe street, the literary street of baghdad where writers used to meet in cafes (before it was bombed)? where were the women there? (maybe they had their own circles, their own events?)

what i'm trying to say is, i guess, is that women have to fight for their space and right to be heard wherever they are.

btw - would you consider driving a car a basic human right??

Anonymous said...


I would, if that was true. I think all humanity should have equal rights and privileges.

bibliobibuli said...

but women in saudi arabia aren't allowed to

Anonymous said...

So I guess they should write about it or something. Awareness is always good.