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Everything you need to know about the world's great writers and emerging voices is being collected and shared on the English PEN Online World Atlas. Head over to the Atlas to create (or edit) a profile for your favourite author or book, leave a comment or contact another user, and discover your next great read. We believe that great writing has the power to change your life and change the world, one book at a time.

The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reading Contemporary Arabic Literature: Where to Start?

Perhaps Alaa al-Aswany has whetted your appetite for fiction from the Middle East, or you're curious to read the stories written by the people seen in the news who rarely get to speak for themselves. Maybe you're planning a trip to Morocco (say, for the upcoming international Forum on Civilisations and Cultural Diversity) and want to know more about the country, or maybe you're just hungry for new voices, new reads. As the British Council's year-long New Arabic Books project shows, Arabic fiction publishing is thriving in the Middle East and Maghreb -- but where to start?

You could take advice from Kutub, a book club that's been running in Dubai for 2 1/2 years. Each month they gather at the Third Line gallery to discuss a juicy list of books. If you're looking for a tasty starter course in the diversity of Arab literature available in English, then here's Kutub's menu for October 2008:

Yalo by Elias Khoury
The New Year of the Revolutionary Bread Making Machine by Hassan Daoud
Adama by Turki al-Hamad
Woman at Point Zero (Imra’a ‘ind Nuqtat al-Sifr) Nawal As Sadaawi
The Last Chapter by Leila Abouzeid
Aunt Saffiya & the Monastery ( خالتي صفية والدير ) by Bahaa Taher
The Secret Life of Saaed the Pessoptomist by Emile Habiby
Black Magic by Hamdy el-Ghazzar
Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifa
Leaves of Narcissus (Awraq Al-Narjis) by Somaya Ramadan
The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif

All well-loved favourites on your shelf? Further recommendations available here. And some great reads from Boulder Public Library's long-runniing Arabic Literature Discussion Group.

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