The Complete Review have just put up a piece on Cell Block Five (although the Arabic title is The Fifth Castle - a Philip K. Dick reference?), a Kafka-esque prison novel first published in English this year by Arabia. It's a novel by the distinguished Iraqi novelist Fadhil al-Azzawi, a member of the controversial 'Kirkuk Group' of radical poets in the 1960s, and founder of Shi'r poetry magazine. He left Iraq in the 1970s (shortly after writing the novel) and has since lived in Germany. A novel about a neutral, unbreakable hero who finds himself trapped in the labyrinthine twists of Iraqi politics, it sounds like potential bedside reading for President-Elect Barack Obama.
And for a strong sense of the contemporary urban Middle East, he could delve into Al-Ahram's round-up of novels about contemporary Cairo. He may, of course, be familiar with the most recent -- Alaa al-Aswany's Chicago, named for the city where Obama began his political career and where he accepted the presidency last night. A lucky co-incidence, maybe, but we hope it's one that bodes well for the future of Arab-American relations.
Welcome to a World of Literature
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.