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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.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Two from the Saloon on Contemporary Arabic Literature

The Literary Saloon has two -- perhaps contradictory -- offerings: an op-ed from UAE's The National bemoaning the lack of a coherent "culture of reading" in the Middle East, pointing out that top-down efforts are not connecting to actual readers:
The Emirates Foundation has launched the International Prize for Arabic Fiction as a way for Arab writers and Arab literature to gain exposure. But as The National on Saturday reported, most of the 16 titles nominated for the award cannot be found in Abu Dhabi bookshops.

But they've also put up a review of David Tresilian's very handy A Brief Introduction to Modern Arabic Literature, which focuses on fiction where
the contemporary scene now offers almost too much to choose from [...] Tresilian's discussion of works such as Miral al-Tahawy's Blue Aubergine and Ahmed Alaidy's Being Abbas el Abd, as well as Alaa Al Aswany (The Yacoubian Building, Chicago) brings things up to date fairly well.

It's true, as the Tresilian review points out, that
prose narratives, more or less modeled on the Western novel, … tend to get translated and attract the most attention among English-speaking readers
but the international outpouring of love and grief after the death of Mahmoud Darwish suggests some recognition of the traditional depth and ongoing significance and brilliance of poetry as a communitarian, national, personal, and political arena across the Arabic-speaking world.

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