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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.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More Writing from Gaza

I hope you've been enjoying this past week's pieces by Atef Abu Said and Soumaya Susi.

The process of collating this portfolio has been exhilarating, but abstract, circulating through the myriad loops of the web, with poems and stories flying to and fro between Gaza, London, the US, and the ether. The 'net creates the illusion of a nationless globe in which information, emotion and creativity can flow -- and yet it also reinforces national boundaries. Issues of censorship, access, language, and politics all delimit and define individuals' roles in the worldwide web -- we are not equal netizens. And as in nations, so online: in the last few weeks I've read about teams of Israeli and Zionist hackers working to take down Palestinian websites, and vice-versa. Blogs boil over: too often, they serve as mouthpieces preaching to the converted and provoking the unconvertable, rather than fora for the kinds of discussion that can change minds and create alliances.

There are also amazing sites online like Poetry International Web that use the network of global connections to increase the flow of creativity between readers and writers around the world, and to give hope to the argument that the internet can provide a voice for those who would otherwise be silenced. In doing so, it's an extension of what poetry and song have always done: like a news ballad circulating from mouth to ear, the web has come to provide us with globally common expressions (such as shoe-throwing) that speak truth to power, as well as a place to gather (virtually) and speak them. Many writers are eager for any space that allows their words to enlarge, to echo back from readers.

The next two upcoming writers are no exception: Nasr Jamil Shaath is, at 29, not only a widely-published and award-winning poet, but also a critic and editor who promotes the work of other writers of his generation in international journals, while Najah Awadallah has the experience of reaching out to large audiences as a documentary filmmaker and programme designer for the Palestinian Television and Broadcasting Authority.

There's still work to come from Khaled Jumaa, Fatena al-Gharra, Khaled Abedallah, Yousef Alqedra and Naser Rabah, from translators including Sarah Maguire, Isis Nusair, Ali Issa, Fady Joudah, and Randa Jarrar. Keep checking iN.

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