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.

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, June 24, 2009

Jordanian court convicts poet over Quranic verses

The Kuwait Times has the story concerning Islam Samhan, whose love poems apparently incorporated suras of the Qu'ran. He was first charged with apostasy in October 2008 according to The National, Samhan, a journalist, is a popular reader in Amman and the ministry of culture initially bought 50 copies of his collection. Samhan denies all charges, arguing that
"the Quran is in Arabic and I am influenced by my language and its rich terminology. Where I grew up, the Quran was sung and its music is still playing in my ears. I have read the Quran, and the Arabic language is that of the Quran.”
The collection, In a Slim Shadow, is not available in English, but the National says that in one poem, Samhan has his beloved address God, which his critics say personifies God. In another the woman is talking to God while lying beneath a see-through sheet. Samhan said he was referring to the gods of Greek mythology.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

World Literature Weekend @ the London Review Bookshop

With many events crammed into an exciting weekend -- as ever, the LRB brings intelligence, dialogue, style and diversity to literary festival season, with speakers from the Arabic world including Mourid Barghouti (in conversation with Ruth Padel, sure to be a hot ticket!), Hanan al-Shaykh, Elias Khoury and Faïza Guène. The LRB website has more information about events and venues; tickets can be booked on 00 44 (0)20 7269 9030, or books [at] lrbshop.co.uk.

Friday 19 June

3 p.m. Hanan al-Shaykh with Esther Freud

Lebanese author Hanan al-Shaykh examines Arab women’s role in society with Esther Freud.

Saturday 20 June

12 p.m. Translation: Making a Whole Culture Intelligible?

with Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-winning translators Anne McLean, Anthea Bell, Daniel Hahn and Frank Wynne

Anthony Burgess insisted that ‘translation is not a matter of words only’. Umberto Eco has said that ’translation is the art of failure‘. So, what do translators hope to achieve?

2 p.m. Ma Jian with Flora Drew

Ma Jian discusses his novel Beijing Coma and Chinese repression with his translator Flora Drew. Chair: Boyd Tonkin

4 p.m. Faïza Guène with Sarah Ardizzone

Faïza Guène examines the linguistic and cultural chasm between French-Algerian immigrants and the Parisian establishment with her translator Sarah Ardizzone. Interpreter: Carine Kennedy

Sunday 21 June

12 p.m. Dubravka Ugrešić with Lisa Appignanesi

Dubravka Ugrešić ponders femininity, ageing, identity and her new novel Baba Yaga Laid an Egg with Lisa Appignanesi.

2 p.m. Mourid Barghouti with Ruth Padel

Palestinian writer Mourid Barghouti and British poet Ruth Padel talk about language and exile, themes which permeate his poetry collection Midnight.

3.30 p.m. Voicing the Masters (and Mistresses): Translation with Variations

Marina Warner is in conversation with Robert Chandler about Russian translation, with particular reference to Platonov.

5.30 p.m. Elias Khoury with Jeremy Harding

Lebanese author Elias Khoury talks to the journalist Jeremy Harding about the narrative frameworks of his recent fiction.

John Berger on Mahmoud Darwish

John Berger has been perhaps the most vocal advocate and generous reader of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry in the English-speaking world, bringing into being (with translator Fady Joudah and publisher Neil Astley) the major collected works, The Butterfly's Burden. He has written many essays on the interconnection of place and poetry in Palestinian literature -- the most recent being the resonantly-titled "A Place Weeping," in this months Threepenny Review. In the essay, he describes a visit to Darwish's grave in the village of Al Rabweh, coining the term 'landswept,' with its double intimation of tears and razing, to speak of the landscape he sees and feels. He ends with an exhortation to travel imaginatively through a continued engagement with Darwish's poetry:
Mahmoud Darwish's grave on the hill of Al Rabweh has now, following decisions made by the Palestinian Authority, been fenced off, and a glass pyramid has been constructed over it. It's no longer possible to squat beside him. His words, however, are audible to our ears and we can repeat them and go on doing so.
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