Once again, convulsions in distant places are teaching us geography.  It is also a good time to learn about the people themselves — beyond the scenes of tear-gas, tanks and running feet.

One place to start, with any people, is with their literature and stories. A few web sites can help us with that in the Arabic world.

Arabic Literature (In English) looks to be pretty complete, with a section of links to reviews in 2010.

And at Al Masry Al Youm is a list of last years best Arabic literature translated into English.

The 2011 Arab Booker Shortlist of 6 novels includes 2 Egyptians and 2 Moroccans.  The two Egyptian novels are about exile, in England and in America and so of less interest in the present circumstances.  The two Moroccan novels look to be extremely interesting — one about a left-wing father whose son dies with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the other about an innocent man taken to an American prison by rendition.  Though these book are not necessarily in translation yet, winning the prize almost guarantees it, as this list of past winners shows.

PEN has a world atlas, here filtered for Arabic

The American University in Cairo Press is a good place to begin, as all the books published are translations.

And of course anthologies and introductions are an easy way to get a view of the field: A Brief Introduction to Arabic Literature, The Anchor Book of Modern Arabic Fiction [the translator and editor praised by Edward Said], Beirut39 and Tablet and Pen [review]are all recent.

Current Egyptian writers include Mohammed Al Mansi Qindeel for A Cloudy Day on the West Side and Mansoura Ez Eldin for Maryams Maze and  Beyond P aradise [not yet translated]

Bahaa Abdelmegid  with Saint Theresa, and  Sleeping With Strangers.

Hamdi Abu Golayyel and A Dog With No Tail

Sonallah Ibrahim’s Stealth is highly recommended by some readers, though I didn’t give it top a top rating.  It is available, as are a few other books of his.  You’ll be interested in the man as well:

In 1998, Sonallah Ibrahim reportedly feigned illness to avoid receiving Egypt’s best-novel prize. In 2000, he quietly turned down the American University in Cairo’s Naguib Mahfouz Medal. But in 2003, when offered the Egyptian government’s prestigious Novelist of the Year award, Ibrahim could no longer keep his silence. The sixty-six-year-old author took the stage and ended his brief speech by saying he would not accept a literary prize from “a government that, in my opinion, does not possess the credibility to grant it.” He left the prize and walked out.

Mohamed el-Bisatie and Hunger

Of course you can not not mention Naguib Mahfouz in relation to Egyptian literature, though having died in 2006 at the age of 85 his work won’t isn’t as contemporary –though likely as relevant– as these younger writers. My reviews of Midaq Alley, Adrift on the Nile, The Thief and the Dogs, and Wedding Song are at the links.

Algerian Samir Qasimi for A Great Day to Die,

Lebanese Hassan Daoud for 180 Sunsets, Rabee Jabir for America, and Alawiya  Sobh for It’s Called Love

Tunis:  Walid Soliman is one of several young writers available from Amazon.com in a Print-on-Demand book

Habib Selmi’s The Scents of Marie-Clair

Yemen

Ali al-Moqry, Black Smell…Black Taste

Mohammed Ottman, Convulsion Almost Noticed!

Marwan al-Ghafoory. Code Blue

not in revolt, yet….

Saudi Arabia

Abdo Kahl, Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles

A painfully satirical novel, Spewing Sparks ¬as Big as Castles depicts the destructive impact that power and limitless wealth has on life and the environment. It captures the seductive powers of the palace and tells the agonising story of those who have become enslaved by it, drawn by its promise of glamour.

In process….. wbk

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