Tuesday, December 02, 2008

guardian blog 'visits' egyptian literature

As the English Pen Atlas blog points out, the Guardian Books blog World Literature Tour is currently 'visiting' Egypt.The tour blog posting and comments section reflect the fact that Egyptian literature is increasingly available in translation : the names that recur most are, predictably, Naguib Mahfouz and Alaa al-Aswany. Bahaa Taher, winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) - the 'Arab Booker' - in its first year, for 'Sunset Oasis', is also mentioned. (I have his 'Love in Exile' from Arabia Books in my shelves in the 'soon to be read' section). Yahya Hakki ('The Lamp of Umm Hashim') gets a write-up by commenter suzanabrams.

Other names featured include Ahdaf Soueif (London-based and writing in English), Tawfik al-Hakim, Taha Hussein, Nawal al-Saadawi, Radwa Ashour, Sonallah Ibrahim, Somaya Ramadan, Edwar al-Kharrat, Khairy Shalaby ('The Lodging House', though I prefer the original title in Arabic 'Wikalat Atiya' - lodging house somehow suggestive more of a dismal out of season seaside B&B than a once-splendid cavernous caravanserie). From the new generation Khalid al-Khamissy (pictured below, author of 'Taxi'), Ahmed Aalidy ('Being Abbas El Abd'), Magdy al-Shafei (the graphic novel 'Metro'), Marwa Rakha ('The Poison Tree'), Miral al-Tahawi ('The Tent', 'The Blue Aubergine', 'The Gazelle's Walk)' , and May Telmissany ('Dunyazad').

So far, the blog entry on Egypt has attracted only 17 comments (some of which weren't on Egyptian literature, but suggested a next stop on the 'tour'), much fewer than the 45 for Portugal, the previous stop, Nigeria (42), Australia (116 comments), Ireland (213). Of course it's not really appropiate to compare interest, as indicated by comments, in relatively newly available Egyptian fiction with that in literature from Anglophone countries.
Egypt was chosen as a destination by readers of the blog, but there was a miniscule number of votes. It got 2 votes, tied with the same number for a combined destination of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. As Egypt had been shortlisted a few times previously it was the final choice. Surely Moroccan literature (including poetry) is 'present' enough to merit inclusion in its own right rather than only as part of a general Maghreb entry. Or, if one insists on a general North African entry, why not expand to `include Libya. From a younger generation is Booker-shortlisted Hisham Matar ('In the Country of Men'); veteran authors available in translation include Ibrahim al-Koni, Ahmed Fagih, and those anthologised in Ethan Chorin's 'Translating Libya'.

1 comment:

bathmate said...

This is wonderful posting. Thank you.