The First Arab Lit (I’ve Seen) on a ‘Best of 2009’ List

Most of the “best-of” lists I’ve seen in the U.S. and U.K. presses are awash with the regulars: Alice Munro, Lydia Davis, ta-di-di-dah. Of course, they’re lovely writers. But! Occasionally, you do want to see the odd foreigner. And now, the winner is…

Yalo, by Elias Khoury, in a list posted on Conversational Reading. (Scott’s review of Yalo.)

I couldn’t force myself to do a “best of 2009,” but I do have Khoury’s White Masks on my “Best of 2010” list, although Archipelago has yet to get me my copy. (So it’s a guess, sure, but a good guess.)

And now, I’ve found a second!, although this is not quite a “best of 2009,” but  a “best general fiction books for Christmas” list, courtesy of The Independent. The choice here is Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis. (You can read my review here, if you’re so inclined.)

Hmm. I would buy it for Christmas for the male reader who is interested in history, particularly Alexander the Great or colonial Egyptian history. I would probably not buy it for a female reader, unless she has some leanings toward caricatures of Western women.

BUT if I had an analytical Christmas-giftee who liked “delving inside other cultures/minds,” I’d probably get him or her Life is More Beautiful than Paradise, by Khaled el-Berry. Or I’d get anyone Stealth, by Sonallah Ibrahim, except it’s not out until February 2010, blast it.