A few of the big authors of the last decade (the Alaa el Aswany, the Elias Khoury) as well as the obligatory “taboo breakers” (Girls of Riyadh) are reviewed by Claudia Roth Peirpont in The New Yorker.
To sum up, “There will be good books and not so good ones, just as with American fiction.”
And, a couple sentences later: Literature “is one of the few reliable forces working to impel these varied countries toward a cultural (and perhaps even a political) openness, in which Arab writers will one day be able to write about anything at all.”
One senses a slightly distasteful patrician hand-wringing in there somewhere. All mire and muck and closed-up minds, these countries, and some beautiful soldiering writers, opening up one brain at a time.
I would at least be happy for the attention (to Arabic fiction), but did el Aswany need more? Honestly, I would like to see a New Yorker piece by an “Arabist,” or someone who has read a breadth of Arabic fiction and can yak more specifically about it (without the hand-wringing, please).
God forbid it should be an actual Arab, since apparently the point is to explain “them” to “us.”