Reviews of Books I Haven’t Read

The Guidebook as Literature. The new guidebook Beyroutes offers a very non-guidebook take on Lebanon’s capital city. Scholars, writers, architects and artists explore the city—mostly on foot—giving a literary view of the city and its history. The Daily Star doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic about the book, complaining that it seems to spend too much time on the wrong side of the tracks, and noting that:

Scholarly articles rub shoulders with the pseudo-scholarly. Hilarious takes on Beirut life are placed alongside visions so idiosyncratic as to be somewhat bewildering. Photographs and illustrations from numerous artists are thrown into the mix.

Nonetheless, the Star admits that the book has its fascinating moments, and notes that its sleek design helps knit the whole thing together. More images from the book at YMag. Available in Beirut bookstores, and I’m not sure where else.

Gay Egyptian Literature. In the World of Boys, by Mostafa Fathi and published in 2009, has been a phenomenon; Bikya Masr discusses it from a social rather than a literary perspective. Michael Luongo, of Gay Travels in the Middle East, also writes about it here. It’s brave, it’s popular, but I haven’t seen an assessment of its literary merits. Nonetheless, this is interesting (from Bikya Masr):

On another occasion, Fathi recounted, a journalist met with him for an interview concerning the book. The journalist began the interview confrontationally, said Fathi: “He said, ‘why do you write about these people? We should take them in the street and kill them.'” The interview continued and by its conclusion, the interviewer leaned in and confided in Fathi, “‘I, am gay’.”

Luongo says, in The Advocate, that a translation into English should be coming soon.

Dictator Lit. More than a decade after its publication, the Guardian books blog inexplicably reviews Moammar Ghaddafi’s short-story collection, Escape to Hell. It’s reputedly rambling and only semi-coherent. Unless you’re a Ghaddafi scholar, or need something to talk about at parties, I’m not sure why you’d seek this out. Available from Amazon.Com.

The Salvation of Egyptian Literature. Filmmaker/author Ahmed Khalifa is pretty excited about Soloman’s Ring (خاتم سليمان) by Sherif Meleika. He says:
Every once in a while you come across a book that gives you hope. Hope for Egyptian literature. Despite the amount of literary junk that Egyptian writers have been producing this past decade (most of it pretentious, hypocritical non-fiction), there are some books out there that give one, as a reader as well as an Egyptian, hope that Egyptian writers still have masterpieces hidden under their sleeves. Mansoura Ezz El Din’s Maryam’s Maze is one such masterpiece. Soloman’s Ring by Sherif Meleika is another.
Not (yet) available in English. However, since Meleika practices medicine in the U.S. and is developing a literary presence, perhaps it soon will be.
Nonsense Lit. Youssef Rakha reviews Nael El-Toukhi’s Al-Alfain wa Sittah: Qissat Al-Harb Al-Kabira or Two Thousand and Six: The Story of the Big War, which he calls a “Halsisst” novel; i.e.: irreverent nonsense, hilarious noise, creative nihilism.
This is Not a Review. It’s the Beirut39 collection, now available online in Arabic. Read up!
I don’t understand what’s going on with my spacing here. Sorry.


  1. As for gay egyptian literature, I read the first line of the Luongo article. It would have been nice if Luongo did his homework and said _Bilaad El-Wilaad_ (another “apt” title translation, this time for _The World of Boys_) and found the English translation of the book. It has been/will be published in Cairo by some group my friend, the translator, actually took the time to get it set up. I will be contacting Luongo shortly to rectify that error and make sure he gets a copy.

  2. Woops. Take that back. Apparently he has been made aware of a translation, just not sure which one. I guess I should have done MY homework. Haha. Thanks for another good post.

  3. What about MY homework? If there’s a translation, I’d like to know about it.

  4. Dear Arablit,

    I, Scott, am the translator of World of Boys and was also the first non-Egyptian, as far as I know, to write an academic article (or article of ant kind) about the book. The publisher of my article is the Middle East Institute and it appeared in their publication State of the Arts in the Middle East (II).

    The translation I did was published in Cairo and distributed at the recent Cairo International Book Fair. The Egyptian Publisher is Shabab Books.

    I am somewhat nettled to discover that someone else is translating the book when I already have exclusive permission to the translation of Mostafa’s stuff (he is a personal friend and I also know Amani Al-Tounsi the entrepreneurial publisher of Shabab Books). Could I have misunderstood you? Your comment that the Advocate is talking about a translation was a shock. I guess I am not so good at self-aggrandizement.

    The sad thing is that I contacted the Human Rights Campaign people about sponsoring the publication of my translation in English, but they declined. If only I were more up to date on gay publications, I might have contacted the Advocate a while ago.

    Thanks Arablit for the blurb.

    Last, but not least, many thanks AJ for bringing this to my attention.


  5. Oh, now I remember why I didn’t contact the Advocate. I couldn’t access their website from Oman. It is blocked (duh!)

    Any one willing to send me their info so that I can make them aware of the translation/article?


  6. Here is the link to my first article on The World of Boys. It is more academic and literary/linguistic.

    I also wrote another article about Abdellah Taia (he recently won a nomination for the Beirut 39). He is the first openly gay Arab author, but has been living in self-imposed exile in Paris for the last ten years. Hence the paradox about which I wrote.
    I submitted a piece of it to the Middle East Institute as well. In the end, it was heavily edited, but understandably so. Taia makes it difficult to write about his work for a delicate audience; he is very explicit. I am still looking for a publisher for the much longer article. But here is that link:

    I am trying to do some advertising for authors/arts journalists for the publication itself. Dr. Calabrese, the MEI Director, has found the submission pool wanting. We almost didn’t get out the above edition for lack of submissions.

    If you would like, I can provide you with further information should you like to make an announcement.

Comments are closed.