Best 100 Arabic Books (According to the Arab Writers Union): 101-105

Now I’ve got 1-10 (and an explanation of this project), 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90, 91-100…and so ends this crazy list.

The final five:

100 A Man from Bashmour, by the Egyptian author Salwa Bakr.

This book has been translated by Nancy Roberts and published by AUC Press. The press has also brought out two other books of Bakr’s: The Golden Chariot, and The Wiles of Men and Other Stories. There was a story in The Wiles of Men I remember quite enjoying.

101 The Fallen Knight Alights, by the Lebanese author Elias al-Diri.

Getting slap-happy, clearly. (The Fallen Knight Alights? Someone save me from myself.)

102 The Berries of Murr, by the Tunisian writer Mohamed Al Aroussi Al  Matuie

No evidence of his work in English.
103 Sound, Water and Fire, by the Bahraini author Abdulla Khalifa.

Khalifa’s Omar . . . A Martyr has apparently been banned for its portrayal of Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab.   Khalifa’s earlier novel, Husain’s Head, was also prohibited in Bahrain.

I couldn’t find anything by Khalifa in English.

104 The Open Door, by Egyptian author Latifa Al-Zayat, translated by Marilyn Booth, AUC Press

Ahdaf Souief lists this as one of the great Arabic love stories, along with Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy (#1). The three other books on her list are not here: Colette Khoury: Ayyam Ma’ah (1959), Enayat el-Zayyat: Al-Hubb w’al-Samt (1967), Layla al-Juhani: Jahiliyya (2006).

And, I promised a shocker for the last one on the list. Well, it wouldn’t shock my mother or anything, but it did shock me:

105 The Cities of Salt quintet by Saudi author Abdul Rahman Munif.

Someone please explain how this ended up at 105? I won’t slight any particular book that came before it; I’ll just note that Daniel Burt, in his list-book The Novel 100, which runs down 100 great novels (of all times, from all languages and cultures), ranked the quintet at 71.

Available from Vintage, translated by Peter Theroux.

Somehow, I was expecting streamers to come out of the ceiling when I finished. Oh well, maybe next time.

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4 replies

  1. Thank you for your efforts. I’ve been collecting Arabic literature in English for years now and you’ve given me plenty more to shop for.

  2. Maryanne,

    You’re very welcome! Translator Humphrey Davies complained to me, at some point, that he supposed quite a bit of Arabic literature was in translation, but no one had really collected a list of what was out there.

    So this is my first (flawed) attempt.

  3. I very much appreciate your hard work on this. I linked to the series in my own culture blog, Patrick Murtha’s Diary:

    http://patrickmurthasdiary.blogspot.com/2010/05/may-5.html

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