Celebrate Short Story Month With Yusuf Idris, Ghassan Kanafani, Others

According to the Emerging Writers Network (as well as a few lit mags and media outlets),  May is not just the month of workers and flowers, but is also Short Story Month.

To celebrate, you’ll surely need to crack open a collection from the Arabic language’s short-story genius, Yusuf Idris. Although I think many of its translations fail him, I suggest The Essential Yusuf Idris, edited by Denys Johnson-Davies. I particularly recommend its “Rings of Burnished Brass.” Idris was the short-story writer among the four Arabic literary artists considered for the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. Of course, it went to Mahfouz. (You’ll have to read Mahfouz some other month; he was a novel man.)

After you’ve caught up with Idris, do read Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun And Other Palestinian Stories. Yes, Men in the Sun itself is a novella, but I don’t think there’s a novella month, is there?

In the world of the contemporary short story, Hassan Blasim’s Madman of Freedom Square was longlisted for the Independent’s foreign fiction prize and is eminently worth reading. Madman’s eleven stories are a gripping look at the violence of contemporary Iraq that also examine the violent aspects of storytelling, art, and memory.

Adania Shibli’s Touch is, again, a novella, but in absence of that novella month….

I generally don’t like multi-author collections, but there are wonderful stories by Muhammad Khudayyir, Samir Naqqash, and others in the collection Contemporary Iraqi Fiction. And, for an overview of contemporary Arabic letters, pick up the Beirut39 collection. I haven’t read it—and I assume it has its uneven moments—but surely you’ll find a gem or three.

Other suggestions for short story month?