I’m not quite sure who was polled, or how The Middle East magazine came up with their list of the 50 most influential Arabs. (Not another list!) But they included one author of literary fiction who was—now that I think of it—left off the Writers Union list of 105.
Perhaps it’s understandable: This author’s most powerful works are nonfiction, and the list of 105 was for fictional works. Or perhaps it’s that—in Egypt, at least—this author is considered “crazy.” But if you call her crazy, you’ll also have to allow this is a woman who’s crazy on her own damn terms, as a recent Guardian profile attests.
In their piece about the 50 influential Arabs, The Middle East names—yes—Nawaal el-Saadawi (pictured), and states:
Born in 1931, this grande dame of Arab literature and progressive thinking is a novelist, playwright, medical doctor, psychiatrist, nonfiction author and lifelong political activist. Her novels and books on the position of women in society are written in Arabic and translated into 30 languages. An outspoken critic of the Egyptian government, in 2004 she became a candidate for the presidential elections.
I’m pleased to see Nawal el-Saadawi on this sort of list, although (1) I doubt she’s one of the 50 most influential Arabs, or we would be living in a very different world, and (2) in general I find the candidates on this list somewhat inexplicable. There’s no overlap with The Kipp Report’s 10 Most Influential Arab Americans; not even Ahmed Zewail makes The Middle East‘s list.