WWB gathers a broad, somewhat odd sweep of “the modern Middle East” in its November issue.
Most WWB readers, I would hazard to guess, associate the “Middle East” with the “Arab world” (countries where Arabic is the primary language), and would think of “Middle Eastern food” as hummus, baba ganouj, and other things Lebanese people eat.
However, WWB’s Middle Eastern issue has only one piece translated from the Arabic, an essay by Khalil Gibran (yes, the one who died in 1931). The essay is titled “The Future of the Arabic Language.” It’s publication here—without any contemporary Arabic writing to surround it—reads like a strange call to action.
The excerpt begins by asking “What is the future of the Arabic language?” and answers:
Again I say the life of the language, its unification, its propagation and all that has any relationship to it have been and will always be the product of the poets’ imaginations. But do we have poets?
Yes we do have poets, and every Easterner can be a poet in his field, in his garden, before his loom, in his temple, on his pulpit, and in his library. Every Easterner can free himself from the prison house of imitation and tradition and come out to meet the sun and walk in the procession of life. Every Easterner can submit to the power of innovation that lies hidden in his soul—that eternal power that transforms rock to God’s children.
This section of Gibran’s call to action (which gets fairly flowery about the “Eastern” soul) ends:
Other poems and fiction excerpts are translated from the Urdu, Persian, Turkish, and French.