Teaching Arabic Fiction: Fall 2011

I got a question last night that began:

I’m teaching a class on contemporary world fiction…, and I wonder if you would have any suggestions for recent anthologies of short stories (as in, the last couple years) from the Middle East or North Africa that I might be able to use.

This professor was looking for short-fiction anthologies published in the last ten years, featuring stories less than ten years old, and “ideally more recent than that.”

So, for instance, he wasn’t looking for Reza Aslan’s Tablet and Pen, which presumably he already knew about in any case.

I answered, in part:

Denys Johnson-Davies has a new one coming out (Sixty Years of Egyptian Short Stories), which will have new stories by folks like Youssef Rakha, Mansoura Ezz Eldin, Hamdy al-Gazzar, but also lots of old standards.

If you’re looking for contemporary-contemporary, have you thought of the Beirut39 collection put out by Bloomsbury last year? It’s full of stories (and a few poems) by the 39 writers under 40 chosen for that project. It’s not entirely even, but it’s very fresh.

Other possibilities are the Nadwa 1: Emerging Arab Writers collection, published by Saqi, although it’s a dual-language book (half the text is taken up by the Arabic versions of the stories).

You could also have students read some of the stories on Jadaliyya; the recent pieces by Hamdy and Samar Yazbek are publishing on there were written nearly in the moment.


A short piece I wrote for MayDay about the Beirut39 collection.

Jadaliyya’s pedagogy section

If you have other thoughts, please post them below.


  1. Just a thought but have you considered the anthologies of Salma Khadra Jayyusi…Her recent one is called MY JERUSALEM: ESSAYS, REMINISCENCES, and POEMs…from the vantage point of the US academy they would not count as world literature because they are translations of Palestinian-Arabs. But you know your political limitations there better than I do

  2. Thanks, Ziad, I didn’t know about that one. But yes, Salma puts out fine anthologies, although generally wide-ranging and including both the contemporary and not-as-contemporary.

  3. This came through Twitter…

    UmmahReads Saara (UmmahReads)
    @arablit Hi just began to follow you and would suggest this collection of short-stories featuring the Arab world http://t.co/yay3k1Z

  4. Contemporary Iraqi Fiction (Syracuse, 2008; AUC, 2009) has more than a dozen pieces written in the last ten years.

  5. Thanks, Shakir. And a fine collection it is. Lots of gems.

Comments are closed.