New Blog: ‘The Best of Arabic Literature’

Egyptian novelist and filmmaker Ahmed Khalifa hasn’t started yet. But, he says, “Hopefully, the new reviews will start appearing this month.”

Khalifa, whose second novel, The Ma3di Killer, was recently released, has blogged about books since 2008. His book-blogging began with a review of Mansoura Ezz Eldin’s Maryam’s Maze. But now he wants to open his reviews to a new audience, and particularly “to shed a light on the fact that Arabic literature is much more eclectic than many people, both in the region and outside it, believe it to be.”

The new blog is particularly billed as “a resource for translators,” and Khalifa hopes to update the blog “more than once a month, fingers crossed.”

He adds:

As long as Arabic books continue to be published, the blog will continue to feature new reviews And, as a rule, I don’t like wasting my readers’ time with books I don’t believe in, so most of the books featured on my blog will be good ones, in my humble opinion, of course.

Khalifa will review award-winners and best-sellers. But he’s also interested in Arabic literature at the margins. “I consider myself a huge fan of ‘alternative’ Arabic literature,” he says. “which basically means good books that haven’t yet been discovered by the majority of readers.”

What criteria does he have in mind when selecting a book for review? Since this is a “resource for translators” does a book’s apparent “translatability” matter?

To me, it all comes down to whether the book is interesting, readable, and worth the readers’ time. As for gauging a book’s potential to “travel”, I am not sure, really. I have read some excellent Arabic books whose literary value was completely demolished by bad translations. And I have read some truly terrible Arabic books that were picked up by prestigious publishing houses and given translations that improved upon the original text. So that’s a tricky matter. But, in the end, I believe a good book is a good book, and it will show its literary value in any language.

Where is it?


  1. This is exciting. And I am excited about following Khalifa’s blog!

  2. I fully agree about the eclectic nature of Arab literature. Currently, I am preparing a weeklong short story selection for my high school Senior English World Literature class ( much of it in translation) where I have a month-long Middle Eastern literature unit. And here are some of the writers and books that I feel deserve a much wider readership.

    l. The short stories of Zakaria Tamer. I think Tamer is one of the more brilliant short story writers anywhere on the globe! He has three books translated into English: Tigers On The Tenth Day (Quartet Press), a newer version of Tigers On The Tenth Day with the addition of the long story “The Hedgehog” (The Hedgehog And Other Stories , American University Press at Cairo), and Breaking Knees (Garnett Press).

    2 Palestine’s Children by Ghassan Kanafani. While I have seen fairly frequent mention of Kanafani’s Men In The Sun, I have not seen as much press about his terrific Palestine’s Children, or Interlink’s collection All That’s Left To You. Also, I would stake my years salary that there are probably other fiction works by Kanafani that have not yet been translated.

    3. Sadder Than Water- Samir Al-Qasim. One would have thought that this amazing poet’s firsts book in Engilsh would have received more critical acclaim. It onll shows what a jingoistic situation we still have in America’s literary worldl where peope passionately argue about third and fourth rate poets while ignoring infiinitely more talented writers from other countries.

    4. The Game of Forgetting- Mohammed Berrada. One would think all of the American and European semioticians and deconstructionists would have utterly gaga over this book; I have no reason to explain this except the aformentioned jingoist/nationalism and utter internatiional oblivion of many American readers and literary critics.

    more to follow, but these are the apex.

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