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?