‘Accessing Muslim Lives’ Website Offers Glimpses of Literary Personalities

Translator and scholar Marilyn Booth (my review of her Harem Histories is in a forthcoming Women’s Review of Books) hasalong with Prof. Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, just announced the launch of a web-based project called “Accessing Muslim Lives.”

According to Lambert-Hurley, “The project was about improving the accessibility of autobiographical writings from Muslim contexts through translation and digitisation so that they may be better used for teaching and learning, particularly in higher education.”

The section that interested me was, of course, “Literary Lives.” There, you can find  texts from Algerian novelist Assia Djebar, Moroccan writer Leila Abouzeid, and others. You might be surprised to find the first entry is about/from the recently Google-doodled May Ziyyada. But Booth explains in an email, “although this is called ‘accessing Muslim lives’ we do not limit ourselves to this but rather see this as more in the spirit of ‘islamicate’ or ‘Muslim-majority’ contexts, and we do not limit according to religious affiliation or other identity categories.”

From a poem of Ziyada’s, trans. Marilyn Booth:

Slowly the twilight lowered its curtain over earth,
cloud-margins bordered, patched and yoked with threads of gold and silver.
Mirrored in the bowers of sunset, tiny lake-images of ruby and pools of emerald faded,
and a gloomy morose melancholy settled on the earth.
Dejection settled over your eyes.
Inside you what sun sets, O young woman, and why does the evening distress you, that this
cloudy gloom would coat your eyes?
Guard your heart carefully, young woman! (Keep reading.)

Lambert-Hurley added, “We also welcome new contributions!  If you have an autobiographical extract from a Muslim context (of any time period) to add to this collection (subject to copyright permissions), please contact us.”

You can contact Lambert-Hurley here.