Resources for Teaching Translated Literature to Young Readers: A Free Online List-in-progress

You might have read Hadil Ghoneim’s recent essay on a group of US high school students reading Mahfouz. The piece ran ahead of an Ann Arbor teachers meeting, for which Ghoneim and ArabLit assembled this list — with some help from translator Trevor LeGassick, teacher Sarah Andrew-Vaughn, and others:

Persian miniature by Reza Abbasi, 1625-6. OK, not Arab, but it is a young person reading.
Persian miniature by Reza Abbasi, 1625-6. OK, not Arab, but it is a young person reading.

According to Ghoneim, take-aways from the teachers meeting was that teachers feel they need more context in order to teach Arabic works in translation. She added that, “We definitely need to add thematic annotations to the titles” on the shortlist, and “We also need to codify/rank the selections according to difficulty.”

The list — as it stands now — was assembled in somewhat short order, and with the limiting condition that works must be available for free and online. We’d love your thoughts on additions, subtractions, context, teaching tips, and more. Post in the comments or feel free to send comments or questions to mlynxqualey – at – gmail – dot – com.

Works were chosen not to be comprehensive or to create a canon — perish the thought — but to be accessible, interesting, compelling, well-translated, and worthwhile for students aged 11-18. (Also, as I said, they must be available for free and online.)

It would also surely be interesting to dig up multiple translations of the same work and foreground the act of translation.


PowerPoint slides: Reversing the Brocade – Teaching Literature in Translation. Surely the whole talk would be better, but a few thoughts from Prof. Meera Viswanathan.

SHORTLIST, poetry:


Al-Buhturi (d.897) “The Poet and the Wolf,” trans. Tarif Khalidi

Abu al-`Ala’ al-Ma`arri ( d. 1057) “A rain cloud,” trans. Tarif Khalidi

“The Seven Odes” trans. A.J. Arberry (Recommended: The first and second odes by Imru al-Qais and Antara b. Shaddad)


Nazikal-Mala’ika’s (1923-2007 ) “Revolt Against the Sun,” 

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab’s (1926 – 1964) “Rain Song”

Adonis’s (1930 – ) “The Beginning of Speech,” trans. Khaled Mattawa

Taha Muhammad Ali’s (1931 – 2011) “Revenge,” trans. Peter Cole:

Muhammad al-Maghut’s (1934-2006) “Tattoo,” trans. Sinan Antoon

Mahmoud Darwish’s (1941 – 2008) “A River Dies of Thirst,” trans. CatherineCobham

Sargon Boulus’s (1944 – 2007) “The Pebble,” trans. Sinan Antoon

Habib Tengour’s (1947 – ) “This Particular Tartar,” trans. Marilyn Hacker


Nujoom al-Ghanem (1962 – ) “She Who Resembles Herself,” trans. Khaledal-Masry

Iman Mersal (1966 –  ) “Oranges,” trans. Khaled Mattawa

Ghayath al-Madhoun’s (1979 – ) “The Celebration,” trans. Catherine Cobham (note: this is a poem-film)

Najwan Darwish’s (1978 – ) “Mary,” trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid

SHORTLIST, fiction


1,001 Nights  Recommended version: trans.William Lane, revised Stanley Lane-Poole


Naguib Mahfouz (1911 – 2003): excerpt from Palace Walk

Yusuf Idris (1927 – 1991 ): “A Glance,” trans. Elisabeth Jaquette

Tayeb Salih (1929 – 2009): “A Handful of Dates,” trans. Denys Johnson-Davies 

Ghassan Kanafani (1936 – 1972): “The Land of the Sad Orange”

Muhammed Mustagab (1938 – 2006): “The Battle of the Rabbits,” trans. Robin Moger

Hanan al-Shaykh (1945 – ): “God, It’s as Though You’re Sewing a Dress For a Flea,” trans. Randa Jarrar 


Khaled al-Khamissi (1962 –  ): Excerpts from Taxi, trans. Jonathan Wright

Adania Shibli (1974 – ): “Fadwa Touqan Will Do the Tango No More,” trans. SuneelaMubayi

Ghada Abdel Aal (1978 – ): Excerpt from satiric I Want to Get Married!

SHORTLIST, creative nonfiction


Excerpt of Taha Hussein’s The Days

Excerpt of Nawal El Saadawi’s Memoirs of a Woman Doctor

 Naguib Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Edward Said’s “Farewell to Tahia”


Samar Yazbek (1970 – ): excerpt from A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, trans. Max Weiss

Adania Shibli (1974 – ): “On East-West Dialogue”

Amir Nizar Zuabi: “The underground ghetto city of Gaza” 



Mazen Kerbaj’s “We Have,” trans. Mazen Kerbaj

Donia Maher, Ganzeer, and Ahmed Nady’s “The Apartment in Bab el-Louq,”trans. Elisabeth Jaquette 


  1. It would be helpful to have Lexile reading levels for these texts to make it easier to match books to grade levels.

    1. I have no idea what that means. 🙂 But I’m sure the MS and HS teachers in the group will know how to judge that & add that information.

  2. A great idea! I look forward to reading through these resources — maybe I can use them for teaching World Literature in the spring. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Annette,

      Great! If you have any further questions that Hadil, Sarah, Trevor, or I could answer, please drop me a note — mlynxqualey – at –

    1. Agreement by the publisher & author, hopefully. Or public domain.

    1. Did I really not include Fouad Negm?! Thanks for your additions!

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