Two Reviews of ‘Snow in Amman’

A collection of Jordanian short stories (and two novel excerpts) is reviewed in the New York Daily News and on Arab Hyphen:

snowThe collection — Snow in Amman — brings together nine short stories by a varied collection of writers: Samir al-Sharif, Basma el-Nsour, Ahmed Abu Hleiwa, Magdalene Abu el-Rub, Asmaa al-Mallah, Manal Hamdi, Musa Abu Rayash, Khalid Yousef Abu Tamaa, and Julnar Zain. In addition, there are two chapters from celebrated author Elias Farkouh’s novel Asrar Sa’at Al Raml, or Secrets of the Hourglass.

The collection, brought out by Faraxa Publishing, was translated and edited by Ibtihal Mahmood and Alexander Haddad, and opens with an introduction by short-story writer Samir al-Sharif. As Arab Hyphen notes in her review, Jordan is not generally seen as a center of literary production, and this is one of the few Jordan-focused short-story collections available in English.

The collection has not just an unusual grouping of authors, but an unusual near-balance between men’s stories and women’s. Both reviewers highlighted Basma el-Nsour’s “The Brass Kohl Pot” as a particular favorite, and Arab Hyphen laid emphasis on several of the women’s stories: Magdalene Abu el-Rub’s “The Backyard” about a woman’s escape from her abusive family, Manal Hamdi’s “Stained by Roses” about a lonely seamstress-prostitute, and Julnar Zain’s “Big Fang,” a strange blend of fairy tale and realism.

Both reviewers had issues with fluidity of the translation, noting that parts seemed stilted. The New York Daily News reviewer seemed resigned to it: “while it is important to remember the immense difficulty of bringing Arabic to English, the English reader must be prepared for these formalities in speech before undertaking this work.”

Still, both reviewers found reasons to like the collection, although the NY Daily News reviewer seemed to land less on the idea of you reading this particular collection and more on the idea that she would “argue for further work to bring such collections into English.”

Read the reviews: Arab Hyphen and NY Daily News

If you like multi-author short-story collections, almost certainly you’ll want to read Beirut Noir, a collection of Lebanese short stories coming at the end of the year from Akashic, ed. Iman Humaydan.