New Library-recommendation Project: 10 from Youssef Rakha

Our sixth list of 10 for public libraries comes from genre-confusing, language-crossing, and word-bending author Youssef Rakha, who runs his own literary hotel at

For these lists-of-ten, ArabLit is asking scholars, critics, authors, translators, and other bibliocentrics about the Arabic Literature in translation they would recommend for US’s public libraries. Eventually, this will build to a list of 100 book-buying recommendations. Having searched a number of public-library systems, we’ve decided there is no particular need to recommend Arabic’s only Nobel literature laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Anything else is fair game.

Born, raised and based in Cairo, Youssef Rakha is a novelist, poet, essayist, literary critic, journalist, photographer. He’s been at the bleeding edge of contemporary Arabic writing since 2005 but, more recently, he has turned to English, his other “native” tongue. Two of his novels — Book of the Sultan’s Seal (Paul Starkey) and Crocodiles (Robin Moger) — are available in English translation.

Rakha’s ten:

Ibn Battuta’s The Travels of Ibn Battuta,translated by Samuel Lee

Hassan Blasim’s The Madman of Freedom Square, translated by Jonathan Wright

Mohamed Choukri’s For Bread Alone, translated by Paul Bowles

Emile Habibi’s The Secret Life of Said the Pessoptimist, translated by Trevor Le Gassick and Salma Khadra Jayyusi

Tawfik Al-Hakim’s Diary of a Country Prosecutor, translated by Neil Hewison

Ibn Hazm’s The Ring of the Dove, translated by A.J. Arberry

Bensalem Himmich’s The Theocrat, translated by Roger Allen

Ibrahim Al-Koni’s Gold Dust, translated by Elliott Colla

Yasser Abdellatif’s The Law of Inheritance, translated by Robin Moger

Youssef Al-Shirbini’s Brains Confounded, translated by Humphrey Davies

The previous lists: