Assembly Journal, for their "five books" series, asked me to come up with a list of five Arabic books. The field was too dizzyingly wide. Even when I narrowed my topic to "memoirs and not-quite-memoirs," it was a difficult winnowing process: What about Galal Amin's Nectar of the Years? Well, it hasn't been translated into English, so that's that, I suppose. Sayyid Qutb or Huda Shaarawi's memoirs, for their historical and political importance? Taha Hussein's classic The Days? (But hasn't everyone already read The Days?)
In Mahmoud Darwish’s Journal of an Ordinary Grief--published in 1973 as Yawmiyyat al-Huzn al-'Adi and now available in English translation--the narrator shapes his personal, Palestinian memories against the insistent push of Israeli and Western-dominated history. The book thus presents itself not as an official record, but as a collection of individual wounds.
The following passage is from Naguib Mahfouz's Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber: Reflections of a Nobel Laureate, 1994-2001. The section is titled, as above, "My Friend the Sheep."
The following passage is from Naguib Mahfouz's Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber: Reflections of a Nobel Laureate, 1994-2001. The section is titled, as above, "Happy Eid."
In a way, the cover of the English translation of Ghada Abdel Aal's عايزة أتجوز is completely appropriate. It looks like a Sophie Kinsella cover, and the font---to me---screams "fun!" "chick-lit!" "no straining required!"
Aha! You're expecting me to say Barghouti's I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, which I would, except you already know you want to read Barghouti's follow-up memoir, which should be out in English next fall from AUC Press. (The translation, I'm told, is being done by Humphrey Davies.)
Publisher Margaret Obank, in her introduction to Banipal 38, writes that, "It’s also no coincidence that the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) conference discussed the genre of memoir as an Arab American cultural art form, a form as crucial as grandmothers' stories to later generations---we include excerpts from three memoirs-in-progress."
Baheyya begins her review of Mourid Bargouti's 2009 memoir I Was Born There, I Was Born Here by stating: "It’s a wonderful thing when poets write prose." This is certainly true of Bargouti. His first memoir, I Saw Ramallah, which was released in English in 2000 (translated by award-winning author Ahdaf Soueif), is not just … Continue reading When (Arab) Poets Write Prose
Rashda Ragab has a glowing review of economist Galal Amin's recently published Rahik al-Omr, or Nectar of the Years (2010, Dar el Shorouk), in this week's Al Ahram Weekly. This is Amin's second full-length autobiography, coming after Madha Allamatni Al-Hayah? What Has Life Taught Me? (2007, Dar el Shorouk), which poet and critic Youssef Rakha … Continue reading Galal Amin’s /Nectar of the Years/ a Memoir Worth Translating?
Bibliophiles take note: Palestinian poet Mourid Bargouti's new memoir is set to come out in in English next fall from American University in Cairo Press. The translation of Bargouti's second memoir, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here (ولدت هناك، ولدت هنا), is being done by Humphrey Davies. Davies also translated Elias Khoury's Gate … Continue reading Update on Barghouti’s /I Was Born There, I Was Born Here/
I had just finished I Saw Ramallah, which was published in English in 2000 by AUC Press. I have no excuse for being 10 years late to this beautiful book, and am reading it now because of translator Ahdaf Souief's upcoming visit to Cairo, as part of the AUC's "in translation" series. I will have … Continue reading Mourid Barghouti on Writing as Displacement
Khaled al-Berry, author of Life is More Beautiful Than Paradise, has an interview airing today on BBC World about his time in the Jama’a Islamiya (and, I assume, about his book?). You can listen to the interview online. Life is More Beautiful Than Paradise is a lovely, clear-sighted memoir about al-Berry's adolescent years. It illuminates … Continue reading BBC Interview with Khaled al-Berry