Memoirs by women, written in Arabic, recommended by Arab authors, scholars, and publishers.
This was not the first of the firsts. Nor was it, unfortunately, the last.
Last week, on what would've been Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour's 73rd birthday, Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti announced a new collection of her work.
"Where else in Lebanon can you find comic books, including feminist comics, books on feminist theories and scholarship, literature, memoirs, and children’s books?"
“Radwa Ashour was a powerful voice among Egyptian writers of the postwar generation and a writer of exceptional integrity and courage. Her work consistently engages with her country’s history and reflects passionately upon it.”
This year, at least three significant memoirs are forthcoming in translation, all of them intimately relevant to women's lives in 2018, from #metoo to intersectionalism and global solidarity to the fraught spaces between the performance and experience of motherhood.
Radwa Ashour hasn't been in the news during Egypt's revolutionary period---she was hospitalized through all of it, undergoing four surgeries---but she has nonetheless been a significant force in Egypt's changing landscape. Ashour has effected change as a writer, a professor, and an activist.
Last night at Cairo's Manial Palace, Penguin International President Andrew Phillips and Dar El Shorouk Chair Ibrahim El Moallem formally signed themselves into a partnership that was more than a year in the making: a joint Shorouk-Penguin project that will bring out both Penguin classics and local titles in Arabic.
This may be the week of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, but the most delightful thing I read this week was Youssef Rakha's "Virtually there," in Al Ahram Weekly. (We'll just blame an editor for the meaningless headline.)
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.)
I don't, as a rule, object to "foreign" words in English-language texts. Would Beckman call Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart an ethnic glossary? And yet it's full of untranslated terms, and not just the Big Three: flora, food, and dress. Many of the italicized terms, in Things Fall Apart, force the reader to try to see Igbo culture on its own terms instead of "in translation."
The more interesting news, I think, is that submissions from female writers were up, with works by female writers forming 29% of the overall total. That's up from 16% last year and 14% the year before.