Although Hussein’s works continue to be read and loved forty-odd years after his death, only a small corner of his broad oeuvre has been translated to English.Continue Reading

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?)Continue Reading

Ideally, you wouldn’t read the A.B. As-Safi translation of Taha Hussein’s masterwork, The Call of the Curlew, published by Palm Press in 1997. The edition (pictured) is riddled with typos and the English is sometimes stilted, other times confusing. Hussein (1889-1973), “the dean of Arabic letters,” was surprisingly interested inContinue Reading