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.
"I was privileged to touch his face, and how handsome, scholarly and full of inward light it was!"
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?)
I didn't see it yesterday, but Google Egypt reportedly celebrated the 121st birthday of Taha Hussein (the "dean of Arabic literature") with the pictured "doodle."
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.)
If your dad likes complex but ultimately heartwarming father-son relationships in (great) literature: Stealth, by Sonallah Ibrahim, has a touching father-son relationship at its core. It's also an excellent, very readable book. Although some accused Ibrahim of writing autobiography (it hews closely to his own experience growing up in Cairo in the post-WWII era), this … Continue reading Don’t Have a Father’s Day Gift? (Yes, Of Course, Literary Suggestions)
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 in women's lives. His The Tree … Continue reading One-minute Review: Taha Hussein’s /The Call of the Curlew/
All right, the dean of Arabic literature died in 1973, so I couldn't have asked his opinion on the matter. And no, Taha Hussein did not appear to me in a dream, a vision, or a puff of smoke in order to weigh in on the proposed ban of this literary classic. But there is … Continue reading Taha Hussein on the Debate over Banning 1,001 Nights