Small Arabic Project

Arabic novels: – Hmm, don’t know much about them, to be honest. I have my prejudices; though, to be honest, they are entirely contradicted by the one Arabic novelist I have ever read anything by, Naguib Mahfouz – a sort of cosmopolitan, Proustian type writer.

The Complete Review made reference a few weeks ago to a list of the top 100 Arabic novels, drawn up by the Arab Writers Union, and off I went on Amazon happily typing in all the names; so now I’ve got my big box of books delivered this morning from America, I can begin my project, which will consist of the following:

  • Hunters in a Narrow Street, by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra
  • War in the Land of Egypt, by Yusuf al-Qa’id
  • Love in Exile, by Bahaa Taher
  • Gold Dust, by Ibrahim al-Koni
  • Stones of Bobello, by Edwar al-Kharrat
  • Cities of Salt, by Abd al-Rahman Munif
  • Arabian Nights and Days & Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth by Naguib Mahfouz
  • and (since I’m reading a volume already) some out of the Arabian Nights

I have to admit, I found the second last writer, Abd al-Rahman Munif, conspicuously missing from the top 100 list – I was wondering if there wasn’t some political reason behind it. I’ve read about half this book already, and so far it seems like it’s something that probably wouldn’t go down too well with the Saudi authorities.

Otherwise, as I say, aside from Mahfouz, I know nothing about any of these writers.

(Oh, obviously I’ve read Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, too – since it’s on the list of books I claimed to have read last year. – Actually, this was another book which, on first reading the list, I’d thought they’d oddly missed out. – Come to think of it, I’ve got The Wedding of Zain somewhere; maybe I’ll read that too).

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2 thoughts on “Small Arabic Project

  1. Oh, that’s very nice to hear!

    I’m sure we could foment some theories about why Munif’s masterwork is at 105—after all, what is the world of contemporary Arabic literature without conspiracy theories? But there are also a number of (more) controversial and banned books above it (Choukri’s /For Bread Alone/, for instance). Oh, and of course your recently acquired Arabian Nights has been unreasonably controversial.

  2. Ah – I see. I think, when I originally read the list, the end hadn’t been posted yet – so I didn’t know the Munif was there at all. I’d heard it was well-thought of, so I was sort of surprised – but I guess I half-felt I should put it down to my own ignorance.

    There does seem something very pointed about putting it 105th in a list of the top 100 books.

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