No Happy Endings
In this episode, we look back at 2017 about talk books published in the past year: notable books, favorite books, books we felt were overlooked, books we don’t quite agree on, and books we can’t wait to read. We also discuss how not to write about “discovering” Arabic and the Arab world.
- ArabLit’s “Arab Authors’ Favorites of 2017” list is available online. Some of the most frequently mentioned books on the list were works of non-fiction: Haitham al-Wardany’s Book of Sleep, Iman Mersal’s How to Heal: Motherhood and Its Ghosts, and Charles Aql’s Coptic Food.
- A translation of Mersal’s book was funded by Mophradat as part of their Kayfa Ta series and brought to English-language life by Robin Moger, although the publisher is still TBA.
- Maan Abu Taleb’s All the Battles was also translated by Robin Moger.
- Zeina Hashem Beck’s poetry collection Louder than Hearts was one of MLQ’s biggest discoveries of 2017.
- Ezzedine Choukri Fishere’s Embrace at Brooklyn Bridge, translated by John Peate, was one of the underappreciated novels of 2017. Fishere’s Exit Door has been signed by Hoopoe Fiction, and an excerpt from Fishere’s 2017 novel All That Rot, translated by Jonathan Smolin, appeared at Words Without Borders.
- Omar al-Akkad’s American War has already been translated to Arabic and published by the UAE-based Rewayat.
- American War was on the list of 2017 books of note Ursula made for the web site Al Fanar. Also on the list, Bad Girls of the Arab World, a collection of scholarly writing and essays edited by Nadia Yaqub and the late Rula Quawas, published by University of Texas Press.
- Mustafa Khalifa’s devastating prison novel The Shell has been translated by Paul Starkey and was published by Interlink.
- “The Fine Art of Learning to Say Nothing in Arabic,” by Adam Valen Levinson, excerpted from the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah and recently published on LitHub, has come in for considerable criticism online.
- On the other hand, there is writing about learning Arabic that we have loved: “Matthew McNaught’s Yarmouk Miniature,” published in N+1; Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land; and I.Y. Kratchovsky’s wonderful Among Arabic Manuscripts, translated from the Russian by Tatiana Minorsky.
- The Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature was presented on December 11 to Palestinian novelist, poet, and short-story writer Huzama Habayeb, for her 2016 novel Velvet. You can read a short profile and interview with the author in The National.