BLOOMSBURY, £12.99 Order for £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Beirut 39: New Writing from the Arab World, Edited by Samuel Shimon
When the political gets personal
Monday 14 June 2010
This wonderful, timely anthology, edited by Samuel Shimon and introduced by Hanan al-Shaykh, showcases the distinctive voices of 39 young Arab writers from around the world.
It ranges from Saudi Arabia to Morocco, from France to Syria, from Lebanon to Holland and the US, across mountains, deserts and cities, but always reveals the inner workings of the human heart and mind. Just as varied is the array of literary forms, taking in beautifully-translated short stories, poetry and novel extracts. Part of Beirut 39, a Hay Festival project to select and celebrate the best young Arab writers, this collection displays exciting linguistic experiment as writers capture complex experience in which the political intrudes upon the personal.
"There is no justice in this world," cries the character in Adania Shibli's compelling story. "At the Post Office," he adds. This theme courses throughout the collection as characters battle against the painful injustices of everyday life, from schools to politics to stifling family life, as children rebel against their parents. The theme of communication is at the heart of an ambitious and engaging collection. In Shibli's story, it is Afaf's duty to cross out the word "Palestine" on letters and replace it with the word "Israel". An urgent desire to communicate battles against forces, which attempt to silence the voice, as conjured in the moving "Co-existence" by Ala Hlehel.
The search for an identity is intelligently exhibited in Hala Kawtharani's raw, sensitive story, and explored elsewhere in the collection. "A poem is a naked person," wrote Bob Dylan, the epigraph to the haunting The Geology of the I by Joumana Haddad. It sensuously unravels the layers of personality to grapple with the core of who we are, also dealing with themes of the Arab woman and the challenges of self-expression. This quest for the true person is a motif throughout these vivid pieces, as identity is concealed behind layers of social construction.
"I am the books which I read as a child, which were unsuitable for me/(which I now write and which are still unsuitable for me)", writes Haddad. It is a gift to the world that these brave authors have written pieces, which both educate and entertain, shedding insight into lives lived beyond the news headlines, and blazing with the idealistic spirit and passion of youth.
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 3 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
- 4 John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
Comic-Con 2014: Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch and Game of Thrones' George RR Martin set to attend
Hercules, review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson takes centre stage in preposterous movie
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?
George R. R. Martin responds to 13-year-old fan's 'heartfelt' letter asking for a grisly death in Game of Thrones
Watch Susan Boyle sing 'Mull Of Kintyre' at the Commonwealth Games 2014 opening ceremony
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains