The Anchor Book of Modern Arabic Fiction
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This dazzling anthology features the work of seventy-nine outstanding writers from all over the Arab-speaking world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, Syria in the north to Sudan in the south.
Edited by Denys Johnson-Davies, called by Edward Said “the leading Arabic-to-English translator of our time,” this treasury of Arab voices is diverse in styles and concerns, but united by a common language. It spans the full history of modern Arabic literature, from its roots in western cultural influence at the end of the nineteenth century to the present-day flowering of Naguib Mahfouz’s literary sons and daughters. Among the Egyptian writers who laid the foundation for the Arabic literary renaissance are the great Tawfik al-Hakim; the short story pioneer Mahmoud Teymour; and Yusuf Idris, who embraced Egypt’s vibrant spoken vernacular. An excerpt from the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih’s novel Season of Migration to the North, one of the Arab world’s finest, appears alongside the Libyan writer Ibrahim al-Koni’s tales of the Tuaregs of North Africa, the Iraqi writer Mohamed Khudayir’s masterly story “Clocks Like Horses,” and the work of such women writers as Lebanon’s Hanan al-Shaykh and Morocco’s Leila Abouzeid.
respond to him with cries and an enthusiastic rendering of our anthems. His voice then fell silent. And there was Bilal Husain, Si Tahir’s closest friend, one of the forgotten victims of history. Bilal was a carpenter. He was no scholar, but a whole generation learned their nationalism from him. His workshop was under Sidi Rashid’s bridge, a base for secret activity. I remember him stopping me as I was passing his workshop on my way to the Constantine Secondary School. He made me read the
offered him a cigarette. He accepted, lit it, and took a long drag. He felt he was about to reach his accustomed peak, when the world was full of joy, life was amazing, truth and fantasy were indistinguishable, and the walls came tumbling down. He didn’t want to lie to Midhat: “I don’t know. Maybe. One day I went out and didn’t go home. I was working at the Rafidayn Bank at the time, and I’d been married three or four years. I don’t remember exactly. We were all right financially, and I was on
in the 1963 revised edition of his Arabic Literature: “All of these productions, however, short stories, novels and plays, remain bounded by the horizons and conventions of the Arab World; when translated into other languages they are often more interesting as social documents than as literary achievements.” It was not an altogether fair judgment, resulting perhaps from inadequate reading of the literature available or from the wholly academic approach that had for so long been brought to the
up to. Of course he wouldn’t know the building and would make off in despair, while she would go on laughing her head off inside her room. Ha ha ha! We had our fill of laughing and secretly gave thanks to our clever neighbour, then we jumped out of bed and began a new day in the long holiday. For a long time we wandered aimlessly round our well-stocked library. We noticed that most of its contents were books we had put off reading and which we had decided to return to when there was sufficient
would open my eyes for the first time in history. Perhaps the same thing didn’t happen to you, since I believe you closed your eyelids once only. And remained like that. The film of my life didn’t pass before my eyes quick as a flash during those moments, as people say it does. This film passed by on other, more difficult occasions. When I returned to consciousness, I was seeing for the first time in history. Seeing, nothing else! That repeated itself several times before the pain—pain, not