Current Issue: Banipal 63

Banipal 63

The 100 Best Arabic Novels

Banipal 63 – The 100 Best Arabic Novels is a feast of literary fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews and paintings, with the first pages in the print edition now in full colour. With the huge increase in Arabic novel-writing we asked 100 Arab authors, critics, academics, and a few translators for nominations to find the 100 best. The 100 are listed with brief synopses and biographies of their authors, who include the new generation of writers such as Ahmed Saadawi, Ali Bader and Rabee Jaber.

Egyptian poet and artist Ahmed Morsi, whose impressive painting of “The Fish Eye” graces the front cover, is celebrated with vivid paintings and poems. The issue opens with a feature on the tragic life of Iraqi writer and academic Hayat Sharara, painfully redrawn through her posthumously published compelling novel “When the Days Grow Dark”.

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Banipal 2 (Summer 1998) published a major interview with Adonis, that was entitled: "There are many Easts in the East and many Wests in the West". On 9 November this year Adonis gave the 3rd Annual Lecture of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation at the British Library. Adonis's influence as poet, philosopher and theoretician of Arab poetics is worldwide. A video recording of the Lecture will be uploaded in due course.

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The IV Odessa International Literature Festival (25 to 30 September) will present well-known and prize-winning authors from Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Iraq, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine and USA. It also  features, this year, a special section for young readers with children's authors from four different countries presenting their books at the Odessa Puppet Theatre.

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Algerian novelist Mouloud Mammeri’s novels are thoroughly visual and rich in descriptions, vividly written with an abundance of fine details of nature and human life. Screening of the film contributed significantly to circulation of the novel while, conversely, the popularity of the novel and the name of its celebrated writer have granted the film a unique reception.

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Bassam Frangieh writes about Hanna Mina, a pioneer in modern Arabic literature and a leading force in the creation and development of the Arabic novel, who died on 21st August in Damascus, Syria, aged 94. Hanna Mina, a friend of the poor, an advocate of the oppressed, and defender of the marginalized, himself suffered hunger, displacement, and homelessness: he lived what he wrote.

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Ibn Khaldun was a polymath and has been seen as anticipating the theories of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, among others. He was certainly a great inspiration to Arnold Toynbee (1889–1975), but has also been an influence on the science fiction of Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert. Robert Irwin writes with authority, and his book is a delight to read.

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Lovers, a Phonograph and Times, by Iraqi author Lutfiya al-Dulaimi, presents an account of Iraq’s development from the early twentieth century under Ottoman rule through to the century’s end and the post-US-occupation era through four generations of the Kutubkhani family.

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Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi’s novel is a profound, powerful and extraordinarily imaginative work. Part thriller, part horror story, part supernatural fantasy, part meditation on violence and justice, it is both harrowing and darkly comic.

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Adonis’s poetry, early and late, is full of powerful, often violent visions, though one cannot say that he necessarily projects a dark vision of humanity. The poet is simply alert, he has powerful faculties and he has to let them speak to him, unimpacted by the dissonance of others’ views or any consensus of opinion. Among the many joys of being on the road with Adonis last year was to be in the company of such a lively mind whose awareness triggers not only responses but responsibilities.

On Friday 9 November 2018 Adonis gave the 3rd Annual Lecture of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. at the British Library on "Translation: a second act of creation?

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St Aidan’s College of the University of Durham and Banipal magazine of modern Arab literature are delighted to announce that the Banipal Visiting Writer Fellowship of 2019 has been awarded to Sudanese writer Hammour Ziada. He is the author of several works of fiction: A Life Story from Omdurman (short stories, 2008), Al-Kunj (a novel, 2010), Sleeping at the Foot of the Mountain (short stories, 2014). His second novel, The Longing of the Dervish (2014, English edition, Hoopoe Fiction, 2016), won the 2014 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature and was longlisted for the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

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Ismail Fahd Ismail has died at the age of 78. A prolific Kuwaiti writer who was considered the spiritual father of the Kuwaiti novel, he was born in the village of al-Sabiliat in Basra, Iraq, in 1940. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Basra before returning to his family home and nation, Kuwait, in his early twenties just after publishing his first collection of short stories.

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Book Review:
The Baghdad Clock

Shahad Al Rawi’s novel describes in colourful detail the Baghdad neighbourhood in which its young protagonist grows up, in the period between the First Gulf War and the present, while many of the rhetorical questions posed by the young protagonist reveal her anger towards the outside world for the pain it has inflicted on her country.

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Abdullah Sakhi’s novel Duroob al-Fuqdan (Paths of Loss) has the highest gross sales of all Iraqi novels, with a reprint just a few months after first publication. Banipal 61 presents two chapters from the novel.

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This novel by Iraqi writer Dhia Jubaili is an allegorical reading of the Sunni-Shi’i sectarian conflict following the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq. In a fantastical re-enactment of Italo Calvino’s The Cloven Viscount, an Iraqi man falls into the hands of two terrorists, a Chechen and an Afghani, on the Iraq-Syria border.

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Book Review:
The Book of Safety

Yasser Abdel Hafez’s wonderful satire on modern-day Cairo is by no means a quick, easy ‘lit-fix’ read. Rich, profound and with a depth of imagination and whip-smart narrative stratigraphy, it can grab you from the very first line, hold your attention tight. Translated by Robin Moger, it won the 2017 Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize.

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