Banipal issues include reviews of some of the latest works by Arab authors, either from their original editions or as published in translation, presenting a combination of reviews in works in English, Arabic, French or German.
Fugitive Atlas: Poems by Khaled Mattawa
Khaled Mattawa effortlessly navigates between Middle Eastern, American, and World literary traditions in Fugitive Atlas (2020), his most recent poetic tour de force . . . and render a deeply elegiac map of humanity’s shared planetary experience in the first decades of the 21st Century.
Agadir by Mohammed Khair-Eddine
Agadir is not your average novel. Sometimes described as a hybrid novel, it is not a novel in any conventional sense. Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s intense writing intentionally subverts traditional literary models. He intends to shock, and described his writing as a “guérilla linguistique”.
Mordechai’s Moustache and his Wife’s Cats and other stories
These tales are fleeting, ethereal, often sad but never moribund, and infused with humanist sensibility, emerging in turn as a love letter to the short story and individual striving.
Mama Hissa’s Mice
Saud Alsanousi’s fourth novel, Mama Hissa’s Mice, is an arresting Kuwaiti bildungsroman. It covers a period of more than 40 years in Kuwait, from the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, to the 1990 Iraqi invasion, to the post-9/11 years, and finally to a feverish, infernal near-future in which the country is burning in the throes of all-out sectarian warfare.
The Libyan Novel
Dr Charis Olszok’s book is an insightful and stimulating addition to the Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature series, published by Edinburgh University Press. She takes a fresh and original approach in, for example, situating her study of the Libyan novel within the fields of animal studies and ecocriticism.
Zuheir al-Hiti’s fourth novel, ‘Ush al-Jamr (Embers’ Den), is a journey into Iraq’s heart of darkness that explores a process of political, social and cultural descent into a frenzied state of primordial, violent chaos, and in which is depicted the religious, sectarian and cultural intolerance that he believes has permeated Iraqi society for decades.
The Slave Yards by Najwa Bin Shatwan
This third novel by Libyan writer Najwa Bin Shatwan, The Slave Yards (Zarayib al-Abid), shortlisted for the 2017 International Prize for Arab Fiction, is set in 19th century Libya, then under Ottoman rule. Its title refers to the real-life encampments on the outskirts of Benghazi where most of the country’s slaves and former slaves were held at the time.
Velvet by Huzama Habayeb
Velvet is Huzama Habayeb’s third novel and marks a high point in her writing career, with the Arabic original, Mukhmal, awarded the 2017 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. It was hailed by the judges as “a new kind of Palestinian novel” that wrote about the “everyday lives of Palestinians”, and about the “human condition” through its portrayal of woman.
Elias Khoury’s The Kingdom of Strangers
Elias Khoury’s The Kingdom of Strangers wrestles with issues of Lebanese identity and memory, using a fractured, non-linear narrative to reflect the fracturing of society during the Lebanese Civil War. Published in Arabic in 1993 and in 1996 in Paula Haydar’s excellent English translation.
Daughter of the Tigris by Muhsin Al-Ramli
The novel chronicles Qisma’s odyssey through a changed Iraqi in the company of Tariq. Her search for her father’s headless body is the main axis of the plot, around which Al-Ramli weaves an expansive, digressive saga rich in sub-plots.
The Book of Collateral Damage by Sinan Antoon
Translated by Jonathan Wright, this fourth novel of Sinan Antoon is loosely based on when he revisited Baghdad in 2003 to make a documentary, having left Iraq in 1991 after the beginning of the Gulf War. Blurring of fiction and reality is an important theme.
The Fetishists: The Tuareg Epic by Ibrahim al-Koni
In his author’s note to the translation, the Libyan Tuareg novelist Ibrahim al-Koni recounts the actual incident that inspired the novel – a bet. Whoever succeeded in scaling a certain tall cliff face in the Tadrart mountain range in Libya would win 100 camels.
Praise for the Women of the Family by Mahmoud Shukair
Praise for the Women of the Family is a most welcome addition to the body of Shukair’s work available in English translation. Its Arabic original was shortlisted for the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and it is the second volume of Mahmoud Shukair's Jerusalem trilogy.
The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda
To the ordinary reader, reading Arabic literature in translation today, the title The Arab Renaissance might be a little perplexing. What Renaissance? and when? The Nahda period covers roughly a hundred years, ending almost 100 years ago. It was a time of burgeoning Arab cultural and political modernity.
A Boat to Lesbos by Nouri al-Jarrah
Ruth Padel writes:
The island of Lesbos, also called Mytilene, is on the edge of Europe. You see Turkey three and a half miles away, on the hazy horizon . . . Until 2015, though, the island was most famous for three things; its petrified forest, the best ouzo in Greece, and poetry.
States of Passion by Nihad Sirees
Bill Swainson writes:
Nihad Sirees's skill as a historical novelist comes to the fore as an old man, on a dark and stormy night, tells the story of a doubly forbidden love affair between the old man in his youth and an innocent young dancer called Widad from Aleppo.
Ibn Khaldun, An Intellectual Biography
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.
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.
Frankenstein in Baghdad
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.
All the Battles
A novel about sport is a new thing in Arabic. Jordanian author Maan Abu Taleb acknowledges the linguistic challenges of writing in a novel about boxing, that is also about the universal human predicament, and thus the experimental nature of the Arabic version.
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 won the 2017 Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize.
Tuyour al-Nab’a Birds of al-Nab’a by Abdallah Uld Mohamadi Bah
Mauritanians have such a passion for poetry that their country is widely known as the land of a million poets.
Farewell, Damascus by Ghada Samman
Ghada Samman’s latest novel in English translation, Farewell, Damascus, was published in Arabic in 2014 and is set in mid-sixties Damascus and Beirut.
No Road to Paradise by Hassan Daoud
Hassan Daoud is the author of ten novels and three short story collections, and has recently been described as ‘one of Lebanon’s most important living writers’.
The President’s Gardens by Muhsin al-Ramli
“In a land without bananas, the village awoke to nine banana crates, each containing the severed head of one of its sons . . . Each head had a story.
Al-Khaima al-Baidha’ (The White Tent) by Liana Badr
In her many works the writer and filmmaker Liana Badr documents the different stages of Palestinian national struggle against occupation and chronicles the Palestinian diaspora experience, including the Nakba of 1948.
Saba’t Gurabaa’ fil-Madina (Seven Strangers in Town)
“Sergeant Abdel Hai’s job was to keep an eye all night on the insurgents held in custody at the military garrison, and hand them over at dawn to the firing squad.
The Ninety-Ninth Floor by Jana Fawaz El Hassan
The novel is a frank look at love between two conflicting characters: their deep and divisive family roots, irreconcilable backgrounds, and the underlying forces that hold them together, set in both New York and Lebanon.
No Knives in the Kitchens of this City by Khaled Khalifa
No Knives in the Kitchens of this City tells the story of the decline of a Syrian family over a period of sixty years. There are no winners in a country where freedom is limited not only by the regime, but also by the fear of other people’s judgement.
The novel follows the fortunes of celebrity sheikh Hatem el-Shenawi, exposing the tensions within Egyptian society and the complex web of the country’s power structures . . . drawing a portrait of contemporary Egyptian society.
The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth
When The Jungo Stakes of the Earth was published in Arabic in Sudan in 2009 it won the national Tayeb Salih literary prize but in 2010 every copy was confiscated and burned by the Sudanese authorities.
The novel’s first-person protagonist Hamuda is a blameless and scholarly bookseller from the Moroccan town of Oujda. His ordeal begins when he is dragged from his bookstore by three masked men claiming to be from the secret police.
Ali Al-Muqri’s work . . . approaches the traditional ‘three taboos’ of politics, religion and sex (mainly the last two) with a directness and vigour that are all too rare in contemporary Arabic writing.
Who's Afraid of Meryl Streep
This novel . . . is a parody of the man-woman relationship in Lebanese society today, divided between tradition and modernity . . . in which the author challenges his own society and its contradictions.
The Broken Mirrors/Sinalcol
The author's skill and experience, both as a writer and a storyteller, are brought to bear in this novel as he explores the disruptive and destructive effects of civil war on the residents of Beirut’s divided city.
Women of Karantina
Studying Modern Arabic Literature: Mustafa Badawi, Scholar and Critic
Revolution Is My Name: An Egyptian Woman's Diary From Eighteen Days in Tahrir
The Book of Khalid
Dates on my FIngers
The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi
Land of No Rain
The Bridges of Constantine
The Whole Shadow of Man - Alessandro Spina's Libyan Epic
The Arch and The Butterfly
La Coquille – Prisonnier politique en Syrie
Leg over Leg
The Corpse Washer
The Open Windows
2 novels by Mahmoud Saeed
The Lady from Tel Aviv
The Mehlis Report
That Smell and Notes from Prison
Tales of Encounter: Three Egyptian Novellas
Horses of God
A Land Without Jasmine
Nostalgia, My Enemy
Time of White Horses
The Magic of Turquoise
House of Stone
Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge
A Tunisian Tale
The Hashish Waiter
Disordered World by Amin Maalouf
The Art of Forgetting by Ahlem Mosteghanemi
The Traveler and the Innkeeper by Fadhil al-Azzawi
Heavenly Life: Selected Poems by Ramsey Nasr
In a Fertile Desert, selected, translated and introduced by Denys Johnson-Davies
My Early Life by Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi
Homeless Rats by Ahmed Fagih and Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
One Day in April by Jad El Hage
Adonis: Selected Poems
Spectres by Radwa Ashour
Bye Bye Babylone : Beyrouth 1975-1979 by Lamia Ziade
I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish
Yalo by Elias Khoury
Like a Summer Never to be Repeated by Mohamed Berrada
The Loved Ones by Alia Mamdouh
White Masks by Elias Khoury
Treason by Hédi Kaddour
Journal of an Ordinary Grief by Mahmoud Darwish
The American Granddaughter by Inaam Kachachi
Moon over Samarqand by Mohamed Mansi Qandil
The Last of the Angels by Fadhil Al-Azzawi
Flawed Landscape by Sharif S. Elmusa
Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa
Just Like Tomorrow by Faiza Guene
Thirsty River by Rodaan Al Galidi
The Baghdad Blues by Sinan Antoon
Two novels by Bahaa Taher
Cockroach by Rawi Hage
A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
Cairo Modern by Naguib Mahfouz
In Their Father's Country by Anne-Marie Drosso
Chicago by Alaa Al-Aswany
Cardamom and Lime: Recipes from the Arabian Gulf by Sarah al-Hamad
Wedding Night by Yusuf Abu Rayya
The Journals of Sarab Affan by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra
The Earth in the Attic by Fady Joudah
La Nuit de l’étranger by Habib Selmi
The Collar and the Bracelet by Yahya Taher Abdullah
Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni
Wild Mulberries by Iman Humaydan Younes
Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher
Tender Spot, Selected poems of Naomi Shihab Nye
Banquet of Lies by Amin Zaoui
Embers and Ashes – Memoirs of an Arab Intellectual
Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber
Dissident Syria by Miriam Cooke
Wolves of the Crescent Moon by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed
Outcast by Shimon Ballas
Inside the Night by Ibrahim Nasrallah
Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s Nobel Laureate by Rasheed El-Enany
The Lodging House by Khairy Shalaby
Learning English by Rachid al-Daif
Being Abbas El Abd by Ahmed Alaidy
The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf
Maryam’s Maze by Mansoura Ez-Eldin
The Butcher's Confesssion by Hussain al-Mozany
I'jaam – An Iraqi Rhapsody by Sinan Antoon
Thieves in Retirement by Hamdi Abu Golayyel
Saraya, The Ogre's Daughter by Emile Habiby
De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage (winner of the 2008 IMPAC prize)
Stephen Watts reviews poetry collections by Mahmoud Darwish and Nadia Tueni
Zuzana Kratka reviews two novels by Ibrahim Aslan
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
Le Roman Arabe by Kadhim Jihad Hassan
Cabaret Su’ad by Mohammed Suwaid
Memories in Translation: A Life between the Lines of Arabic Literature by Denys Johnson-Davies
Yasser Arafat Looked at me and Smiled by Youssef Bazzi
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
Damascus – Taste of a City by Marie Fadel as told to Rafik Schami
Jidar Bayn Dhulmatain / Asrar Abdullah / Al-Hudud Al-Barriya
Anubis A Desert Novel by Ibrahim al-Koni
An Iraqi in Paris by Samuel Shimon
Die Reise nach Tell al-Lahm by Najem Wali
A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor
A Small Sun
A Woman of This Modern Age
Traps of Scent
Yawm al-Din (Judgment Day)
A poet of light, earth and sea
I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghgouti
The Sand Child, The Sacred Night and The Wrong Night
Arab authors published in French
Dear Mr Kawabata
Hassouna Mosbahi's Short Stories