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The theme of Banipal 34, the first issue of 2009, is The World of Arab Fiction, presenting fiction from Egypt and Iraq, from Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine and Syria, and from Saudi Arabia, in pages redesigned and resized in book format.
Banipal 34 pays special tribute to the great writer Tayeb Salih, who passed away in February, with personal memories from Denys Johnson-Davies and Leila Aboulela. We also pay tribute to two writers, poet Bassam Hajjar from Lebanon, and fiction-writer Yusuf Abu Rayya from Egypt, both aged 54.
The World of Arab Fiction begins with an excerpt from Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim’s new novel in English translation, Stealth.
The Saudi writers, Abdu Khal, Laila al-Juhni, Hani Nakshabandi and Fahad al-Ateeq, are wonderfully different, their works ranging from a psychological thriller, to a love story that challenges outmoded and racist customs, to an innovative attitude towards the Alhambra Palace, and to tackling the unrelenting stress of a modern lifestyle – all will leave the reader itching to read the novels in full.
In important inclusion is an excerpt from the winning novel of the International Prize for Arab Fiction (Arabic Booker) prize, Azazeel, by Youssef Ziedan, together with an article by Al-Hayat newspaper’s literary editor Abdo Wazen on the provocative discussion about the novel in the Arab press. We also include an excerpt from Habib Selmi’s The Scents of Marie Claire, shortlisted for this year’s prize.
From Morocco, Laila Lalami engages the reader with an excerpt from her topical novel Secret Son, in which gradually many secrets are uncovered as the son, Youssef, meets unexpected challenges in his life, one after the other; while from Tunisian author Hassouna Mosbahi the reader’s attention is seized by another son (in prison awaiting execution) and another single mother in a series of dramatic monologues.
Three authors from Iraq give readers a fascinating and wide-ranging glimpse into contemporary Iraqi literature: The central character in Suhail Sami Nader’s The Tell is an archaeologist, beset by moods, strange sounds and imaginings as he prepares to set off for another dig at the tell; in Sinan Antoon’s novel the Iraqi narrator returns to his post-Saddam home town of Baghdad to make a film; while Jabbar Yassin Hussein, in The Messenger from Mexico, describes a strange meeting about a parchment in Mexico.
Young Palestinian author Adania Shibli grapples in her novel with the problems faced by a mother andwife who becomes disenchanted with her aging, domineering husband – how can she escape? – while Libyan author Omar El-Kiddi’s short story is simultaneously sad and up-beat due to the ever-optimistic central character Saleh, who finds himself jailed on a minor misdemeanour, and is then kept in without charge because of the inmates he befriended. In Yusuf Abu Rayya’s short story the family’s pent-up emotions are centre-stage when the father is released from jail.
Three nuggets of short fiction from The Hedgehog by Zakaria Tamer, the renowned Syrian author’s third collection in English translation, complete our whirlwind trip through The World of Arab Fiction in Banipal 34.