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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Bassam Frangieh writes:

Hanna Mina was one of the foremost novelists of the Arab world, renowned for his depiction of the social tensions and hard realities of life in modern Syria, as well as the lives of sailors and the sea. He excelled in depicting the afflictions of a life lived under great stress and anxiety, himself one of only a few major Arab writers to have suffered extreme poverty and hardship in his childhood and youth. His departure leaves a chasm in modern Arabic prose literature – an emptiness likely to continue for a long time. There seem to be no contemporary writers following in his footsteps, let alone any who could fill the void his passing has left.

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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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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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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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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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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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The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is delighted to announce the shortlist of the 2018 Prize. The four works are translated by two former winners of the prize, Khaled Mattawa and Jonathan Wright, and two relative newcomers to literary translation Ben Koerber and Luke Leafgren.

 

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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. Being so close to Troy, it suffered in the Trojan war: Achilles plundered its cities, and nine of its beautiful women were offered to him in an attempt to end his quarrel with Agamemnon. Until 2015, though, the island was most famous for three things; its petrified forest, the best ouzo in Greece, and poetry.

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Bill Swainson writes:

Nihad Sirees is best known in the West as the author of the 2004 novel, The Silence and the Roar, translated into English by Max Weiss and published in the US by the Other Press and in the UK by Pushkin Press in 2013. An Orwellian parable with Kafkaesque overtones, it is set in an unnamed country in which the writer-narrator Fathi must choose between joining the loud chorus of approval for the country’s leader and silence.

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When morning is like a shabby shirt
noon a jacket with no sleeves
and night a pair of tattered shoes
I know that a graveyard is shouting,
seeking a new visitor
and that there is no time to wait.

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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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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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