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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Arabic narratives galore - Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology, Salma Khadra Jayyusi, ed.,

Professor Jayyusi -- poet, critic, translator, and editor -- has done it again: another anthology of Arabic literature that puts modern Arabic narratives on the global and academic map. She started in 1978 with a distinguished anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry followed by other anthologies: Literature of Modern Arabia: An Anthology (1988), Modern Palestinian Literature (1992), Anthology of Modern Arabic Drama (with Roger Allen, 1995), and Anthology of Short Arabic Plays (2002) -- not to mention a long series of translations of individual Arabic works and several scholarly and critical works, including The Legacy of Muslim Spain (1992), Human Rights in Arabic Thought (2002) and Jerusalem in Ancient History and Tradition (2003). Not surprisingly, Jayyusi has been said to have done more for diffusing Arabic culture than the 22 Arab ministries of culture put together.

Jayyusi's approach to Arabic fiction is marked by an analysis of its content and technique. In content, she sees fiction as a reflection of the turbulent history of modern Arabs, with hopes and dreams followed by disappointments and breakdowns -- what she calls a sense of the apocalyptic. She points to a few names that stand out as models of certain trends in Arabic fiction: the Saudi 'Abd al-Rahman Munif for his petrofiction depicting how oil has changed the ecology and the culture of the Gulf; the Egyptian Gamal al-Ghitani for his sophisticated use of time -- mythical time in Kitab al-Tajalliyat (Book of Revelations) and historical time in Zayni Barakat ; the Palestinian Ghassan Kanafani for his sense of space and loss of place; the Egyptian Edward al-Kharrat as a modernist and an experimentalist; the Palestinian Ibrahim Nasralla as venturing into postmodernism; and the Iraqis Gha'ib Tu'ma Farman and Fu'ad al-Takarli for depicting the individual struggling against prevailing moeurs. As for the short story, Jayyusi concentrates in her introduction on two figures, the Egyptian Yusuf Idris and the Syrian Zakaria Tamir. Needless to say dozens of others are mentioned, including Ibrahim al-Koni and Radwa Ashour.


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