A beloved artist in and beyond the Arab world, Palestinian political cartoonist and caricaturist Naji al-Ali's influence continues after 30 years after his death by assassination. Boualem Ramadani in the New Arab Diffah Supplement recently discovered a French book dedicated to al-Ali’s work, the first of its kind in France. Though published only in French, the book — "Le Livre de Handala" by Sivan Halevy and Muhammad al-Asaad, published by Scribest — includes important input from Naji al-Ali's eldest son, Khaled. He endeavored to preserve his father's legacy through the project. The book was first published in 2011 and received a new edition in 2015 with an updated preface from French political cartoonist Siné.
Listen to Etel Adnan’s voice in “Seasons,” her new book of poetry and meditations: “I want to walk in mountainous countries. Some nations are sitting and crying in front of screens larger than their borders. Their brains are starting to fall apart. I listen.” And as she listens, she teaches us to do the same, though it is quite challenging at first. For we quickly realize we are in the presence of a deeply intuitive, almost frenetically responsive mind. What are these “screens larger than their [countries’] borders?” Movie screens? Perhaps, if we are willing to accept the completely free license of the artist at work here. Imagine a movie screen larger than her native country of Lebanon, positioned in the sky above those timeless cedars, and revealing in anguishing replay the war of 1982. Shatila? Sabra? Again, perhaps. We do want a sense of logic, a sense of continuity, in what we read – and this is not to be the case with Etel Adnan’s “Seasons.” No. We are to enter an exquisitely imagined and private world, where “the oak tree is growing with anxiety,” and “no object can compete with a sound’s intimacy.”
Studies of autobiography in literature, especially in Western scholarship, typically favor a Western definition of the genre that denies the possibility of a "true" autobiography in Arab literature. Most associated with the ideas of Franz Rosenthal, the argument follows the claim of the "superiority of the "Western self"' and its "perceived capacity for individualism and self-awareness necessary to produce an autobiography, a capacity they believed was lacking in Arab culture," according to the late Issa Boullata’s review of "Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition" by Dwight Reynolds (For the review, see Al Jadid Vol. 7, No. 37, Fall 2001). Moroccan researcher Mohamed al-Wardi's recent book, "The Beginnings of Autobiography Among the Arabs: Customs, Types, and Objectives" (Seliki Brothers, 2021), combats this notion and synthesizes much of what is known about Arab autobiography into a new understanding of the genre.
Graphic design played a significant role in the evolution of Arab newsprint. Arab graphic design historians locate this art’s roots deep in the region’s visual heritage, drawing from its history of calligraphy, geometric compositions, motifs, and colors. However, the field itself is relatively new, emerging as a discipline only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Graphic design now plays a widespread role in everyday life, whether in public architecture or the design of everyday items.
Emile Menhem: Invigorating Arab Journalism Through Graphic Design
Jabbour Douaihy begins his multi-generational novel, “The American Quarter,” with the morning rituals that expose the bare lives of those living in the American Quarter of a Lebanese city, in an abandoned building now occupied by the financially disenfranchised. With sparse and carefully crafted detail, Douaihy vividly sketches the historical changes of the city as well as the personal history of each of his engaging and recognizable characters. The scene opens as an old man wakes up and retakes control of his TV set, which sits in the hallway. Later, Douaihy expands his vision into the larger city as the narrative follows his protagonist, Intisar, who readies her children for school, and then walks to the other side of the quarter to reach her work.
Millions of people risk life and limb to escape their countries through the sea and other means as a global refugee crisis unfolds. The 2019 winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Hoda Barakat’s “Voices of the Lost” (Yale University Press, 2021), recently translated from Arabic into English by Marilyn Booth, paints a complex picture of displacement, war, and hope in the bleakest moments among immigrants and refugees.
Trauma changes people. For the unnamed narrator of Layla AlAmmar’s second novel, trauma pushes her to choose silence. “Silence is a Sense” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2021) follows a Syrian woman who escaped from Syria to the United Kingdom, settling into a quiet English town. She spends her days observing the traumas of her neighbors: from the man who barely ever turns on his lights, to another obsessed with exercising, to an abusive man who beats his wife and children. Her voyeurism feeds into her writing — her only form of expressing herself. She submits essays to a “newsmagazine with a big name” under the pseudonym “the Voiceless,” often discussing the refugee crisis. But as her editor Josie increasingly probes the narrator for intimate details and memories of her experiences in Syria, she begins to question herself: how much of her mind’s ability to make sense of what happened does she trust?
“Bawh al- Dahaya” (“The Disclosures of Victims”) is not available in English to the best of my knowledge, though its subject matter ranks at the top of human rights violations in war zones. Thus any contribution from historians, research analysts, or journalists on the victims of war are telling about the crimes committed by the Syrian regime against its people. One should not exclude the various attempts to address these stories, whether through films, press interviews, or coverage by other mediums. These stories could enrich the documentation of these crimes regardless of the religious and cultural taboos surrounding them.
The story of Arab arts and culture cannot be told without a sizable chapter on Um Kulthum (1904 -1975), the legendary Egyptian singer venerated by generations of Arabs throughout the world. Many historical accounts have been written about Um Kulthum’s life and works, but never a fictional one, with the exception of a television series in which the script’s details were artistically filled in.
Acclaimed Author Leila Slimani’s New Novel Launches Trilogy on Dilemmas Faced by Biracial Families
The author of the Prix Goncourt winner “The Perfect Nanny” (2016), as well as “Adele” (2014) and “Sex and Lies” (2017), Leila Slimani returns with the first installment of a promising trilogy highlighting the struggles of living in between two worlds that both reject you. “Le Pays des Autres” (In the Country of Others), set for an English release on August 10, 2021, is the story of an interracial couple grappling to make ends meet between the Second World War and Morocco’s independence in 1956. Settling in Meknes, Mathilde, a Frenchwoman, and Amine, a Moroccan soldier, face the ire of both French colonizers and Moroccans for their marriage.