The Tragedies and Political Realities of Aleppo’s Old Red Light District

Naomi Pham and Elie Chalala
In a tale that spans generations, a recent novel shows the suffering of Syrian society through the abuse of sex workers and a struggle to make their smothered voices heard. Syrian novelist Ibtisam Ibrahim Tracy’s latest work, “Daughters of Lahlouha” (House of Culture for Publishing and Distribution, 2021), introduces readers to Syrian women suffering under both French mandate and Syrian regimes, social oppression, political tyranny, and the machinations of intelligence services over the past century. The novel was recently reviewed by Salman Zainuddin in Independent Arabia.
The corpse of the novelist Farida al-Raydah greets readers in the opening pages of the novel, crumpled in a chair with torn remnants of paper in her hands. On her computer lies an open, blank document entitled “Novel.” When a deliveryman named Abdel al-Salam discovers her, he searches through her belongings and finds the ready-to-publish manuscript of her novel discarded in the neighborhood trash bin.

Book Examines Lasting Legacy of Assassinated Cartoonist, Whose Work Drew on Experience of War and Exile

Elie Chalala

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

Mark Grimes

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.”

The State of Arab Journalism: Emile Menhem’s Dynamic Blend of Text and Visual Aesthetics Modernizes the Arab Newsroom

Naomi Pham

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
By Lara Balaa
Khatt Books, 2019

Love and Terrorism: Douaihy Novel Transcends Usual Banalities

Lynne Rogers

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. 


Subscribe to RSS - Books