Essays and Features

Farewell to Habib Sadek (1931-2023): Friend, Poet, and Exceptionally Honest Politician

Having Self-Exiled from the Turbulent World of Lebanese Politics, Sadek Dies Peacefully at 92
Elie Chalala

Rarely do I get personal in my notebooks and essays, but this time I will. On July 1, 2023, I lost a friend in Lebanon whom I had known for more than four decades, and even longer if I count the years before I met him in person in Los Angeles. Habib Sadek (1931-2023) was a Lebanese intellectual, poet, author, head of the Cultural Council of Southern Lebanon, former parliamentarian, and, more importantly, someone whose support deeply impacted the early years of Al Jadid Magazine, for which I will always be grateful.

Nazik al-Malaika: Queen of Free Verse Remains Uncertain

Fifty Years of Debate Yield No Consensus Over Her Place on the Throne of New Arabic Poetry
Elie Chalala

Rarely do I open a cultural page in Arab newspapers, whether print or online, without catching wind of new discourse on modern poetry. Though I have never written poetry, the topic naturally draws my interest as an academic in political science, lecturing on debates between tradition and modernity for nearly a third of a century...Debates between traditional and new poetry shouldn’t be dismissed as simply Byzantine arguments. Such discourse indicates significant changes in the Arab world, including modernization and later globalization. Several critics have raised this discussion, the latest of which was in a column by Aref al-Saadi in Asharq Al Awsat, who writes, “I say this based on a slow study of our contemporary poetry and its trends, and I say it because it is the logical result of our willingness to read European literature and study the latest theories in philosophy, art, and psychology. In reality, those who want to combine modern culture with ancient traditions of poetry are like those living today in the clothes of the first century of immigration.” According to Saadi, there are two alternatives to discussing modernity and tradition: “Either we learn the theories, are influenced by them, and apply them, or we do not learn them at all. It may be useful for us to remember that the development in the arts and literature in a given era arises from the meeting of two or more nations.” Closed nations don’t produce anything new but merely repeat what their ancestors did.

A Fresh Look at the Debate: Definitions and Historiography of Arab Americans in the New Century

Elie Chalala
Arab American literature and how we define it remains central to the field’s discourse. Some scholars believe prior knowledge of Arab culture is essential to comprehending Arab American literature since it is an ethnic genre. Since the 20th century until the present, Arab Americans have strongly lobbied to classify Arab American studies as an ethnic field and draw a line between Middle East studies — which belongs to the area studies — and ethnic studies.


Mikhail Naimy

“Say blessed is life.”
“Blessed is life. What next?”
“Do you remember how often you have dissuaded me from hunting?”
“I do. Hopefully, you have finally listened to me.”
Abu Marwan has a reputation as a swift hunter. He is past 40, with a cheerful face, sleepy eyes, and a pleasing smile. A witty and lively man, he is famed for being honest, generous, soft-spoken, and kind-hearted. People tell amusing tales about his compassion for animals: when his cat broke her leg, he nearly disowned his family because they suggested throwing her in the river. Instead, he devoted much time to her needs until her foot healed. When one of his hens became blind, he built a special coop, fed her with his hands, brought her the fresh grass she liked, and cleaned her nest. He would not eat her meat and buried her with reverence and dignity when she died. Rumor suggests he cried over her grave.

The Fear of Throats

Daoud al-Shiryan

Hamad is an elderly Syrian man and a devout Muslim, who has lived in the city of Hama since he was born. Each day, he wakes up early, heads toward the Orontes River (Al Assi River), washes up and performs dawn prayers in a mosque on his way to work. On Sunday, July 3, as usual, Hamad headed toward the Orontes. As soon as he finished washing, though, he saw a body floating on the water. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the body belonged to a young man whom he recognized as Ibrahim Kashoush. Only the previous day, he had watched Kashoush electrifying the masses in the Orontes Square with his chants. Who would kill a young man singing for freedom? Hamad asked himself.


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