Essays and Features

New Book Places Famed 20th Century Lebanese Beauty and Unappreciated Intellectual May Ziadeh at Center of Controversy Now as Then

Forthcoming in Al Jadid
Elie Chalala

Twenty-years ago, Al Jadid published “The Victim Of Beauty: Reviving the Literary Legacy of Mai Ziadeh” by Ghada Samman. The issue we tackled then was how Ziadeh's talents and skills were overlooked because of her gender, and even worse, how highlighting her personal life at the expense of her intellect distorted her legacy. One Lebanese critic was emotionally overwhelmed by the recent book, “May: The Nights of Isis Copia” (Dar al-Adab, 2018) by Waciny Laredj, expressing her appreciation for this kind gesture by the Algerian-French novelist and academic toward a fellow “Lebanese.” However, an Egyptian critic takes issue with the new book. The same concerns which fueled early criticism of how Ziadeh was treated did not escape the notice of Sharif al-Shafei's thoughtful essay in Al Modon newspaper.  

Leila Slimani: Demolishing Barriers with Literature and Francophone Values

Naomi Pham

Beyond her award-winning novels, the public knows Moroccan-French novelist Leila Slimani for her advocacy of francophone values, promoting the French language, a culture of diversity and openness, as well as for her support for women’s rights. During the French presidential elections, Ms. Slimani  accompanied President Emmanuel Macron in his visit to Morocco, encouraging Moroccan-French citizens to vote for him against the right-wing and ethnocentric Marine Le Pen. According to press reports, the French President initially wanted to appoint Slimani as Minister of Culture, but she declined. So he appointed her as his personal representative of francophone affairs.

Dystopic Trends in Modern Arabic Literature

In the first two decades of the 21st century, the Arabic literary scene has witnessed a new trend in fiction in the form of a dystopian narrative. Where Arabic research has mainly focused on Classic Western utopias as characterized by the writings of Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella, Samuel Butler, and 20th-century Western dystopian fiction, the rise of Arabic authors exploring the dystopian genre has caught the attention of Western readers. These new dystopian works by Arab authors have been defined as the start of a new literary genre in modern Arabic literature, written mostly in English or French, with any works written in Arabic quickly being translated into English, suggesting an interest and wish on the part of the authors and publishers for a presence in the Anglophone market.

On Hips and Heritage: Cairo Nativists Object to Invasion of Foreign Belly Dancers!

Naomi Pham

The recent arrest of Russian belly dancer Ekaterina Andreeva, who goes by her stage name Johara, has sparked questions about how to view foreigners participating in this dance career. In his article for the New York Times, Declan Walsh discusses this supposed “sullying” of the Egyptian ancient art form. In Egypt’s current belly-dancing scene, foreigners -- the majority of whom come from America, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Eastern Europe – dominate the ranks and appear among the most well-known dancers in their field. According to Walsh, “The foreigners bring an athletic, high-energy sensibility to the dance, more disco than Arabian Nights. Their sweeping routines contrast with the languid, subtly suggestive style of classic Egyptian stars. Some are overtly sexual.”


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