Essays and Features

“Imaginary Homelands”—Lebanese American Prose

By 
Evelyn Shakir

I take my title from an essay by Salman Rushdie, in which he reflects on the need many expatriates, exiles, and just plain emigrants feel to look over their shoulder at the land that they have left behind and that now seems lost to them. And, if they’re writers, to try to recreate it in the literature they produce. But Rushdie issues a warning:  “We will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost.” Instead, “we will create fictions, not actual cities or villages but invisible ones, imaginary homelands.”

The Passing of a Great Syrian Writer: Ilfat Idilbi, 1912-2007

By 
Simone Fattal

It was on a day, much like today (Saturday, June 30), the day of the Gay Pride Parade in Paris, that I met my friend, the writer Ilfat Idilbi, for lunch at Les Deux Magots a few years ago. I had not realized that the Gay Pride Parade would be taking place when I’d first proposed that date for our meeting – I dreaded crowds and noise, both things that did not bother Ilfat Idilbi in the least. As soon as we settled on the terrace, the parade floats began turning down Boulevard St. Germain.

A Prize to Celebrate: Abdellatif Laabi Wins 2009 Goncourt Literary Prize for Poetry

By 
Elie Chalala

Literary prizes in the Arab world are hardly occasions for celebration. With the exception of the Sultan Bin al-Owais Award, a good number of literary awards have been greeted with cynicism and skepticism. Many of the prizes are tainted by Gulf or state money and sponsorship, as well as by scandals. Criticism has been directed towards the criteria for selecting candidates, the qualifications of the administrators of the prizes,

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