Essays and Features


Silent in First Person: Where is the Confessional Autobiography in Arab Literature?
Al Jadid Staff

Confessions in autobiographies can achieve two things: they reveal all that the writers have concealed about their lives, or they serve to offend those around them in doing so. Some have used confessions to elevate their own characters, depicting their actions as courageous while recalling the wrongs done against them throughout their life. In Arab tradition, writers wish their readers to see them in a positive light, and readers look to autobiographies for ideal figures and role models for future generations, drawing on religious traditions and figures. Rather than touch on his misdeeds, the writer would instead share his accomplishments, highlighting only the positive parts, according to Ehab al-Najdi. The 2015 publication of the Egyptian Najdi’s “Literature of Confessions: Analytical Approaches from a Narrative Perspective” (Dar al-Maaref) examines the complex obstacles and scarcity of confessional writings in the Arab world.


Despite Decades-Old Controversies, Iraqi Poet Badr Shaker al-Sayyab Still Relevant!
Al Jadid Staff

The Arab cultural scene never tires of Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab’s legacy, refusing to let it rest even 55 years after his death. The recent publications of Jasim al-Muttair’s “The Swinging Moods of Badr Shakir al-Sayyab,” as well as several columns on the poet by Iraqi writer Yassin al-Dulaymi and Lebanese columnist Mohammad al-Houjeiri, have again brought the poet’s life into the public eye. Sayyab did not shy away from politics in his work. “He was the kind of person who thought that a literary person and an educated person and a poet had a duty to get involved in the politics of his country and his nation and to point his finger and to be on the side of the poor and the struggling sectors of society. Governments were not, still are not, accepting of people who are not accepting of their line,” said his son, Ghailan al-Sayyab, in an interview with The National.

Emile Habibi, The Pessoptimist Who Went Global

Omar Zane

Emile Habibi died in early May, 1996 in his home in Nazareth. In addition to being a great Palestinian writer he was an exceptional character as well. His presence, his tongue and his written words added a certain lightness to the otherwise unbearably sad Palestinian and blighted Arab experience of the last seven decades. He witnessed events unfold, and for many years recorded the stories of an area which had acquired a much bigger foot print than its geographic size.

For a Friend Sorely Missed

Moayyad al-Rawi (1939-2015)
Elie Chalala

This brief column can only begin to do justice to Iraqi poet and critic Moayyad al-Rawi. A longer tribute will appear in Al Jadid’s next issue later this year (Vol. 23, No. 77, 2019).

Moayyad, who died in 2015, fled the Iraqi dictatorship in 1970 for Lebanon, making it his first stop in a life in exile; it is there I met him. Imprisonment and repression following the 1963 Baathist coup forced him to leave Baghdad and Kirkuk, which he loved, and which figured prominently in his writings.

Uninterrupted Fugue: Uprootedness in Kamal Boullata’s Work

By Gérard Xuriguera

Contemporary artists adhering to Constructivism were not solely content with respecting the orthodoxy of its ethic. From Malevitch to Mondrian through the Bauhaus and up to this day, the structural unfolding of this art of simplification and of exactitude has at times been refined, at other times made more complex; all along, it continued to explore different venues that retraced  the founding precepts without relinquishing its rigor.


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