Dystopic Trends in Modern Arabic Literature

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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.

In her essay, “Dystopic Trends in Modern Arabic Literature,” Barbara Bakker examines several works that have emerged from this 21st-century trend. She explores such works as Algerian author Boualem Sansal’s novel, “2084: La fin du monde” (In English, “2084 The End of the World”), Abd al-Aziz’s “Al-abur” (“The Queue”), and “Iraq +100: Stories from a Century after the Invasion,” edited by Hassam Blasim, which compiles a collection of short stories from various authors imagining Iraq’s state of society a hundred years after the 2003 invasion. Alongside discussions of these titles, Bakker also considers the difference between contemporary Western dystopias and Arabic dystopian fiction.

Barbara Bakker’s essay, “Dystopic Trends in Modern Arabic Literature,” will appear in the forthcoming issue of Al Jadid, Vol. 22, No. 75, 2018.

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