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February 10, 2006

arab history through fiction

Yasser sends this New Left Review article about his father, Abd al-Rahman Munif, explaining "It's almost an accurate account of Munif's work and political views." This leaves one to wonder where it is off! But for a generally naive american like myself, it looks like quite an impressive corpus demonstrating a good deal of personal courage.

Mr. Munif died a year ago.

The author of this piece, Sabry Hafez, makes many laudatory claims: they convince me I ought to read at least some of these works. For instance, "Ard al-Sawad is by far the best Arabic novel on Iraq."

"Here and Now is a hospital in Prague where ex-political prisoners are sent by their parties for treatment, to seek a cure for their bodies and souls. The hospital, however, is no isolated cosmos, but a locus of contending forces in which external political powers are also at work."

Munif is most famous for Sharq al-Mutawassit, East of the Mediterranean, "whose public impact was deep and immediate."

A close second for fame might be the quintet, Cities of Salt, which Hafez describes as "construct[ing] a fictional universe of remarkable imaginative coherence that is a passionate cry against what Munif once called the trilogy of evils afflicting the Arab world—rentier oil, political Islam and police dictatorship—and a profound call for justice and freedom."

"A World without Maps offers a fresco of a huge city that has descended into obscurity and chaos."

"Endings remains one of the most advanced fictions in contemporary Arab literature."

"Hin Tarakna al-Jisr (When We Abandoned the Bridge, 1976), already showed his restlessness and capacity for formal reinvention."

Posted by Steph at February 10, 2006 7:58 PM

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