For the Summer 2008 we suggested the following short story collections. A great way to get to know authors and a range of stories from across the region, our recommendations include works by Yusuf Idris and Mohammed El-Bisatie of Egypt, Mohammed Al-Murr of the UAE, Hanan al-Shaykh of Lebanon, Ghassan Kanafani of Palestine, and Tayeb Salih of the Sudan.
On June 2nd we discussed Absent (Ghayeb) by Betool Khedairi.
In Absent, the Iraqi-Scot novelist Khedairi (who also wrote A Sky So Close) tells the story of Dalal, a young girl growing up in a crowded Baghdad apartment complex during the sanctions imposed on Iraq following the Gulf War. Orphaned as a baby, she is raised by her self-absorbed aunt & uncle, and lives under a cloud of collective political anxiety. As she grows up Dalal works several jobs and attends classes, introducing us along the way to a cast of kooky neighbors and the ever present threat of a Baath government informant. The book flows between childhood and adolescence in a dreamy, yet somewhat jarring way to present a lucid and insightful picture of Iraq in the late 1990s. English & Arabic copies available at the gallery.
For a discussion from the author see: A Reflection on Absent by Betool Khedairi: What’s In A Name? http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780812977424&view=rg
Themes discussed in Absent (Ghayeb) by Betool Khedairi are included below: