The Arab Spring – Words without Borders

As we stand with all those in struggle in Syria, Libya and the region, Kutub highly recommends all readers check out Words Without Borders’ series on The Arab Spring.

The Words Without Borders series documents the Arab Spring with literature from the countries of the uprisings. Following the sequence of events, they begin in North Africa with writing from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Tunisia – and continue into Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.  

As the series is described by Words Without Borders itself: “In fiction and polemic, poetry and reporting …. In prison memoirs and comic fiction, from the distance of exile and the immediacy of the barricades, writers interpret both the insurrections and the contexts in which they occurred, providing an invaluable perspective from which to consider this ongoing revolution.”

  • Part 1: Opens with German Trade Prize winner Boualem Sansal’s tribute to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian whose self-immolation set the events of the Arab Spring in motion. Activist Nawal El Saadawi provides a snapshot of the first days of the Egyptian uprising, and Miral Al-Tahawy tells of a peasant girl carried off by the Chief of Bedouins. Laila Marouane, author of The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris, contributes a harrowing portrait of Algerian misogyny and oppression. Laila Neihoum presents a manifesto for Libya, while her countryman Fadhil Al-Azzawi opens a theme park for deceased dictators. From Sudan, poet Tarek Eltayeb considers recent history, and Amir Tag Elsir’s novice writer courts a pompous novelist. And from Tunisia, Cecile Oumhani interviews the publisher Elisabeth Daldoul, while poets Amina Said and Tahar Bekri speak of a country under siege.
  • Part 2: Opens with an interview with Rafik Schami, whose work has been banned in his native Syria for forty years, discussing the tortured history and uncertain future of his country. Cécile Oumhani and Syrian poet Aïcha Arnaout discuss writing the revolt. Jordan’s Elias Farkouh finds a child’s dream day ends in a nightmare, while Beirut39 honoree Mohammed Hasan Alwan observes a young man’s musical (and sentimental) education. Bahraini poet-activist Ali Al Jallawi recalls his brutal arrest and imprisonment. On the brink of his departure from Yemen, Mohammed Algharbi Amran’s young medical student confronts the past, and the father, he’s never known.  And Arab Booker nominee Wajdi Muhammad Abduh al-Ahdal tests the grammar of freedom.

Also informative are Words Without Boarders’ related Dispatches, including:

“At the end of January, Chip Rossetti considered the “rumbling octopus” of the protests in Tahrir Square in the context of Egyptian literature. The next month, Magdy El Shafee filed a graphic report from the demonstrations just hours before Mubarak was unseated. Cecile Oumhani brought a personal perspective to the struggles in Tunisia, and Suzanne Ruta spelled out a lexicon of Algerian repression and rebellion. Hosam Aboul-Ela considered the long tradition of the dictator novel in Egypt. Algerian columnist Kamel Daoud interrogated the definition of “country” in the Arab world. And in our March film issue, Suzanne Ruta revisited the great, and timely once more, Battle of Algiers.  In those first heady moments, great changes looked imminent; but as Boualem Sansal notes in his sorrowful letter to Bouazizi, ‘How long it is, this Arab spring, and how uncertain its days’.”

The dispatches continue with The Graffiti of Benghazi by Ethan Chorin.

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