Books We Have Read

These links will take you to more information about the books we have read and their authors. You can also scroll down to read more on each book.

Sitt Marie Rose (الست ماري روز) by Etel Adnan

Emerging Arab Voices: Nadwa I

On Monday, September 12th we discussed Emerging Arab Voices: Nadwa I: A bilingual reader edited by Peter Clark. This bilingual volume brings together eight pieces by a younger generation of Arab writers from Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. The work was  produced during a 2009 Emirates Foundation International Prize for Arabic Fiction workshop and reflects a range of styles and themes: from Egyptian social realism to a tale from the deserts of Darfur, a grim Tunisian allegory, family drama in Saudi Arabia, and a story about home and exile in Sana’a.

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Cities without Palms (Mudun bila nakhil) by Tarek Etayeb – translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid

Kutub’s July selection honored the translator Kareem James Abu-Zeid, who was one of the runner-ups of 2010’s Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his work with Cities without Palms (Mudun bila nakhil) by Tarek Etayeb.  Eltayeb’s first novel, Cities without Palms offers an uncompromising depiction of poverty in both the developed and the developing world. With its simple yet elegant style, it tells of a tragic human life punctuated by moments of true joy.

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Saddam City ( أنا الذي راء ) by Mahmoud Saeed

On Monday, October 3rd we discussed Saddam City  ( أنا الذي راء )  by Mahmoud Saeed, in which Iraqi schoolteacher and novelist Mahmoud Saeed, arrested numerous times by former dictator Saddam Hussein, recalls the harrowing months he spent in prison.  Translated into English by Lake Forest College sociology professor Ahmad Sadri, Saddam City was penned in the early 1980s as a “condemnation of all dictators and all tyrants wherever they are.”
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The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh

On Monday, June 6th we discussed The Locust and the Bird: My Mother’s Story by Hanan Al-Shaykh. A slight departure for Kutub’s specifically fiction repertoire, here Al-Shaykh, a Lebanese journalist and author of six novels (including Story of Zahra), recounts the life story of her mother Kamila. The result falls somewhere between memoir and biography as she recreates her mother’s history and the author’s journalistic talent reveals itself in her ability to get past her own abandonment to paint Kamila as a vivid, willful girl who lived as though she were the heroine of a great film.

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Year of the Revolutionary New Bread-Making Machine by Hassan Daoud

On Monday, May 2nd we held a discussion of the Year of the Revolutionary New Bread-Making Machine by Hassan Daoud, translated by Randa Jarrar. A poignant, wry portrait of a 1960s Beirut as it burgeons into the future, the book rests around a bakery which acquires a new bread-making machine,  changing the lives and directions of those working and living around it.  A Beirut journalist, Daoud’s writing is elegant, laconic and often very funny.

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Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif

On April 4th we met to discuss Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1999.   Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love is a massive family saga, a story that draws its readers into two moments in the complex, troubled history of modern Egypt. Soueif weaves an account of the consequences of British imperialism and the fierce political battles of the Egyptian Nationalists through the gorgeously romantic love story of Anna Winterbourne and Sharif al-Baroudi. Told through the voice of Amal, Sharif’s grandniece, Anna and Sharif’s story is echoed by the love affair between Isabel, their American great-granddaughter, and ‘Omar, Amal’s brother, set against the continuing political turmoil of the Middle East.

Adhaf Soueif is a political and cultural commentator, writer and translator.

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