The Cultural View from Within and Without

In the past, Islam acted as the driving force behind the creation of Europe, drawing a line of distinction between the West and the East. Since antiquity, Europe had been defined as the land whose Southern most shores met the Mediterranean. However, as the growing influence of Islam swept over North Africa, there formed a border which distinguished one side from another — the “Middle Sea,” which divided the two civilizations, Christian and Muslim, from each other.

When the September 16th issue of the New Yorker arrived in 2013, I started flipping the pages until I saw "By Fire," a work of fiction by Tahar Ben Jelloun, a noted Moroccan author. While I must admit that I am not an avid fiction reader, I became transfixed by its main character, Mohamed, as I started reading the short story. In addition to day-to-day misfortunes, and harassment by the police, among other injustices at the hands of the state, Mohamed struggles to support his family and care for his sick mother.

Despite having gone unnoticed by Egypt’s presidents as a spy, Ashraf Marwan’s death in June 2007 caught the attention of many others. After a five-story fall from his apartment balcony into a garden near Piccadilly Circus in London, where authorities initially wrote Marwan’s death off as a suicide. However, some believe that Marwan was murdered. The motive?  Perhaps an act of revenge against the Egyptian billionaire’s betrayal of his country, or a deliberate push by hit men hired to dispose of a spy. The truth remains hidden.

Saleem Haddad’s debut novel, “Guapa,” tells of the ongoing struggle with identity that Rasa — a young gay man living in the Middle East — deals with after his grandmother, Teta, discovers his relationship with the “love of his life,” Taymour. Teta raised Rasa after his father passed away and his mother disappeared when he was still a child.

With an initial investment of $24 million funding the Palestinian Museum, many attending the opening on May 18th felt surprised by the institution’s lack of art exhibits. The Museum directors had originally scheduled the opening on May 15th to honor Nakba Day, a memorial to the Palestinian “nakba” or catastrophe, and had advertised the opening exhibit, the “Never Part” for almost a year.

A. Four Novels:

1. The Mighty Weight of Love

An Oklahoma based novel which transpires during the Oklahoma City Bombing, follows a Lebanese widowed doctor, Salem Hawi, who narrates a story of love and healing as he helps a rape-victim overcome her fear of men and she helps him overcome his fear of love.  Cover art by Angel Peck.

2. Love Letters, A Love Story

By Nada Ramadan Elnahla

The pinnacle of fame!
The scepter of art!
The throne of the cinema!
. . .

Still Life
Directed by Diana Allan
Cinema Guild, 25 minutes.

By Lynne Rogers

Hussam Itani has written a post titled, "Intellectual Production and Criticism." “Since the beginning of the Arab revolutions, no concept has developed worthy of our attention” Itani states. Nor does he believe there exists either a legitimate intellectual discourse on the future of the region, or even one artistic work which provokes serious debate.

Samar Joukhadar, a Syrian mother from Daraya, along with her three children, became a refugee in her own country, and then embarked on a long and arduous journey to escape Assad’s barrel bombs.

By Mike D’Andrea

Sabah Zwein, a prominent Lebanese poet, critic and translator, lost her battle with lung cancer last June, an illness known to few of her friends and acquaintances. This secrecy probably came as no surprise to many of her intimates, who, like her literary critics, recognized that the struggle with isolation, bitterness, and despair colored many of Zwein’s poems.

Adonis is once again talking and singing the same, stale, old songs about ‘changing society.’ The latest refrain in this worn-out tune appeared in a 4500 word interview published in As Safir newspaper, which elicited sharp criticisms from multiple sources. Most publicized objections came from Walid Jumblatt, who described Adonis’s ideas as “causing one to vomit disgust.”

Nawal El-Saadawi’s ‘Daughter of Isis’ Life and Times via the Plenitude of Her Writings

By D.H. Melhem

Rarely have I missed the annual remembrance of the Lebanese Civil War. My main concern has always been the need to talk about it and insist on facing its causes and consequences. With this in mind, I have published and edited quite a few contributions during the past 20 plus years of Al Jadid’s life.

Stories of Change: Beyond the Arab Spring
Edited by Kari Lundelin and Rebecca Simons
Schilt Publishing, The Netherlands, 2014.

BY ALYSSA WOOD 

Let’s begin with the title of the book. What do you mean by the “orphan revolution?”

The Story of Joseph: A Fourteenth Century Turkish Morality Play
By Sheyyad Hamza
Translated by Bill Hickman
Syracuse University Press, 2014, 168 pages

BY ANGELE ELLIS

The Penguin’s Song
By Daoud. Hassan
Translated by Marilyn Booth.
City Light Books, 2014.  222 pp. 

BY LYNNE ROGERS

The Man From Bashmour
By Salwa Bakr
Translated by Nancy Roberts
Cairo University Press, 2007, 296 pp.

BY REBECCA JOUBIN

“I was still kneading the dough for the Eucharist break, working on getting it just right, with the intention of leaving it after that to rise. I had washed the earthenware kneading bowl in ritually pure water, as well as the lid and the sieve. The priest was standing over me, reciting the Psalms and making the sign of the cross.”

BY ERIC EDERER

Swing Hakim
By Swing Hakim
Independently produced, 2011

BY LYNNE ROGERS

The Moor's Account
By Laila Lalami
Pantheon Books, 2014, pp. 324.

Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry
By Marjorie Ransom
The American University in Cairo Press, 2014

By Alyssa Wood 

Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors
By Brian A Catlos
Farra Staruss and Giroux, New York, 2014

By Bobby Gulshan

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