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The Cultural View from Within and Without

Fatima’s Tale: Fighting for Identity, Respect, and Place as an Algerian Immigrant

In a predominantly patriarchal society, living as an independent woman proves difficult. But for the title character of the award winning film “Fatima” (2015), directed by Philippe Faucon and recently awarded the César Award for Best Picture — the struggle becomes even greater. Fatima, an Algerian Muslim immigrant divorcee living in Lyon, France with two young adult daughters, works an arduous housecleaning job to support her family.

Refugee Art Exhibit Rekindles Best, Worst in Austrian Town

For decades, Nickelsdorf, Austria has had refugees coming in and out of the town, and for the most part, the locals had welcomed them. However, a recent exhibit in the town’s annual Konfrontationen Festival has caused unease among the inhabitants. A simple white truck, which was discovered August last year, has reached millions across Europe with a grim reminder of the dangerous trials Middle Eastern refugees must face on their journeys. Abandoned on the shoulder of a road near Parndorf, Austrian police discovered 71 decomposing bodies, including several children.

'Torture, Imprisonment, and Political Assassination in the Arab Novel'

"Arabic literature is perhaps one of very few literary traditions that have a distinct literary genre known as the "prison novel." This is not only because a great majority of writers have themselves lived the experience of arrest, imprisonment, and even torture, but also because the history of the contemporary Arab intellectual is one of constant struggle with the authorities.

Life Imitates Architecture in Homs: Can Architecture Instigate Sectarian Strife?

Among the many theories surrounding the cause of Syria’s conflict, a sort of new theory has emerged. Could architecture have played a substantial role in its occurrence? Marwa al-Sabouni, a young architect based in Homs, argues yes. Having lived in Homs for two years and witnessed its destruction, Sabouni presents this provocative theory in her recent book, “The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria” (Thames & Hudson, 2016).

No West Without East: Robert Kaplan’s ‘How Islam Created Europe’

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.

What Does it Take to Set a Life on Fire?

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.

The Mystery of Ashraf Marwan: Murder or Accident? Traitor or Hero?

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.

New Novel Explores Gay Arab Man’s Struggle for Identity

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. His grandmother served as his moral compass for the majority of his life, so Teta's coldness after walking in on him and his lover in bed shatters Rasa and also makes him feel shame for being gay and for being incapable of changing himself.

Behind Palestinian Museum Delays: Bureaucratic Quarrels and Discordant Visions

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. Thus, the lack of Palestinian embroidery, traditional folk crafts, vintage photographs and collected memorabilia sparked confusion among many of those who attended the event.

Lebanese Author’s Novels, Poetry Books, and Short Stories Available on Amazon.com under Hanna Saadah.

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

Arab Revolutions Produce neither New Knowledge nor Genuine Criticism

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.

Sabah Zwein (1955-2014): An Innovative and Haunted Poet

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.

Historical Novel Examines Coptic/Muslim Conflicts and Common Ground

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


“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.”