Habiby, Saeed, the Ill-Fated Pessoptimist

by Steve Tamari
published in MER136

Emile Habiby, Saeed, the Ill-Fated Pessoptimist (New York: Vantage Press, 1982).

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Antoon, Ya Maryam

by Isis Nusair
published in MER267

Sinan Antoon, Ya Maryam (Beirut/Baghdad: Dar al-Jamal, 2012).

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Ghalem, A Wife for My Son

by Pat Aufderheide
published in MER138

Ali Ghalem, A Wife for My Son (trans. G. Kazolias) (Chicago: Banner Press, 1985).

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Editor's Bookshelf

by Joel Beinin
published in MER153

The defeat of the Arab states in the June 1967 war was more than a military setback. It was also a blow against the radical nationalist project and its modern and secular cultural orientation which bonded the Arab world and the West even as it provided a framework for resistance to Western economic, political and cultural domination. Since 1967, only the Palestinian national movement has continued to advance the flag of radical nationalism. Elsewhere, a romantic Islamism, brandishing the slogan of cultural “authenticity,” has posed the most consistent challenge to continuing Western domination of the Middle East.

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When I Found Myself

by Dia' Khudair
published in MER148

This story first appeared in Arabic in the Paris-based Kull al-‘Arab, September 3, 1986.

The men in our unit branded me “the intellectual,” a term that connoted for them more sarcasm than conviction. They pronounced it in mincing tones, and played comically with its derivatives. This ought not, of course, be imputed to intrinsic dislike among the well-meaning fighters for intellectuals. Rather, I suppose, to their belief in the futility of making oneself attend to matters other than the tangible tasks of fighting or getting ready for combat. And being, as they said, a bookworm, I had only myself to blame.

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Harlow, Resistance Literature

by Mary Layoun
published in MER159

Barbara Harlow, Resistance Literature (New York: Methuen Press, 1987)

Resistance Literature is a wide-ranging and impressive critical study of the literatures of contemporary “Third World” liberation movements as they confront and alter the literary and political categories of the “West.” It is not only an introduction to Third World literature, although that function is ably accomplished by Harlow’s text. Resistance Literature also argues for the crucial political significance of literary texts and, by extension, for the necessity of an informed political commentary on those texts.

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Sacrilegious Discourse

by Hedi Abdel-Jaouad
published in MER163

More than a quarter of a century after independence, the Maghrib’s Francophone literary output is flourishing. If one adds to this the Beur literature produced by second and third generation immigrants of North African heritage, Maghribi literature in French appears to be the single most important literary and aesthetic phenomenon permeating French culture today. One of the most important exponents of this literature is Tahar Ben Jelloun, the Moroccan recipient of the prestigious Goncourt Prize in 1987. The warm critical reception of his two novels, The Sand Child and The Sacred Night (translated by Alan Sheridan, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1987 and 1989), epitomizes the increasing popularity and success of Maghribi literature in French.

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Toward a World Literature?

A Conversation with Tahar Ben Jelloun

by Miriam Rosen
published in MER163

The Prix Goncourt, always the biggest literary event of the year in France, became even more so in 1987, when the venerable Goncourt Academy named Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun as its eightieth laureate. In French literary circles, reaction to the selection of Ben Jelloun’s novel, La Nuit saerde, contained an unmistakable current of relief, as if to say that the situation of the Arab community in France really could not be so bad if a North African received the Prix Goncourt. Within that Arab community, the optimism was somewhat more guarded (about the book as well as the prize), but certainly no one regretted the increased visibility that the award brought to French-language North African literature.

Prison Text, Resistance Culture

by Barbara Harlow
published in MER164

The Israeli prison apparatus is a critical and contested site in the manifold struggle to control communication and information in the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. During the two decades of occupation before the intifada, prisons in Israel and the Occupied Territories housed an average of 4,000 Palestinian political detainees at any one time. Since the start of the uprising this number has increased dramatically, with over 40,000 arrests. This put great pressure on the prison facilities and necessitated the opening of new prison camps such as Ansar III (Ketsi’ot) in the Negev desert, and detention centers like Dhahriyya, just outside of Hebron.

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Our Fate, Our House

by Sahar Khalifeh
published in MER164

Many Palestinian stories are the stories of sons: heroes or victims, Everyman or Superman. In the intifada, the rebellious young men, the shabab, have become the sons of all the people and their exploits legendary.

Sahar Khalifeh’s stories, like her own life, are the stories of daughters, mothers and self. This story about Umm Samih resumes Khalifeh’s exploration of characters from the northern West Bank town of Nablus which figure in her three novels, Wild Thorns, The Sunflower and the semi-autobiographical Memoirs of an Unreliable Woman.

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