Monday, November 19, 2007

Learning from Arab Literature

Following my last post, I was fascinated to read Maya Jaggi's article in Saturday's Guardian Review, drawing attention to the dearth of writing from the Arab world being translated into English. I had recently become aware of this, at least in the context of Iraq, when organising an event focusing on Iraqi writers for Scottish PEN. But according to this article, the situation is more extreme and more general to the Arab world than I had realised, and Edward Said is quoted as saying that "of all the major literatures and languages, Arabic is by far the least known and the most grudgingly regarded by Europeans and Americans". This does seem ironic given the lead bequeathed to the world by Arab culture in the arts of literature and translation, and important to address as Maya Jaggi says, as 'Arabic literature...can transform impressions of people who might otherwise remain misunderstood'. The flow of literature between our cultures can help us see what we have in common. Now to help redress the balance in my own reading, I am off to buy Palestinian Walks - Notes on a Vanishing Landscape by Raja Shehadeh.

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