Amrika..khabet lazi’- Mudhakkarat Talibat Bi’tha
(America.. as is - Memoirs of a Scholarship Student) (1995)
by Sarhan, Hala
Recounting her experiences as an Egyptian Ph.D. student on a scholarship in America, Hala Sarhan is hilarious. Written in the Egyptian colloquial dialect, this book of short stories hardly qualifies as a literary masterpiece, but is a rhetorical comedy to which many international students can relate. Each episode ranges from 2-3 pages, which makes it a perfect book to pick up for a quick laugh here and there.
- Recommended by Rula Hijazeen
Mawsim al-Hijra ila al-Shamal
(Season of Migration to the North) (1969)
by Saleh, Tayeb
Very popular and widely read, this novel depicts the Arab intellectual predicament following the Setback of 1967. It describes the journey of a Sudanese youth out of his backward country, the Sudan, to Cairo and then to England where he earns his PhD in economics. Following years of reckless and hedonistic life leading to tragic experiences with British women, Saeed returns home to lead a mysteriously secluded life. He decides to kill himself in the end as he is unable to tolerate the feeling of guilt from his European days. The novel is unique in seeming to portray an anti-Western Arab intellectual stand, while in reality it captures the vacuum lived by many Arab generations, who lost faith in their home political and social life and who also failed to make a compromise with the status quo at home.
- Recommended by Mohammed Sharafuddin
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Qasaid al-Hob al-Arabiyya (Arabian Love Poems)
Lynne Rainer Publishers, Boulder CO, 1999
Nizar Kabbani is "the most influential and best known Arab poet in modern times," accurately boasts the introduction by Bassam K. Frangieh. Kabbani was born in Syria in 1923 and he worked in Syria's diplomatic corps for more than twenty years before moving to London. He died in 1998 and was buried in Damascus. His poetry ran the gamut of love, life, society and politics. The latter got him into a bit of trouble after his poetry harshly criticized Arab governments for their failure in the war with Israel in 1967. Graciously, this book does not focus on politics, but instead on love. Much of the poetry connects, in an autobiographical way, the life of the writer with the life of his heart. An excerpt:
In the dictionaries,
letters and novels
I want to discover
A way to love you
The poems are offered both in English and in an elegantly hand-written Arabic text, which makes them accessible to the non-Arabic speaker as well as the intermediate Arabic student.
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