Marcia Lynx Qualey
Last updated: 18 October, 2014

14 Arab books that will keep you enlightened for the rest of 2014

Fourteen books that give you something to curl up with as the nights grow shorter. The best and most interesting of what’s coming out this fall, from columnist and blogger 'Arablit'.


Women of Karantina, Nael Eltoukhy, trans. Robin Moger (AUC Press)

A favorite of several prize-winning Egyptian authors, novelist and short-story writer Mohammad Abdelnaby says the book has “an epic tone that laughs at everything, an unusual lightness of spirit, and a surprisingly fresh treatment of old motifs such as violence or succession, al-Toukhy creates something unprecedented in the history of the Arabic novel, and in a language that does a very special dance between simple Modern Standard Arabic and an Egyptian Arabic that is colorful and perhaps obscene.”


Beirut, Beirut, Sonallah Ibrahim, trans. Chip Rossetti (BQFP)

Set during Lebanon’s civil war, the novel follows the misadventures of an Egyptian writer who goes to Beirut in an attempt to find a publisher for his work.

Revolution is My Name, Mona Prince, trans. Samia Mehrez (AUC Press)

You can read an excerpt on the AUC website, and more about the book on Jadaliyya. 

Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Selected Poems, Qassim Haddad, trans. Ferial Ghazoul and John Verlenden (Syracuse University Press)

Ghazoul and Verlenden won the University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award for this book in addition to the $100,000 translation grant the pair received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to “create a comprehensive edition of Haddad’s work in English.” Read some of Haddad’s poems. Read an excerpt here.


Oh, Salaam!, Najwa Barakat, trans. Luke Leafgren (Interlink Books)

Luqman, the novel’s protagonist, is a young former militiaman, trying to make a living in a post-war Lebanon. While you’re waiting on Oh, Salaam!, read an excerpt from another of Barakat’s novels, also trans. Leafgren: “The Bus.”


Arabs and the Art of Storytelling: A Strange Familiarity, by Abdelfattah Kilito, trans. Eric Sellin and Mbarek Sryfi (Syracuse University Press)

Read a charming recent interview with Kilito. Note: This is actually a translation from the French, but about Arabic literature, so.

Monarch of the Square An Anthology of Muhammad Zafzaf’s Short Storiestrans. Mbarek Sryfi and Roger Allen (Syracuse University Press)

A wide-ranging collection that looks at Zafzaf’s stories from all eras of his long writing career. Many wonderful, visceral shorts examining the lives of Moroccans. Interview with Sryfi forthcoming on ArabLit, insha’allah.


The Book of the Sultan’s Seal, Youssef Rakha, trans. Paul Starkey (Clockroot Books)

A game-changing novel for Egyptian literature, you can read about the novel here.


Crocodiles, Youssef Rakha, trans. Robin Moger (Seven Stories Press)

You can read two excerpts on Moger’s website: “In the Evening I Think on the Moon” and “The Oblivious Body.”

Lanterns of the King of GallileeIbrahim Nasrallah, trans. Nancy Roberts (AUC Press)

Another in the series that includes The Time of White Horses, this is a book of eighteenth-century Palestine.


French Perfume
Amir Tag El Sir, trans. William Hutchins (ANTIBOOKCLUB)

A hilarious, fast-paced novel that is very different from the East-West novel by El Sir’s famous uncle, Tayeb Salih, but nonetheless interrogates the same relationship.


The Penguin’s SongHassan Daoud, trans. Marilyn Booth (City Lights)

This was a labor of love for translator Marilyn Booth, and you can read excerpts here and here.

Iraq + 100ed. Hassan Blasim, various translators (Comma Press)

Stories set in Iraq 100 years into the future, including work by celebrated Iraqi novelist Ali Bader.


The Revolt of the Young: Essays by Tawfiq al-Hakimtrans. Mona Radwan

Essays by one of Arabic literature’s all-time leading lights.