Review of Modern Arabic Fiction in Al-Ahram

There is a good review of the Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthologyin Al-Ahram Weekly. Of particular interest is the process the editor used in having the stories translated. Instead of translating them all herself she uses a team.

Likewise, in her anthologies, she argues that only poets can render poetry and only fiction writers can render fiction from another language. Thus she is adamant about having two translators for each work: a scholar and a native speaker from the original to English, revised by a writer in the target language, with her editing the final version to make sure that no stylistic or semantic errors have crept in.

Jayyusi acquainted herself with the literary scene in the US and UK and got to know personally many English-speaking creative writers and convinced them to partake in her many projects of translation.

The article also comments on the selection of the authors and the quality of the translations. Since Gamal Al-Ghitani has just won the Zayed prize the reviewer’s descrption sounds even more intriguing.

Jayyusi’s approach to Arabic fiction is marked by an analysis of its content and technique. In content, she sees fiction as a reflection of the turbulent history of modern Arabs, with hopes and dreams followed by disappointments and breakdowns — what she calls a sense of the apocalyptic. She points to a few names that stand out as models of certain trends in Arabic fiction: the Saudi ‘Abd al-Rahman Munif for his petrofiction depicting how oil has changed the ecology and the culture of the Gulf; the Egyptian Gamal al-Ghitani for his sophisticated use of time — mythical time in Kitab al-Tajalliyat (Book of Revelations) and historical time in Zayni Barakat ; the Palestinian Ghassan Kanafani for his sense of space and loss of place; the Egyptian Edward al-Kharrat as a modernist and an experimentalist; the Palestinian Ibrahim Nasralla as venturing into postmodernism; and the Iraqis Gha’ib Tu’ma Farman and Fu’ad al-Takarli for depicting the individual struggling against prevailing moeurs. As for the short story, Jayyusi concentrates in her introduction on two figures, the Egyptian Yusuf Idris and the Syrian Zakaria Tamir. Needless to say dozens of others are mentioned, including Ibrahim al-Koni and Radwa Ashour.