Thursday, 9 September 2010

Beirut 39, a reader's thoughts.

I was excited when Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation announced the release of their first publications. The one to catch my eye (and quite a few media reviews) was “Beirut 39” a collection of short stories from around the Arab World. This is the work of the 39 Arab writers aged 39 or less who were chosen from more than 480 entrants by the Beirut39 panel of judges last October. The panel was chaired by Egyptian critic Gaber Asfour, Omani poet Saif al-Rahbi,  Lebanese poet and critic Abdo Wazen, and Lebanese novelist Alawiya Sobh.

The exciting part for me was that I finally get to read content “from” my region and not just “about” it. Like many Lebanese who were educated abroad or in foreign language schools, I’ve mainly been consuming French and English literature my entire life, so I miss having content from my own culture.

Although I haven’t read the full collection yet, thought I’d share my initial thoughts:
- I loved the intro by Hanan Al Shaykh, one of my favorite writers. As she says these stories “have flung open the doors on Arab culture, inviting the reader to transcend cultural boundaries and land in a region known as the ‘Arab World"
- The short stories are just that, short and sweet, well written, well translated and insightful.
As I said I haven’t read all of them yet, but a few familiar themes have come up already: violence/war and terrorism, sexual repression, female repression.
- Yet, what I’m missing is the light hearted aspect of our life: the joking, socializing, togetherness that make up our society and which I think we fail to communicate in our literature. It seems every time I read anything from or about the Arab world, it centers on how dysfunctional and war ravaged we are, or how religion is a source of repression. I want to read something FUN!

Click here to read a review of Beirut 39 by the Guardian.
Click here if you want to know more about Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation. 

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