Props

The Review is the cultural supplement of the Abu Dhabi daily The National. They're only about two months old (maybe three, time flies) and I've been writing for them this summer. I still haven't formed an opinion on the daily paper; I simply haven't been reading it often enough. But I read The Review online yesterday and was impressed--I feel like it's really coming together. Youssef Rakha, formerly of Al Ahram Weekly, reviews Sonallah Ibrahim's new novel. Rakha emphasizes the importance and originality of Ibrahim's debut autobiographical novel تلك الرائحة (translated as "The Smell of It") and gives what strikes me as perhaps too short shrift to later works such as "Zaat" and "Sharaf," but he has his arguments, and he's very enthusiastic about Ibrahim's latest, a historical novel set during the French invasion of Egypt and entitled "The Turban and the Hat."  Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, who used to write for the Daily Star and whose work I've been impressed with for years, writes about Palestinian conceptual artist Emily Jacir, whose latest work re-constructs and explores the assassination of Palestinian intellectual Wael Zuaiter in Rome in 1972; the work opens a discussion about the assassinations of many Palestinian artists, writers and intellectuals in that period. Wilson-Goldie also discusses previous works by Jacir, all of which show how relevant and thoughtful conceptual art can be. Finally there's a very nicely written piece by Suleiman Din about the homesick musical gatherings of Pakistani construction workers in Abu Dhabi. 
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The missing "Metro"

My article about the confiscated graphic novel "Metro" came out in The Review, the weekend cultural supplement of The National, a new English daily based in Abu Dhabi. Below is the opening paragraph. You can see translated panels from the novel at Words Without Borders.  

In a pivotal scene in the Egyptian graphic novel “Metro,” a blind old shoe-shiner stumbles upon an anti-government demonstration in the streets of Cairo. “Where can the oppressed find justice? Where can the hungry find food?” chant the demonstrators. The old man, almost without realizing it, starts mumbling along. A few frames later, he’s being carried on the shoulders of the demonstrators, having improvised a choice slogan of his own. A few frames further on, he’s being beaten by a gang of those young thugs routinely employed by the authorities to break up demonstrations. In two pages, the author of “Metro” has suggested the appeal and hopefulness of recent democracy movement in Egypt, as well as the severe consequences of any political activism.

 

 

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$$ Egyptian Art $$

The cover story of the latest issue of Egypt Today is all about Egyptian artists who are making it big in the world art market. The story quotes some of the (rapidly rising) prices for which contemporary Egyptian art is selling, and suggests that both Western galleries and local collectors are increasingly interested in buying it. The discussion of the art itself isn't particularly insightful--I didn't get much of a sense of what distinguished the work of the artists featured, other than the fact that they all could be sold internationally. And I was left wondering how Egypt compares to other countries in the Middle East, like Lebanon and Iran, and to Abu Dhabi--where the art market is by all accounts booming and the Louvre is opening a franchise. But it's nice to see that there's some hope of financial support for Egyptian visual artists.  
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