Haddad said her magazine doesn't have an equivalent, not even in the Western cultures she is familiar with."It doesn't exist there simply because they don't need it. In the West, people own their bodies. In the Arab world, our bodies have been stolen from us," she said.That's a pretty stilly and debatable generalization. And I just can't get any sense from the article as to what this magazine is actually like. (I'm curious why it has a lot of subscribers in Saudi Arabia--did they order it just based on the title?) It all seems pretty gimmicky.
Margaret Atwood has pulled out of the inauguraul Emirates Airline international festival of literature in the wake of a novelist being blacklisted for potential offence to "cultural sensitivities".The book in question is former Observer journalist Geraldine Bell's "The Gulf Between Us," a romantic comedy set in the Gulf. It appears that a minor gay character--a local sheikh with a foreign boyfriend--may be the cause. You can read the author's take here. I am so bored with these "homosexuality/art/censorship" controversies in the Arab world. As the director of the festival himself points out at the end of the following statement he released, the controversy will only help the book's sales.
I have lived in Dubai for forty years. Based on my knowledge of who would appeal to the book-reading community in the Middle East, and having read 150 pages of Bedell’s manuscript I knew that her work could offend certain cultural sensitivities. I did not believe that it was in the festival’s long term interests to acquiesce to her publisher’s (Penguin) request to launch the book at the first festival of this nature in the Middle East. We do, of course, acknowledge the excellent publicity campaign being run by Penguin which will no doubt increase sales of her book and we wish Ms Bedell the very best.But I do think this snafu points to larger problems with the Gulf states' increasing patronage of the arts--from the many literary festivals they are organizing to the gigantic new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum. The Emirates want to put themselves on the world map as art and culture patrons, but they are out of step with international expectations about an artist's right to express herself and to tackle all manner of provocative subjects. (P.S. Thanks for the tip, Sumita)
We saw Mr. Obama as a symbol of this justice. We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza. Even before he officially took office, we expected him to take a stand against Israel’s war on Gaza. We still hope that he will condemn, if only with simple words, this massacre that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians. (I don’t know what you call it in other languages, but in Egypt we call this a massacre.) We expected him to address the reports that the Israeli military illegally used white phosphorus against the people of Gaza. We also wanted Mr. Obama, who studied law and political science at the greatest American universities, to recognize what we see as a simple, essential truth: the right of people in an occupied territory to resist military occupation. But Mr. Obama has been silent. So his brilliantly written Inaugural Speech did not leave a big impression on Egyptians. We had already begun to tune out. We were beginning to recognize how far the distance is between the great American values that Mr. Obama embodies, and what can actually be accomplished in a country where support for Israel seems to transcend human rights and international law.
"The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany...continues the process: an enthralling piece of storytelling as well as a brave and straight-dealing account of Cairo, al-Aswany's novel adopts the urban labyrinth of The Arabian Nights while containing its cast of intricately connected characters within a single, many-chambered building."I really struggle to see what in particular relates The Yacoubian Building to The Thousand and One Nights, other than the fact that they are both Arab works of literature. Other authors (Elias Khoury come to mind) have drawn much more explicit inspiration from the nestled, circular, divagatory narration of the Nights. To say that the Yacoubian Building "continues the process" is to say, really, nothing--it does so as much as any other work of Middle Eastern literature does, and just as any contemporary work of English literature "continues the process" of Shakespeare, or Dante. The automatic comparison of any work of Arabic literature to the 1001 Nights--just like the inevitable description of any Middle Eastern female narrator as a "Sheherazade"--is a bad habit that reviewers should lose. After all, as the rest of Warner's review makes clear, the Nights as we know them are in great part a European invention, and have influenced Western literature as much if not more than that of the East.