At Words Without Borders, Carol Perkins translates a short story about adultery--"The Masseuse and her Adulterous Husband"--by Syrian writer Salwa Al Neimi. (It has some striking information about adultery laws in Tunisia).
British playwright David Hare spends time in Israel and the Occupied Territories talking to people about and visiting different points in the wall that now separates the two; he writes a personal, provocative essay in the New York Review of Books. Here's a passage:
And that's what I feel in Jerusalem as well. Jerusalem used to be the spiritual capital—after all, that's what the argument was about. You could feel it, on every street corner, you could feel the history, but now with the hideous wall and the overbuilding and desecration of the landscape—I mean, what is going on? Aren't they destroying the very quality for which the city was meant to be precious? Aren't they killing the thing they love? Or is that my problem? Am I just a decadent Westerner who can't help thinking spirituality must have something to do with beauty? Jerusalem used to be beautiful. Now it isn't. As far as I'm concerned, Jerusalem is spoiled—How can it not be spoiled? It has a great concrete wall beside it—but then Jerusalem was never intended for me. It was intended for believers.
At The National, George Packer reviews a book about an Iraqi general, his family, and their complicity in Saddam's regime; Robyn Creswell reviews Adina Hoffman's biography of Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali (he says it is "a triumph of sympathetic imagination, dogged research and impassioned writing" and "the is the first biography of any Palestinian writer in any language"--can that be true?)
And finally, ArteEast has a new issue of their digital magazine up; this one focuses on the Art of Engagement--on the intersection of political activism, political engagement and art, the "limits and possibilities of publicly engaged art and participatory practice in the Middle East."