Culture links: Al Aswany and Darwish
The Complete Review takes a look at Alaa Al Aswany's Friendly Fire (just out in English) and finds that:
Al Aswany's writing is generally tighter and more consistent in these smaller, more concentrated efforts -- perhaps because he doesn't have to force bridges between episodes and takes the freedom to only write what needs be written. Yet the much greater scale and reach of his novels, and his free-wheeling mix of stories in them is a great part of their appeal, and while the stories collected in Friendly Fire are well done, the sum of them does not have nearly the power of, especially, a novel such as The Yacoubian Building.
(I've actually heard from a good many people now that they prefer these short stories to The Yacoubian Building, and definitely to the generally panned Chicago).
A lovely poem by Mahmoud Darwish. And an excellent piece at The Review on the relationship between Darwish's early, politically engagé poems, and his later, more inward-looking work. Robyn Creswell (who wrote a fine piece for Harper's on Darwish a while back) notes that:
It is difficult for the English reader to appreciate, for example, the extent to which Darwish’s late poetry is a complex mode of self-criticism. Darwish was always his own severest judge. He never allowed any one style, however successful, to harden into a method. His final lyrics are very distinct from the plainspoken, confrontational poetry that made him a celebrity while he was still in his early twenties. They are also distinct from the poetry he wrote in Beirut during the Civil War, or during the first Intifada, or the long foundering and bitter aftermath of the Oslo Accords. Indeed, Darwish’s late poetry is in an important sense a reaction against his earlier work, an attempt to escape the prisons of his former personae.
As the piece mentions, much of Darwish's work is available in English now.