19: Back To School
We talk about the relationships between education and literature; about a devastating entry in the prison memoir genre, from Syria; about the legacy of V.S. Naipaul; and about why Kuwait is the worst offender in the region for censoring books.
- This was our back to school episode, informed by the scholarship of Erin Twohig and Ursula’s “Hard Lessons: North African Writers on Education” at al-Fanar. We particularly talked about Mohamed Nedali’s Grâce à Jean de la Fontaine, a satiric and scathing account of the life of a schoolteacher in Morocco, and also Radwa Ashour’s writing on education, in her The Journey (translated by Michelle Hartman) and her later Spectres (translated by Barbara Romaine).
- The discussion also veered slightly to the interview and mixtape with Ma3azef magazine co-founder Ma’an Abu Taleb on Bidoun.
- Ursula’s summer reading included Mustafa Khalifa’s devastating novel The Shell, based on his experiences in Syria’s Tadmor prison, in which he reclaims and re-inscribes humanity. It has been translated to English by Paul Starkey.
- The death of V.S. Naipaul led to several interesting conversations about his work and legacy. Here is one, between Nikil Saval and Pankaj Mishra in n+1.
- And here is a piece by Teju Cole from a few years back about meeting the writer.
- Finally, Kuwaiti readers are pushing back against censorship -- you can follow the online part of the campaign at #ممنوع_في_الكويت and #صور_كتاب_ممنوع_في_مكتبتك. MA student Abrar Alshammari is writing up a longer essay on the current situation for Arablit, but for background, 'It's like they were selling heroin to schoolkids': censorship hits booksellers at Kuwait book fair at The Guardian and Leading Kuwaiti Writers Saud Alsanousi and Bothayna al-Essa on Pushing Back Against a Season of Censorship at ArabLit.