Apparently, my eyes were bigger than my…fingers?
So here you have it! The first 10 of the best hundred Arab novels selected by the Arab Writers Union. As has been noted elsewhere, the list is sometimes puzzling. Although perhaps it would be clearer if we knew the manner by which these titles were selected.
1 The Cairo Trilogy by Egyptian (Nobel-prize winning) author Naguib Mahfouz. Yes, of course it’s available in English: Trans. William Maynard Hutchins, Everyman’s Library, 2001.
2 In Search of Walid Masoud by the Palestinian author Jabra Ibrahim Jabra. This is available in English, translated by by Adnan Haydar & Roger Allen. Syracuse University Press, 2000. Also, Ghassan Nasr’s translation of Ibrahim Jabra’s The Journals of Sarab Affan, published by Syracuse University Press, was a runner-up for the Banipal translation prize in 2008.
3 Honor, by the great Egyptian writer Sonallah Ibrahim. As far as I can turn up, this has never been translated into English. Ibrahim’s Zaat, The Committee, and Stealth are easily available from AUC Press, AUC Press, and Aflame Books. The Smell of It was translated, too, but it’s long since out of print.
4 War in the Egyptian Homeland, by the Egyptian Yousef Al-Qaeed has not been translated. (Oops! Hilary notes that War in the Land of Egypt by Yusuf al-Qa’id—see where a non-standard transliteration will get me—was published by Interlink in 1997, translated by Olive and Lorne Kenny and Christopher Tingley. Yes, and my title translation was lame. Worse, I’ve read that translation….)
5 Men in the Sun, by the Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, was translated by Hilary Kilpatrick and published by Lynne Rienner Publishers in 1998.
6 The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist, by Palestinian Emile Habibi, was translated by Salma Khadra Jayyusi and published by Interlink in 2001. And that’s the translator’s title, not mine.
7 The Desolate Time, by Syrian author Haidar Haidar remains untranslated. I find nothing by Haidar Haidar in English.
8 Rama and the Dragon, by the Egyptian Edward al Kharrat, was translated by Ferial Ghazoul and John Verlenden and published by AUC Press in 2002.
9 Thus Spoke Abu Huraira, by the Tunisian author Mahmoud Messadi, has been translated into French, but not English. I can find nothing by Messadi (or, more properly, Al Messadi) in English.
10 Beirut Nightmares, by Syrian author Ghada Samman, was translated by Nancy N. Roberts and published by Quartet Books in 1998. Out of print, but Powell’s still has some. UPDATE: Quartet Books has re-released Beirut Nightmares. More about it when I know more.
Tags: Arab Writers Union, best Arabic books, Edwar al Kharrat, Emile Habibi, Ghada Samman, Ghassan Kanafani, Haidar Haidar, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Mahmoud Messadi, Naguib Mahfouz, Sonallah Ibrahim, Yusuf al-Qaid