Beirut 39: New Writing from the Arab World

Samuel Shimon, Editor, Hanan al-Shaykh, Preface by . Bloomsbury $16 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60819-202-1

This fascinating collection of pieces by 39 young Arab voices from all over the world was put together by the Hay Festival in celebration of Beirut's 2009 selection as World Book Capital. Incorporating stories, poems, and novel excerpts, the enormously varied lineup includes Abdellah Taia's “The Wounded Man,” about a gay university student in Morocco watching a forbidden French film during Ramadan; an excerpt from Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmad Saadwi, in which a garbage-diver searches for the perfect nose to complete the “hybrid body” he's assembling; and “Haneef from Glasgow” by Mohammad Hassan, in which a Kashmiri immigrant is viewed through the eyes of his Saudi employers' son. Nazem El Sayed contributes delightfully compact revelations in his “Thirteen Poems”; Randa Jarrar takes a tender look at a Palestinian boy in “The Story of My Building”; Hala Kawtharani explores the Beirut of the 1950s and '60s in “Lebanon/Switzerland? Beirut/Paris?” Because they are so involving and diverse, readers may be frustrated by the entries' brevity, though anyone working on their to-read list will find plenty of ideas. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/19/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
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