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Prison Narratives, Twitter, and One Israeli Author: Cairo's 2016 Book Fair

Every year Egypt's massive annual book fair, held this year between January 27th and February 10th, attracts authors, publishers, and curious readers from around the Arab-speaking  world. Here are a few surprising titles that  the National Library acquired this year, among over 800 new Arabic books added to the Islam and Middle East collection. This year's highlights include: prison literature; historical fiction set in the waning days of al-Andalus; Twitter culture, and a translation of an Israeli book written by an Army Radio journalist that has caused quite a ruckus.

With the conclusion of the massive Cairo book fair we have selected a few surprising titles from the fair that were purchased by the Library. Among the hits this year: prison narratives, a novel, social networks, and a book written by Army Radio correspondent Jacky Hugi that manages to anger many visitors.

 

Last week the gigantic Cairo International Book Fair came to a close; to get a sense of the scale, imagine Israel's own Hebrew Book Week and multiply it one hundred times. This yearly event draws millions of visitors and hundreds of authors and publishers from across the Arab world. This is the largest and most well established book event in the Middle East, and one of the largest worldwide.

 

For anyone who wants to know what's new in Arabic literature, the latest trends, and what interests the Arabic-reading public – this is the place to be. For that reason, it is also the "place" for the National Library. Every year the Library purchases hundreds of books there in order to expand the holdings of its Islam and Middle East Collection, and to make those new titles available to researchers, scholars, and the general public. This year, the Library purchased more than eight hundred books from across the Arab world, from Mauritania to Oman.

 

In order to give a sense of what's hot now in Arab culture, we have chosen five books that particularly captured our attention over the course of the book fair, and will soon be available to our readers.

 

 

 

 


How did an Israeli Army Radio reporter's book find its way to the Cairo book fair?

 

Book title:

Arabian Nights.com

ألف ليلة دوت كوم

Author: Jacky Hugi

 

Army Radio's Arab affairs correspondent Jacky Hugi wrote Arabian Nights.com in order to expose Israeli society to recent developments in the Arab world. The book was translated from the original Hebrew by Egyptian historian Amro Zakariyya who wanted to understand how Israeli society views the Arab world.

 

While the book was on display and available for purchase at the beginning of the Cairo Book Fair, within a few days it disappeared from the shelves. This move followed complaints aired by several Egyptian cultural figures who were angry that a book by an Israeli "Army" radio journalist had found its way to this important Arab cultural event. Those critics argued that the book's presence violates Egypt's anti-normalization policy towards Israel. They even demanded that the Egyptian Minister of Culture investigate who approved the display of the book in the first place.

 

 

"Hurricane," the Gulf version

 

Book title:

A Voice from the Past

صوت من الماضي

 

Author:

Zahran bin Zaher Al-Sarmi and Asa'd bin Said Al-Hanai

 

The two ex-prisoners who authored A Voice from the Past dedicated their work to their friends who still remain imprisoned in two notorious Omani jails. 

 

The authors provide an unvarnished description of daily life in two notorious prisons in the Emirates, Kut al-Jalali and al-Ramsis, from their incarceration there between 1973-1985. 

 

A Voice from the Past is not a singular work; accounts of incarceration and the trials and tribulations of prison life are widespread in Arabic literature. The book will soon be available  on the shelves of the National Library.

 

 


 

Andalusian "Game of Thrones"

 

Book title:

Dusk (Gharib)

غارب

 

Author:

Muhamad 'Abd Al-Qahhar

 

Set in the final days of the Muslim kingdom of Granada, this novel was written by the Egyptian author Muhamad 'Abd al-Qahhar. It describes a fight between three kings over the throne and the terrible price paid by everyday civilians.

 

This promising young author's astonishing description of the fall of Andalusia, will soon be available on the shelves of the National Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her Side of the Story

 

Book title:

White Sleep

النوم الأبيض

 

Author:

Jana Nasrallah

 

Lebanese author and journalist Jana Nasrallah's debut book, White Sleep, addresses Arab societies' ongoing struggle with a semi-autobiographical novel.

 

The book has received accolades in the Arab press for its multi-layered and bold female narrative voice. While feminist perspectives remain suspect in traditional Arabic societies, novels like Nasrallah's are becoming more and more popular.

 

This book will soon be available  on the shelves of the National Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tweeting from Saudi Arabia

 

Book title:

Twitter Culture

ثقافة تويتر

 

Author:

Abdallah Alradimi

 

Professor Abdallah Alradimi's "Twitter Culture" is a scholarly study of the power of the social media in Arab society.

 

The book engages in a philosophic argument on the value of free speech, and the significance of Twitter in particular as an instrument of revolution.

 

This book will soon be available on the shelves of the National Library.