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Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East (Words Without Borders) Hardcover – November 8, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This mammoth anthology goes a long way toward achieving its equally mammoth goal: to shift American views of the Middle East away "from the ubiquitous images of terrorists and fanatics." With selections covering the past 100 years and from countries as diverse as Iran, Turkey, Morocco, and Pakistan, the book presents a progression from largely premodern tales through mid-century post-colonialism to a contemporary globalized Islam and Middle East. Despite the panoramic view and the dazzling array of writers, it all hangs together exceedingly well, and the carefully conceived scaffolding is in service of some extraordinary literature. Jalal Al-e Ahmad's "Gharbzadegi" (roughly translated as "Westoxification"), a passionate call for Arabs to stop aping the West, could give today's pundit class several lessons in wit and rhetoric. The outstanding excerpt from Sadegh Hedayat's The Blind Owl should get the neglected translation some new readers. These prose pieces are met by equally accomplished poetry that ranges from the ranks of titans Adonis and Mahmoud Darwish to a host of lesser-knowns plying a range of styles and subjects. An impressive success that spans vast regions of time and territory, this is that rare anthology: cohesive, affecting, and informing. (Nov.)
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Iranian American best-selling writer and professor Aslan has created a vibrant anthology that embraces the modern Middle East “from Morocco to Iran, Turkey to Pakistan.” This unique and splendid gathering of poems, memoirs, fiction, and essays, many translated into English for the first time from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu, covers the past century of frenetic disruption and change in works of beauty, dissent, irony, and romance. Among the 70 writers are the Arab poet Khalil Gibran, the Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, influential Syrian Lebanese poet Adonis, and Mahmoud Darwish, the voice of Palestine. Of particular interest are women writers. Parvin E’tesami (1907–41), of Iran, wrote in a poem titled “Iranian Women”: “Her life she spent in isolation; she died in isolation. / What was she then if not a prisoner?” Born in 1940, Kishwar Naheed, of Pakistan, winner of the Nelson Mandela Award, writes, “It is we sinful women / who come out raising the banner of truth.” Many truths are brought to light in this remarkably energetic and gloriously multicultural volume from a crucial part of the world. --Donna Seaman
Top customer reviews
I urge anyone reading this review to click the "Look Inside" feature above.
Just read the "Author Biographies"(starting on page 611) and you will come to understand the sheer magnitude and diversity of middle-eastern literature we have been missing out on- and the importance of such an anthology!
Reza Aslan is a sophisticated and charismatic advocate of cultural pluralism and an invaluable moderate voice in the twilight of religious and political reformation.
Watch him discuss this book (and provide some comic-relief) on this clip from The Colbert Report:
The stories were interesting and odd, in the way Manto and Ismat's stories are wont to be. I always feel a bit confused whenever I watch a drama based on Manto's writing, he seems very abstract and unrelatable to the common person from that region. As much as I enjoy drama, as young as I am, and as much time as I've spent outside that region, his stories seem soooo far fetched to me, I can't get into them. But I found this story surprisingly well written, more relatable than I'd like it to be, and refreshingly honest (which is what I always FEEL like he's trying to be, but ends up NOT being to me... the complete opposite if anything).
This is one time I didn't end up thinking, "oh God, here he goes trying to be deep and weird again". I actually found the message to be an IMPORTANT one for people of that region itself, PARTICULARLY the theme of honesty/dishonesty to oneself about one's intentions/emotions and the "showmanship of fighting for freedom/living up to your principles" which is so common, and a weakness, of the South Asian culture.
But it was very VERY interesting to read how certain metaphors in the poems were attempted to be deciphered in English; this was the the reason I couldn't give it five stars. Poems that were meant to be very very deep ending up sounded two dimensional and almost silly/humorous. Two of his poems, that I LOVE, basically got butchered in translation, but honestly, I don't see how they could've been carried over intact.
Most recent customer reviews
introduction; were it not for the editor's ideologue-mentality regarding the "West"...Read more