Interlink Proposes 4 New Arab Novels

22 September, 2020

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This fall, Inter­link Books, an inde­pen­dent and immi­grant-owned pub­lish­er, builds upon its exten­sive cat­a­logue of fic­tion in trans­la­tion from the Arab world with four note­wor­thy titles, three by female writ­ers and one by Sau­di Ara­bi­an nov­el­ist Abdel Rah­man Munif, author of the mon­u­men­tal quin­tet, Cities of Salt.

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In Won­drous Jour­neys in Strange Lands, Sonia Nim­r’s rich­ly imag­ined his­tor­i­cal fable recalls the famous trav­el nar­ra­tives of the 14th cen­tu­ry Moroc­can trav­el­er Ibn Bat­tuta. “In a tent at the foot of a moun­tain in Pales­tine, hun­dreds of years ago, our sto­ry­teller and her twin sis­ter are born.” Her pro­tag­o­nist, Qamr, tells sto­ries and takes on dif­fer­ent guis­es to sur­vive as she trav­els across con­ti­nents. In strange lands that decree she can­not, Qamr will dis­cov­er on her won­drous jour­neys that she can. Trans­lat­ed by Mar­cia Lynx Qualey.

Short­list­ed for the Inter­na­tion­al Prize for Ara­bic Fic­tion, Sum­mer with the Ene­my fol­lows the charm­ing, if at times dif­fi­cult, every­day life of three Raqqan women: Lamis; her moth­er, Najwa; and her grand­moth­er, Kar­ma. “The west­ern pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion about the now dev­as­tat­ed city of Raqqa, Syr­ia is filled with sta­t­ic and clichéd images of the Arab world.”  A mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional fam­i­ly tale, this sto­ry demon­strates the com­plex­i­ty of life in Raqqa with atten­tion to the inti­mate details of lives and rela­tion­ships, and with an eye to the larg­er his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­texts in which they inhab­it. Trans­lat­ed by Michelle Hartman.

Short­list­ed for the Inter­na­tion­al Prize for Ara­bic Fic­tion, The Amer­i­can Grand­daugh­ter depicts the Amer­i­can occu­pa­tion of Iraq through the eyes of a young Iraqi Amer­i­can woman, who returns to her coun­try as an inter­preter for the US Army. Through the nar­ra­tor’s con­flict­ing emo­tions, we see the tragedy of a coun­try which, hav­ing bat­tled to emerge from dic­ta­tor­ship, then finds itself under for­eign occu­pa­tion. Win­ner of France’s Lagardère Prize. Trans­lat­ed by Nari­man Youssef

End­ings from the prodi­gious Abdel Rah­man Munif is strik­ing not only for its set­ting and style of nar­ra­tive, but for being a vivid com­men­tary on the emer­gence of the mod­ern city and its urban mid­dle class. Drought is not just an occa­sion­al but an endur­ing con­di­tion faced by the vil­lage of ai-Tiba—an alle­go­ry for all vil­lages fac­ing nature unaid­ed by mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy. Trans­lat­ed by Roger Allen.