Literature

Ruminations on Political Violence

Texts Reviewed

Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).
Joseba Zulaika and William A. Douglass, Terror and Taboo: The Follies, Fables and Faces of Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 1996).
Meredith Turshen and Clotilde Twagiramariya, eds., What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa (London: Zed Books, 1998).
Suha Sabbagh, ed., Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998).

Women, War and Exile

Miriam Cooke, War's Other Voices: Women Writers on the Lebanese Civil War (Syracuse University Press, 1996).

May Ghousoub, Leaving Beirut (London: Saqi Books, 1998).

Emily Nasrallah, Flight Against Time (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997).

Men, Women and God(s)

Fedwa Malti-Douglas, Men, Women and God(s): Nawal El Saadawi and Arab Feminist Poetics (California, 1995).

Terrorism, Class and Democracy in Egypt

During April 1994, armed actions of the radical Islamist opposition in Egypt achieved a new level of lethal efficiency. One Gama‘a Islamiyya (Islamic Group) hit squad killed Maj. Gen. Ra’uf Khayrat, who was responsible for conducting undercover operations against them; another assassinated the chief of security of Asyout province, the Islamist stronghold in upper Egypt; a third shot at a train transporting tourists to the Pharaonic monuments of upper Egypt; and two or three ordinary policemen were shot each week.

Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature

Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature Edited
by Salma Khadra Jayyusi. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. 744 pages.

Marxism and Postmodernism

During the Thatcher-Reagan-Bush era, just as critical intellectuals and left political activists had won a small place for the concepts of political economy and class analysis in academia, postmodernism and post-structuralism replaced Marxism as the favored mode of Anglo-American intellectual radicalism.

Is the “Fatwa” a Fatwa?

In saluting author Salman Rushdie and expressing solidarity with his plight, I would like to put on the table the question of whether the notorious “fatwa” issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Rushdie is really a fatwa in the first place. This is neither an academic exercise nor a purely theoretical investigation, but a matter of great practical relevance to any strategy (and tactics) for helping Rushdie the prisoner, writer and human being transcend the debilitating impasse in which he finds himself.

Layoun and Boullata

Mary Layoun, Travels of a Genre: The Modern Novel and Ideology (Princeton, 1990).

Issa Boullata, Trends and Issues in Contemporary Arab Thought (SUNY, 1990).

Binder, Islamic Liberalism

Leonard Binder, Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development Ideologies (Chicago, 1988).

War and Sexuality

The Gulf way may ultimately transform Arab politics even more radically than the political-military defeats of 1948 and 1967. Those experiences were the midwives of self-critical reassessments that, while severe, accepted the fundamental legitimacy of Arab nationalism and its political project. In the 1980s a current of feminist thinking emerged, expressed most consistently in Lebanese women’s fiction about the civil war, that poses questions challenging the coherence and viability of this project and its ordering of political and social priorities.

The Intellectuals and the War

Edward Said is Parr Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University, a member of the Palestine National Council and a contributing editor of this magazine. Along with Noam Chomsky, he is one of the foremost opposition public intellectuals in the United States, a role he plays in the Arab world as well. Barbara Harlow interviewed him in New York in early April 1991.

How would you characterize the portrayal of the Gulf crisis and war in the US and in Europe?

Choueiri, Arab History and the Nation-State

Marxism in the United States developed on the margin of society. Shunned by organized labor, it has confronted this society as an outsider. Until the 1970s, the most successful American Marxist works of scholarship were macro studies by economists, written as if from a distance and emphasizing economic more than political and cultural aspects of rule and resistance to rule. Then the tableau in political economy began to widen. The writings of Eugene Genovese were an important part of this process. Politics was returning.

Cooke, War’s Other Voices

Miriam Cooke, War’s Other Voices: Women Writers on the Lebanese Civil War (Cambridge, 1988).

Satanic Verses in Detroit

Ayatollah Khomeini’s death sentence of February 14, 1989 continues to affect the lives of people far removed from its original target — author Salman Rushdie. More than a year later, in Dearborn, Michigan, local sympathizers of the ayatollah within the Arab American community disrupted a talk on Rushdie’s Satanic Verses by Nabeel Abraham, an Arab American activist and member of the MERIP board of directors. Abraham talked about his experience with journalist Jonathan Scott.

Why were the protesters so fiercely opposed to your lecture?

Prison Text, Resistance Culture

The Israeli prison apparatus is a critical and contested site in the manifold struggle to control communication and information in the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. During the two decades of occupation before the intifada, prisons in Israel and the Occupied Territories housed an average of 4,000 Palestinian political detainees at any one time. Since the start of the uprising this number has increased dramatically, with over 40,000 arrests. This put great pressure on the prison facilities and necessitated the opening of new prison camps such as Ansar III (Ketsi’ot) in the Negev desert, and detention centers like Dhahriyya, just outside of Hebron.

Our Fate, Our House

Many Palestinian stories are the stories of sons: heroes or victims, Everyman or Superman. In the intifada, the rebellious young men, the shabab, have become the sons of all the people and their exploits legendary.

Sahar Khalifeh’s stories, like her own life, are the stories of daughters, mothers and self. This story about Umm Samih resumes Khalifeh’s exploration of characters from the northern West Bank town of Nablus which figure in her three novels, Wild Thorns, The Sunflower and the semi-autobiographical Memoirs of an Unreliable Woman.

Sacrilegious Discourse

More than a quarter of a century after independence, the Maghrib’s Francophone literary output is flourishing. If one adds to this the Beur literature produced by second and third generation immigrants of North African heritage, Maghribi literature in French appears to be the single most important literary and aesthetic phenomenon permeating French culture today. One of the most important exponents of this literature is Tahar Ben Jelloun, the Moroccan recipient of the prestigious Goncourt Prize in 1987. The warm critical reception of his two novels, The Sand Child and The Sacred Night (translated by Alan Sheridan, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1987 and 1989), epitomizes the increasing popularity and success of Maghribi literature in French.

Toward a World Literature?

The Prix Goncourt, always the biggest literary event of the year in France, became even more so in 1987, when the venerable Goncourt Academy named Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun as its eightieth laureate. In French literary circles, reaction to the selection of Ben Jelloun’s novel, La Nuit saerde, contained an unmistakable current of relief, as if to say that the situation of the Arab community in France really could not be so bad if a North African received the Prix Goncourt. Within that Arab community, the optimism was somewhat more guarded (about the book as well as the prize), but certainly no one regretted the increased visibility that the award brought to French-language North African literature.

Harlow, Resistance Literature

Barbara Harlow, Resistance Literature (New York: Methuen Press, 1987)

Resistance Literature is a wide-ranging and impressive critical study of the literatures of contemporary “Third World” liberation movements as they confront and alter the literary and political categories of the “West.” It is not only an introduction to Third World literature, although that function is ably accomplished by Harlow’s text. Resistance Literature also argues for the crucial political significance of literary texts and, by extension, for the necessity of an informed political commentary on those texts.

Editor’s Bookshelf (July/August 1988)

The defeat of the Arab states in the June 1967 war was more than a military setback. It was also a blow against the radical nationalist project and its modern and secular cultural orientation which bonded the Arab world and the West even as it provided a framework for resistance to Western economic, political and cultural domination. Since 1967, only the Palestinian national movement has continued to advance the flag of radical nationalism. Elsewhere, a romantic Islamism, brandishing the slogan of cultural “authenticity,” has posed the most consistent challenge to continuing Western domination of the Middle East.

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