on radwa ashour’s spectres/atyaaf, in today’s independent

Radwa Ashour Spectres The Independent

Spectres (Atyaaf),

By Radwa Ashour

Trans Barbara Romaine

Pleased to see my very short review, shortened further to fit, of Spectres in today’s Independent: “Personal, Political and Painful” [UPDATE see below for full original review & an update from MW’s obituary for Radwa].

It ends;

Spectres combines invention, unofficial history and human abyss in an elliptical novel in which Ashour articulates an ethics rooted in Arabian and ancient Egyptian cultures. The result transforms a bleak constellation into a quietly stirring beacon. Spectres provides an irresistible companion to Barghouti’s memoir I Saw Ramallah, and a contrast to Elias Khoury’s more traditional Gate of the Sun. Spectres is a boldly original novel by an important writer whose exemplary work we need more of in English.”

I had a little more to say, but would only add now that the companionship with those two titles was predicated crucially on the words, “in translation”, thus referring to the disgracefully small pool of Arabic writing yet in English. As it stands it might be read as a weird and old-fashioned kind of valorisation, no? The word “demanding” has also gone from elsewhere, and again, I only mention it because though it’s indubitably great to see the novel celebrated in The Independent, it is the best of things; a demanding read in more ways than one.

My similarly tiny review of the Mahmoud Darwish’s rivetingly demanding Absent Presence (in the Mohammad Shaheen translation) will appear in due course… (UPDATE 2018: clean link here.)

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radwa ashour’s spectres, pamuk & pappe, november books of choice

Radwa Ashour’s Spectres [Atyaaf أطياف] is now available in English [Trans. Barbara Romaine] from Arabia Books in the UK and makes essential reading. Alongwith new books from Orhan Pamuk [HUP] and Ilan Pappe [Saqi], Spectres is one of the November Book Choices at Babelmed [at my suggestion]. Hooray for Babelmed; yet another reason to check it out…

UPDATE 03.xii.2010 A very short review of Spectres, commissioned by The Independent, will appear soon…