Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Arabic literature. "Not a rennaissace because there hasn't been a decline or a degeneration"

An very interesting interview with Rasheed El-Enany, a professor of modern Arabic literature at the UK's prestigious University of Exeter.
"For instance, student recruitment to Arabic and Islamic studies after the 9/11 and 7/7 [in the UK] attacks has increased tremendously. At the beginning of this century, we were getting about 15 students every year for Arabic and Islamic studies. Now we get about 40 students every year at my own university, but it’s indicative of similar trends operating across the board."

"now you have interesting literature and worthy talent coming from everywhere. If you look at this year's list of candidates for the Arabic Booker prize, of the 16 best titles, three were by Saudi Arabian writers. The novel is flourishing in Saudi Arabia, a place you usually associate with conservatism and a dearth of creativity."

But it's not all "rosy", censorship is a huge problem especially when religion is concerned:
"This is the worst thing that can happen and it leads to self-censorship. This means you try to anticipate all these horrible things and guard against it from the beginning. No Arabic writers can really write about religion, for instance. People can write about politics, in some Arab countries anyway, and they can write about sex. But the fundamental question of faith, of belief, of the role of religion in society--this remains a hugely taboo area, one that I’m sure countless authors are really wary about expressing their views on."

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