Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Arab Novel

Gulf News has an article on the threatened nature of the Arab novel. Although the figure quoted blames the rise of television, the fact novels have managed to co-exist with television elsewhere suggests other factors are at work.

One take on this is to blame authoritarian regimes that threaten artistic expression. Another is the fact that poetry and short stories have always been stronger in the Arab world than the novel, standouts like Naguib Mahfouz notwithstanding. However, I would really like to see someone analyze this situation in terms of language. Most novels are written in Modern Standard Arabic, which Arabs have to learn in school and understand with varying degrees of proficiency. Using it to read a newspaper or listen to a khutba is one thing, but what percentage of people is willing to spend relaxation time reading in it?


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