Tablet and Pen: Landscaping Literature of the Modern Middle East

Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle EastTablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East by Reza Aslan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like riding a magic rug when I read this book. It did not only take me to fly over the Arabian and Persian desert, India and its neighbouring countries, or Turkey. It also brought me to prominent authors of the land of the twentieth century. First, it brought you to meet Kahlil Gibran. But this famous poet did not present his poems. He described about The Future of the Arabic Language. Some of his words are:

The Western Spirit is at once our friend and our enemy. It is a friend if we can vanguish it and an enemy if it can vanquis us, a friend if we can open our hearts to it and an enemy if we offer it our hearts, a friend if we borrow from it that suits us and an enemy if we place ourselves in situations that suit it.(p. 8)

This book also describes about Persian Literature, and how politics influenced its movement. First of all, this section mentions that Persian Literature is perhaps the oldest and the most accomplished premodern literature of the Middle East.

Next, Pakistan and Independence of Urdu Literature comes up. One of short stories that are categorised here is telling about an activist of independence movement who must deal with the reality. He left the underground movement and lived an “ordinary life”. Something that I often hear about in this country.

All of authors whose works are chosen by editor of this book have something in common: they experienced repressive government. But not all of the works tell about sorrow. Some of them are even funny, like this one:

Announcer: what’s your name, brother?
Young man: Abd al-Mun’im al-Halabi
Announcer: are you married?
Young man: no, I’m a bachelor
Announcer: what’s your job?
Young man: I’m unemployed
Announcer: why aren’t you working? Are you rich or don’t you like working?
Young man: No, I’m not rich, and I don’t dislike work. I’ve been looking for work for years.
Announcer: what’s the one wish you would like to see granted?
Young man: to die now.
Announcer: dear listeners, our brother Abd al-Mun’im al-Halabi is obviously a zealous patriot. As you notice, in longing for death he actually wants to punish himself for not participating in the construction of our developing and ever-advancing society. (Lits)

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