Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenössischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heißes Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen während der Erarbeitung eines Stücks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



Books this Season: Arabic Literature

Winter 2004/2005

Fiction / Arabic Literature / Memoirs and Biographies / Politics / Nonfiction

Readers of the German press did not profit much from the thematic focus of the 2004 Frankfurt Book Fair 'Arab Worlds'. What little media attention the few Arab authors received came mainly from critics in exile. While Die Zeit published a supplement on Arabic literature, essays from Arab intellectuals on Islam and the West were notably absent. Yet maybe a volume of verse by Syrian poet Adonis will generate more interest in the Arab world than clever political commentary. And perhaps a book on Arab cuisine with recipes for mouth-watering titbits like lamb fillets crusted with cardamom and coffee beans stands a better chance than many books of turning the clash of civilizations into a garden of earthly delights. If so, the Book Fair had a lot to offer.

Arabic poetry

The most highly praised book from the Arab world was a volume of poetry by Syrian writer Adonis, "Ein Grab für New York". The FAZ calls it "songs of hubris and nemesis" and a foreshadowing of 9/11. The FR advises the Western reader not to be irritated by its "blooming metaphors" but rather to give in to its "dizzying cycle of images". Also recommended is a volume of poetry by Arab women, "Ein Buch namens Freude", collected by Annemarie Schimmel. Die Zeit was the only paper to review the verse of Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwisch, published under the title "wo du warst und wo du bist", recommending the book in urgent terms.

Arabic novels

The epic "Tor zur Sonne" by Lebanese author Elias Khoury was well received. The SZ praises it for not falling into the "trap of the heroic genre", while Die Zeit calls it a "great novel". There are, however, some voices of dissent. The taz feels that the 700 plus page tome demands a high price in "patience and endurance", while for the FR the book displays "terrifying monotony". "Die Reise des Ibn Fattuma" ("The Journey of Ibn Fattouma"), the latest book by Egyptian novelist and Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, was well received. The NZZ calls it "consciously subtle lore" and Stefan Weidner in the FAZ argues that while its "political allegory" genre may take some getting used to, the book stands firmly in the tradition of "epic journeys towards mystic awakening".

"Die dunkle Seite der Liebe" by Rafik Schami, a Syrian take on Romeo and Juliet, got rave reviews. Fritz J. Raddatz in Die Zeit nearly burst with enthusiasm for the work of the German-based writer, calling it "Scheherazade in technicolour". Boualem Sansal's novel "Erzähl mir vom Paradies", set in contemporary Algeria, provoked shivers at the FR. "No one has written with such rage since Celine and Malaparte."

An essay, a travel book and a cookbook

In his narrative essay "Mohammedanische Versuchungen", Islam scholar Stefan Weidner has bundled his love for the Islamic culture into a combination of analysis, journal and self-reflection. Renee Zucker in the taz considers this the book of the year, forgiving Weidner for defending Samuel Huntington's thesis of the "clash of civilizations" from an Arab perspective. For the FAZ, "Mohammedanischen Versuchungen" is nothing less than the "most intelligent book written on the clash of cultures". Those interested in how the Middle East looked in the 1930s are advised by the FAZ to read the travel account "Die Reise nach Oxiana" ("The Road to Oxiana") by Lord Byron's descendant Robert Byron.

For the FAZ, the cherry on top is "Kulinarisches Arabien", which blends recipes such as "lamb fillet with a coffee bean and cardamom crust on stewed eggplant with pomegranate sauce" with regional and geographic information.

Books on Arabic literature

Where to start? Is it not a commonplace that Arabic verse is unparalleled? And let's not forget the medieval authors - as Edward Said recently wrote in Al Ahram, high Arabic has remained practically unchanged for centuries. Shall we dip into the works of 20th century writers? Or perhaps we should start with a survey of Arabic literature and its authors? Three reference books come highly recommended: Wiebke Walther's "Kleine Geschichte der arabischen Literatur" - an "important book" (Die Zeit), guides the reader through Arabic literature from pre-Islamic times to the present. The "Lexikon arabischer Autoren des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts" is a "perfect guide", according to the taz. Lastly, Islam expert Navid Kermani, writing in the FR, called "Arabische Literatur, postmodern" a highlight of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Fiction / Arabic Literature / Memoirs and Biographies / Politics / Nonfiction

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

No one is indestructible

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TeaserPicA precision engineer of the emotions, Peter Nadas traces the European upheavals of the past century in his colossal and epic novel "Parallel Stories", which was published in English in December. The core and epicentre of the novel is the body, which bears the marks of history and trauma. In his seemingly chaotic intertwining of lives and stories, Nadas penetrates the depths of the human animal with unique insight. A review by Joachim Sartorius
read more

Road tripping across the ideological divide

Wednesday 1 February, 2012

TeaserPicThe USA and the USSR should not simply be thought of as arch enemies of the Cold War. Beyond ideology, the two nations were deeply interested in one another. Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov were thrilled by the American Way of Life in 1935/6, John Steinbeck and Robert Capa praised the sheer vitality of the Russian people in 1947. Historian Karl Schlögel reviews a perfect pair of travel journals. Photo by Ilf and Petrov.
read more

Language without a childhood

Monday 23 January 2012

TeaserPicTurkish-born author, actor and director Emine Sevgi Özdamar was recently awarded the Alice Salomon Prize for Poetics. Coming to West Berlin in 1965, Özdamar first learned German at the age of 19. After stage school she went on to become the directorial assistant to Benno Besson and Matthias Langhoff at the Volksbühne in East Berlin while still living in West Berlin. Harald Jähner warmly lauds the author's uniquely visual sense of her acquired language and her ability to overcome the seemingly insurmountable dividing line through the city.
read more

Friendship in the time of terror

Monday 9 January 2012

Nadezhda Mandelstam's personal memories of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, her intimate friend, offer a unique and moving testimony to friendship and resistance over decades of persecution. Published only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the text is still unavailable in English but has recently been translated into German. A unique historical document, celebrating an intellectual icon in an age of horror. Portrait of Akhmatova by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.
read more

Just one drop of forgetfulness

Thursday 8 December, 2011

TeaserPicThis year is the 200th anniversary of the death of German writer Heinrich von Kleist. The author Gertrud Leutenegger has a very Kleistian afternoon on Elba, when she encounters the Marquise von O in the waiting room of a very strange eye doctor.
read more

German Book Prize 2011 - the short list

Tuesday 4 October, 2011

TeaserPicEugen Ruge has won the German Book Prize with his novel "In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts" (In times of fading light), an autobiographical story of an East German family. The award is presented to the best German-language novel just before the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Here we present this year's six shortlisted authors and exclusive English translations of excerpts from their novels.

read more

Torment and blessing

Wednesday 28 September, 2011

Chinese dissident Liao Yiwu escaped into exile in Germany in July this year. His new book about his life in Chongqing prison has just been published in German as "Für Ein Lied und Hundert Lieder". Both book and author have a life-threatening odyssey behind them. I am overjoyed that Liao Yiwu is here with us and not at home in prison. By Herta Müller
read more

In the vortex of congealed time

Monday 12 September, 2011

No other European city suffered more in World War II than Leningrad under siege, when over a million people lost their lives. Russian literature delivers a rich testimony of the events which have been all but forgotten by the West. Only a few works, though, also do the disaster aesthetic justice. By Oleg Yuriev
read more

My unrelenting vice

Tuesday 6 September 2011

In this apology for the vice of reading, Bora Cosic describes the magnificent and fantastic discoveries of one of its practitioners – revealing how texts contain what we bring to them, how we sometimes read without reading and how books are not only found in books but many other places. 
read more

Potential market, no buyers

Monday 4 July, 2011

The most successful Croatian book of 2008 sold exactly 1,904 copies. Not what one could really call a market, although together the successor republics represent a single language community. A look at the situation of publishers and authors in the former Yugoslavia. By Norbert Mappes-Niediek.
read more

Head versus hand

Monday 27 June, 2011

TeaserPicThis year's German International Literature Award goes to "Venushaar", a Russian novel that starts out as a dialogue between an asylum seeker and an immigration officer, and opens into a vast choir of voices. A conversation with its author Mikhail Shishkin, a literary giant in his own country, and his German translator Andreas Tretner. By Ekkehard Knörer. (Image: Mikhail Shishkin © Yvonne Böhler)
read more

Cry for life

Monday 20 May, 2011

Algeria's youth: Frustrated, isolated and in the stranglehold of clandestine political structures. Young Algerians are rebelling against being locked in traditional political and social structures, but have no chance of a national uprising like that in Tunisia, says Algerian author Boualem Sansal. An interview with Reiner Wandler.
read more

Witness to intellectual suicide

Tuesday 3 May, 2011

TeaserPicOn what would have been Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran's 100th birthday, Suhrkamp has published a volume of his essays from the 1930s, "Über Deutschland". Effervescing with enthusiasm for Hitler and fascist ideas, they cast a dark shadow over his later writing. Fritz Raddatz wishes he'd never had to read such abominations and bids a former companion a bitter farewell. Photo: E.M. Cioran © Surhrkamp Verlag
read more

RIP Andre Müller

Wednesday 13 April, 2011

TeaserPicAndre Müller Germany's most insightful and most feared interviewer is dead. Elfriede Jelinek said of him in her obituary: "Andre Müller goes all the way into people and then he makes them into language, and only then do they become themselves." Read his interviews with Ingmar Bergman and Hitler's sculptor Arno Breker in English. Photo courtesy Bibliothek der Provinz
read more

A country on the edge of time

Monday 4 April, 2011

TeaserPicSerbia was the country in focus at this year's Leipzig Book Fair – its extensive literature seems to be bound up in the straitjacket of politics. Serbia is having a hard time with Europe, and Europe is having a hard time with Serbia. Although there are signs of a softening stance, the country is still locked up in the self-imposed nationalist isolation into which it manoeuvred itself as the aggressor in the Yugoslavian war of secession. A visit there inspires mixed feelings. By Jörg Plath
Photo: Sreten Ugricic
read more