Lebanese author highlights literature’s role in widening perspectives

Lebanese author highlights literature’s role in widening perspectives
Hoda Barakat was attending the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Lebanese author highlights literature’s role in widening perspectives

Lebanese author highlights literature’s role in widening perspectives
  • “Literature has to be against our realities. There are too many mediums to tell you what reality is. In literature, you have to contest that reality,” she said

DUBAI: Literature has the power to widen people’s perspectives, especially on Arab experiences, which are often oversimplified, an award-winning Lebanese novelist has said.

In her most recent book, “The Night Mail,” Paris-based Hoda Barakat showed an example of how the West could generalize the experiences of people in the Middle East, and make it their “reality.”

Barakat, who writes her novels in Arabic, indicated her role as an Arab writer was to try and correct this perception and better explain these regional struggles through the characters and stories she creates.

“Literature has to be against our realities. There are too many mediums to tell you what reality is. In literature, you have to contest that reality,” she told Arab News on the sidelines of the Emirates Airline Literature of Festival held in Dubai Festival City.

Growing up in Lebanon, Barakat was fond of reading, which she initially thought was a “handicap” to her self-expression.

“I was very young and was very attached to reading. I had teachers telling me to express myself more, and when I started to express myself, it was very encouraging,” she said.

But like many established authors, Barakat did not initially think of publishing her works.

“I started to publish very late for my age. I was 35 when I decided to publish my first book,” she said. 

Her first book was “Za'irat” or “Visitors” in English, which was a collection of short stories.

It wasn’t until the publication of her first novel, “The Stone of Laughter” — which received tremendous acclaim in the Arab world — that she felt she should be a writer. 

Barakat added that writing novels is a decision one has to make and commit to.

“The first novel I worked on, I was unsure about it. It wasn’t very serious,” she said, although she had many friends encouraging her to publish.

Now, Barakat has a few prestigious awards to boast about, including the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for her most recent work. 

OneWorld, a London publishing house, has partnered with her to reproduce all her work, even the older novels, in English.

“There are so many works to do with OneWorld — I’m happy for that,” she said.


What We Are Reading Today: Streetwalking on a Ruined Map by Giuliana Bruno

What We Are Reading Today: Streetwalking on a Ruined Map by Giuliana Bruno
Updated 21 June 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Streetwalking on a Ruined Map by Giuliana Bruno

What We Are Reading Today: Streetwalking on a Ruined Map by Giuliana Bruno

Emphasizing the importance of cultural theory for film history, Giuliana Bruno enriches our understanding of early Italian film as she guides us on a series of “inferential walks” through Italian culture in the first decades of the 20th century. This innovative approach — the interweaving of examples of cinema with architecture, art history, medical discourse, photography, and literature — addresses the challenge posed by feminism to film study while calling attention to marginalized artists. 

An object of this critical remapping is Elvira Notari (1875-1946), Italy’s first and most prolific woman filmmaker, whose documentary-style work on street life in Naples, a forerunner of neorealism, was popularly acclaimed in Italy and the United States until its suppression during the Fascist regime. 

Since only fragments of Notari’s films exist today, Bruno illuminates the filmmaker’s contributions to early Italian cinematography by evoking the cultural terrain in which she operated. 

What emerges is an intertextual montage of urban film culture highlighting a woman’s view on love, violence, poverty, desire, and death. This panorama ranges from the city’s exteriors to the body’s interiors. Reclaiming an alternative history of women’s filmmaking and reception, Bruno draws a cultural history that persuasively argues for a spatial, corporal interpretation of film language.


What We Are Reading Today: The Outlier by Kai Bird

What We Are Reading Today: The Outlier by Kai Bird
Updated 20 June 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Outlier by Kai Bird

What We Are Reading Today: The Outlier by Kai Bird

The Outlier: The Life and presidency of Jimmy Carter by Kai bird is an enlightening reassessment of Carter’s presidency in the US by putting it in line with the rest of his life.

The issues that Carter contended with in the late 1970s are still hotly debated today: National healthcare, growing inequality, energy independence, racism, immigration, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Forty years after US voters turned him out of the white house, Carter appears remarkably prescient on the major issues facing the country in the 21st century.

Carter’s time as president is a compelling and under-explored story, marked by accomplishment and adversity.

In this deeply researched, brilliantly written account, the first full presidential biography of Carter, bird approaches his presidency with an expert hand, unfolding the story of Carter’s four years with few allies inside washington and a great many critics in the media.

Bird is an american pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist, best known for his biographies of political figures.


What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of the World by Norman I. Platnick

What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of the World by Norman I. Platnick
Updated 20 June 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of the World by Norman I. Platnick

What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of the World by Norman I. Platnick

Spiders are among the most versatile creatures on the planet, inhabiting six of the seven continents and thriving in environments ranging from deserts and rain forests to Arctic tundra and cities.

Spiders of the World is a captivating look at these wondrously adaptable and endlessly intriguing arachnids, written by six of the world’s leading experts on spiders, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

This stunningly illustrated natural history features a wealth of spectacular color photos and covers a breathtaking array of spider species from around the globe, describing their behaviors, characteristics, and remarkable evolutionary adaptations.

An incisive and engaging introduction provides an invaluable overview of the world’s spiders, and is followed by in-depth profiles spanning more than 100 spider families and presented taxonomically.

Each profile is organized phylogenetically and includes beautiful photography to illustrate various species within the family. There are also distribution maps, tables of essential facts, and commentaries highlighting diverse aspects of spider biology.


What We Are Reading Today: The Barbarians Speak

What We Are Reading Today: The Barbarians Speak
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Updated 19 June 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Barbarians Speak

What We Are Reading Today: The Barbarians Speak

Author: Peter S. Wells

The Barbarians Speak re-creates the story of Europe’s indigenous people who were nearly stricken from historical memory even as they adopted and transformed aspects of Roman culture.
The Celts and Germans inhabiting temperate Europe before the arrival of the Romans left no written record of their lives and were often dismissed as “barbarians” by the Romans who conquered them.
Accounts by Julius Caesar and a handful of other Roman and Greek writers would lead us to think that prior to contact with the Romans, European natives had much simpler political systems, smaller settlements, no evolving social identities, and that they practiced human sacrifice. A more accurate, sophisticated picture of the indigenous people emerges, however, from the archaeological remains of the Iron Age.
Here Peter Wells brings together information that has belonged to the realm of specialists and enables the general reader to share in the excitement of rediscovering a “lost people.”

 


What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati

What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati
Updated 18 June 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati

What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati

Seeing Serena is an in-depth chronicle of the return to tennis of Serena Williams after giving birth to her daughter, and an insightful cultural analysis of the most consequential female athlete of her time.
It is a riveting chronicle of her turbulent 2019 tour season and a revealing portrait of who she is, both on and off the court.
Author Gerald Marzorati shadows her through her 2019 season, from Melbourne and the Australian Open, to Roland-Garros and Wimbledon, and on to the US Open as she seeks her 24th Grand Slam singles title.
He writes about her tennis and her forays into fashion, investing, and developing her personal brand on social media.
Seeing Serena illuminates Williams’s singular status as the greatest women’s tennis player of all time and — in a moment when race and gender are the most talked-about topics in America and beyond— a pop icon like no other.
Marzorati observes her, listens to her, studies her, explores her roles in society and history— sees Serena fully, in all the ways she has come to matter.