On Arabic Literature at This Year’s Dhaka LitFest


The Dhaka LitFest was held this year from November 17-19. Although its broader focus was on South Asia, festival organizers also had a mini-focus on Arabic literature:

naji Holding a chair open for Ahmed Naji.

Last year, the fest featured Palestinian poet and novelist Ghassan Zaqtan, along with poet-translator Fady Joudah. Zaqtan and Joudah won Canada’s prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize, and Zaqtan was listed for the Neustadt Prize. But somehow his 2016 novella Describing the Past, gorgeously translated by Samuel Wilder, largely escaped Anglophone attention.

Too bad it wasn’t on sale at Dhaka LitFest: Many visiting writers this year described, with surprise, how they had sold every copy of their books on sale at the festival.

This year, the festival featured Egyptian novelist Nael Eltoukhy, author of Women of Karantina (translated by Robin Moger) among other novels. He was joined by myself, ArabLit editor M. Lynx Qualey, and also…

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