The author of "Flood of Fire" selects four novels and a memoir from modern Arabic literature.
“Rijāl fī l-shams” by Ghassan Kanafani
English title: Men in the Sun, translated by Hilary Kilpatrick; Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998).
A powerful and prescient novella about migration and the extremes that people will go to in order to find a better life.
"Munif’s Mudun al-Milḥ" by Abdel Rahman
English title: Cities of Salt, translated by Peter Theroux; Vintage Books, 1989.
In 1992, reviewing the English translation of this novel, I described Cities of Salt as “a work of immense significance.” This is a pioneering account of the earliest contacts between American oilmen and the indigenous peoples of the Arabian Peninsula.
"Mudhakkirātī fī Sijn al-Nisāʾ" by Nawal El Saadawi
English title: Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, translated by Marilyn Booth. University of California Press, 1994.
A prison memoir that is filled with contemporary resonances.
"Al-Bāb al-Maftūḥ" by Latifa al-Zayyat
English title: The Open Door, translated by Marilyn Booth. American University in Cairo Press, 2004.
An extraordinary semi-autobiographical novel about a woman’s coming-of-age at a time of turmoil in Egypt.
"Mawsim al-Ḥijra ilā l-Shimāl" by Tayeb Salih
English title: Season of Migration to the North, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies. New York Review of Books Classics, 2009.
An elegant, poetic, moving novel about connections that transcend race and nation.
About Amitav Ghosh
Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He is the author of one book of non-fiction, a collection of essays and seven novels, of which the most recent is Flood of Fire. His books have won prizes in India, Europe and Myanmar and he has been awarded honorary degrees by the Sorbonne, Paris, and by Queens College, New York. He divides his time between Brooklyn, Goa and Kolkata.
Photo credit: Emilio Madrid-Kuser