Internationally renowned fiction from Arabia Books.
To celebrate its fifth anniversary and to raise awareness of Arab culture and literature in Britain, Arabia Books, in collaboration with the Reading Agency, have given sets of books they have published since 2008 to every library authority in the country. Arabia Books is an imprint of Haus Publishing, a London-based independent publishing house, and was established five years ago with the aim of bringing the best fiction published in the Arab world to a British readership.
Arabia books are available to borrow from Swindon Libraries. The collection is based at Central Library, but the books can be reserved and picked up from any library in Swindon.
Have you enjoyed reading one of these books? We would love to have your reviews to share with other readers.
Murder in the tower of happiness by M.M. Tawfik (Translated from the Egyptian). A fast-paced thriller laced with dry humour, ‘The Tower of Happiness’ describes the sordid lives and lavish lifestyles of its super-rich and famous residents.
The scents of Marie-Claire by Habib Selmi (Translated from the Arabic). Seductive, erotic and bubbling with the most minute of details, ‘The Scents of Marie-Claire’, set in Paris, tells of the extraordinary relationship between the Tunisian-born narrator and French Marie-Claire.
Spectres by Radwa Ashour (Translated from the Arabic). Spectres tells the story of Radwa and Shagar, two women born on the same day. The narrative alternates between their childhoods, their days at work, their married and unmarried lives, and the two books they are writing – both called Spectres.
Spectres is a boldly original novel by an important writer whose exemplary work we need more of in English.
– The Independent
Sarmada by Fadi Azzam (Translated from the Arabic). The novel is set in the Druze area and is a declaration of love for tolerance and for the peaceful coexistence of the many religious groups that live in close proximity. Myths, communists, nationalists, murder, illicit love, superstition, erotic trees and women’s breasts make up the tapestry of this strange novel.
Abduction by Anouar Benmalek (Translated from the French).
Drawn together by the tortured memory of a massacre years ago, a shared experience binds Mathieu, Tahar and Aziz, and has repercussions for Meriem and Chehra, Aziz’s wife and daughter. How far will Aziz go to save his family?
As Doha said by Bahaa Taher (Translated from the Arabic).
‘As Doha Said’ is a story of love and desperation from the award winning author of ‘Sunset Oasis’ and ‘Love in Exile’.
B as in Beirut by Iman Humaydan Younes (Translated from the Arabic). The four interlocking narratives that make up this extraordinary novel belong to four women who live in the same apartment building in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war.
Being Abbas El Abd by Ahmed Alaidy (Translated from the Arabic). The narrator takes us on his itinerary through the insanity of present-day Cairo – in and out ofminibuses, malls and crash pads.
Cairo swan song by Mekkawi Said (Translated from the Arabic). Cairo embraces millions – but some of her children make their home in the streets, junked up and living in the shadows of wealth, among the monuments that the tourists flock to see. Mustafa, a former student radical who never believed in the slogans, sets out to tell their story.
The calligrapher’s secret by Rafik Schami (Translated from the German).
Even as a young man, Hamid Farsi is acclaimed as a master of the art of calligraphy. But, as time goes by, he sees that weaknesses in the Arabic language and its script limit its uses in the modern world. In a secret society, he works out schemes for radical reform, never guessing what risks he is running.
Cell block five by Fadhil Al-Azzawi (Translated from the Arabic). Being plucked from a Baghdad cafe and deposited in a cell block for political prisoners is a wakeup call for Aziz, the novel’s hero and narrator, a young man who has been living on automatic pilot – as if he were a guest visiting his own life – and he is finally forced to come to terms with the flawed world we inhabit and shape.
A certain woman by Hala El Badry (Translated from the Arabic). Nahid is a woman searching for liberation, not from a repressive society or a male-dominated world, but from self-imposed taboos that inhibit a woman’s ability to find fulfillment. Her adulterous affair becomes an occasion to explore the subtleties and contradictions that surrouond sexuality, desire and love.
Damascus nights by Rafik Schami (Translated from the German). Salim the coachman tells enchanting tales, but suddenly he is struck dumb. Just as Scheherazade told tales to save her life, Salim’s friends must spin yarns to save his speech. Set in Damascus in 1959, the novel alternates the real lives of our storytellers with stories from the distant past.
‘A picturesque collection of tales… wonderfully contemporary.’
— Los Angeles Times Book Review
East winds, west winds by Mahdi Issa al-Saqr (Translated from the Arabic).
Set among the oil wells of the Basra region of southern Iraq, where the writer spent much of his working life, this novel draws on the author’s own experiences to paint a picture at once subtle and vivid of relations between the British and their local employees in the 1950s.
The final bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi (Translated from the Arabic). Casablanca. Othman, a handsome young Moroccan man, returns home to discover his elderly French wife, Sofia, brutally murdered in their bedroom. The Moroccan police quickly zero in on Othman as the prime suspect in his wife’s murder, but is he guilty?
Gold dust by Ibrahim al-Koni (Translated from the Arabic). Rejected by his tribe and hunted by the kin of the man he killed, Ukhayyad and his thoroughbred camel flee across the desolate Tuareg deserts of the Sahara.
In a fertile desert : modern writing from the United Arab Emirates selected and edited by Denys Johnson-Davis (Translated from the Arabic). The first book of prose to emerge from the UAE in an English translation, heralding some significant new voices in Arabic literature.
Learning English by Rachid al-Daif (translated from the Arabic).
With a suspense-filled plot and a typically idiosyncratic narrator, whose bizarre stories, comical asides and uncannily perceptive comments on human nature lead us through this tantalising, funny, and sober book about the hold the past has on Lebanon, and on us all.
Love in exile by Bahaa Taher (Translated from the Arabic). Bahaa Taher presents multi-layered variations on the themes of exile, disillusionment, failed dreams, and the redemptive power of love.
The loved ones by Alia Mamdouh (Translated from the Arabic). This award-winning novel is a hymn to friendship and to boundless giving that ultimately restores life – it is a story about memory and history, a story against forgetting.
Memory in the flesh by Ahlam Mosteghanemi (Translated from the Arabic). ‘Memory in the Flesh’ centres on Algeria’s struggle against foreign domination, capturing four decades of that nation’s tumultuous history.
The tiller of waters by Hoda Barakat (Translated from the Arabic). This novel narrates the many-layered recollections of a hallucinating man in devastated Beirut. The desolate, almost surreal, urban landscape is enriched by the unfolding of the family sagas of Niqula Mitri and his beloved Shamsa, the Kurdish maid.
Wild mulberries by Iman Humaydan Younes (Translated from the Arabic). ‘Wild Mulberries’ is the story of Sarah, the adolescent daughter of a Lebanese sheikh in the 1930s. Desperate to escape the pressures of her family’s conservatism, Lily flees Lebanon in search of a mother she’s never known.
The Zafarani files by Gamal al-Ghitani(Translated from the Arabic). An unknown observer is watching the residents of a small, closely-knit neighbourhood in Cairoas old city, making notes of their comings & goings, their quarrels, their triumphs, descriptions of dress & biographical details. The watcher’s reports flow seamlessly into the narrative about Zafarani Alley, where everyone has a secret.
“Ghitani’s account of ordinary folk faced with a catastrophe that will spread across the world might suggest comparisons with British science-fiction novels of the 1950s, such as John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids or John Christopher’s The Death of Grass, but the tone of the Egyptian novel is absurdist and bleakly comic and a more appropriate comparison might be with Ionesco’s Rhinoceros.”
-Robert Irwin, Times Literary Supplement, October 2009