We talk about the relationships between education and literature; about a devastating entry in the prison memoir genre, from Syria; about the legacy of V.S. Naipaul; and about why Kuwait is the worst offender in the region for censoring books.Show notes
This was our back to school episode, informed by the scholarship of Erin Twohig and Ursula’s “Hard Lessons: North African Writers on Education” at al-Fanar. We particularly talked about Mohamed Nedali’s Grâce à Jean de la Fontaine, a satiric and scathing account of the life of a schoolteacher in Morocco, and also Radwa Ashour’s writing on education, in her The Journey (translated by Michelle Hartman) and her later Spectres (translated by Barbara Romaine).
The discussion also veered slightly to the interview and mixtape with Ma3azef magazine co-founder Ma’an Abu Taleb on Bidoun.
Ursula’s summer reading included Mustafa Khalifa’s devastating novel The Shell, based on his experiences in Syria’s Tadmor prison, in which he reclaims and re-inscribes humanity. It has been translated to English by Paul Starkey.
The death of V.S. Naipaul led to several interesting conversations about his work and legacy. Here is one, between Nikil Saval and Pankaj Mishra in n+1.
And here is a piece by Teju Cole from a few years back about meeting the writer.
Finally, Kuwaiti readers are pushing back against censorship -- you can follow the online part of the campaign at #ممنوع_في_الكويتand #صور_كتاب_ممنوع_في_مكتبتك. MA student Abrar Alshammari is writing up a longer essay on the current situation for Arablit, but for background, 'It's like they were selling heroin to schoolkids': censorship hits booksellers at Kuwait book fair at The Guardian and Leading Kuwaiti Writers Saud Alsanousi and Bothayna al-Essa on Pushing Back Against a Season of Censorship at ArabLit.