All posts tagged: books

Candid tales

The Black Book of Arabia is a collection of candid tales about women’s lives across the Middle East, written by artist and entrepreneur Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi. These fantastical tales – of women falling in love, preparing to marry, going to university – are less conventional than they seem at first. They are filled with twists and surprises—and a whole gamut of characters from sultans to paupers to sorcerers. In one story, a princess is betrayed by a friend who literally tries to steal her wedding; in another, a jealous wife lures her husband into falling in love with another woman. These are universal tales that read simply, without literary pretension, as though the stories are being passed down to us by word-of-mouth. Their simplicity however reveals some emotional truths about the meandering paths we take through life. The Black Book of Arabia is published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (2015).  

A stranger no longer?

It has been a long time coming, but now that a sequel to Albert Camus’ classic L’Etranger (The Stranger) has arrived, we wonder why it didn’t happen sooner. The French writer’s existentialist classic about the absurdity of life was first published in 1942 and is still widely read and loved (particularly by men, if you are to believe the reader surveys). The novel is set in Algeria when it was still a French colony. The nihilistic protagonist, Meursault, shocks through his indifference. L’Etranger famously opens with his emotionless reaction to the death of his own mother. The story reaches a climax when Meursault kills an Arab on the beach, for seemingly no reason at all. No argument precedes the killing, so it gives Camus a device for exploring the absurd psychology of the protagonist and anti-hero. Now Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud has written a sequel from the point of view of the brother of the Arab who was killed. This is what makes The Meursault Investigation so different to L’Etranger, in which not a single Arab …