Banipal's special on modern Kuwaiti fiction
Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature published from London, has produced a special issue on new fiction from Kuwait.
BANIPAL 47: Fiction from Kuwait, edited by Samuel Shimon, presents a selection of contemporary literature from the novels and short stories of 17 Kuwaiti authors. It spans the generations of literary voices, from the 1960s and the writings of Sulaiman al-Shatti, Ismail Fahd Ismail and Suleiman al-Khalifi, to works by Fatima Yousif al-Ali, Laila al-Othman, Waleed al-Rajeeb, Taleb Alrefai, Thuraya al-Baqsami and Fawziya Shuwaish al-Salem, and then to those by young authors Bothayna al-Essa, Saud al-Sanousi, Yousef Khalifa, Basima al-Enezi, Ali Hussain al-Felkawi, Hameady Hamood and Mona al-Shammari.
Almost the entire issue is devoted to the fiction literary scene in Kuwait today–with background articles on the development of both the short story and the novel. It is a vibrant scene, with many of the authors turning out easily to the rest of the world, creating narratives of continuous and diverse dialogues on many levels–person to person, person to place, person to memory, memory to place.
They discuss issues of expectation and surprise, loss and denial, love and marriage, humour, satire and melancholy, family traditions and relations, social mores and taboos, different cultures, environments, generations and geographies.
The development of Kuwaiti literature has gone hand in hand with the growth of modernism and education in the country. The establishment of the first state school in 1911, the inauguration in 1928 by the distinguished intellectual and modernist reformer Abdul-Aziz al-Rasheed of Majallat al-Kuwait (Kuwait Magazine) – the first magazine published in the Arabic-speaking Gulf region, the establishment, later, of literary associations and newspapers, and then in 1946 Al-Bi’tha (The Scholarship) magazine, all created a strong foundation for the literary generations that followed – from Independence in 1961 until today, when post-oil Kuwait has “spawned a diversity of literary innovations.”
Among the Book Reviews in Banipal 47 are reviews of novels by two winners of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction: Andrew C Long reviews Saudi Arabian author Abdo Khal’s winning novel Throwing Sparks, and Mona Zaki reviews The Mehlis Report by Lebanese novelist Rabee Jaber (his winning novel The Druze of Belgrade has yet to be translated). Also a new translation of That Smell, with Notes from Prison by Sonallah Ibrahim, reviewed by Paul Starkey, while Margaret Obank reviews Sun Bread and Sticky Toffee: Date Desserts from Everywhere by Kuwaiti-born Sarah al-Hamad.
Ending the issue are photo-reports of recent literary events – the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards, the Abu Dhabi and Casablanca International Book Fairs, the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction award ceremony, and the Shubbak Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture in London.
Banipal 47: Fiction from Kuwait (ISBN: 978-0-9574424-2-9) is available in print or digital format. 224pp, Demy (229 x 152mm), paperback with 125 illustrations, . Price: GBP 7.00 /Euro 10/$15. Published 10 July 2013. Buy a link to this page.