Sometimes(maybe for a lot of people it's most of the time) you just get bored of Politics, and this is one of those days for me. So why not take a break from that, and discuss something more decadent, such as literature.
Unfortunately, there aren't many recently published Arabic novels that are worth recommending. We definitely have a severe lack in worthwhile publication. Apparently, the whole Arabic world combined produces less publications than Spain on its own. There is, however, one great book, or should I see series of books that I've read not so long ago.
It's a trilogy called "A6yaf Al Azeka Al Mahjoora" (The Rainbows of the deserted alleys) by the Saudi writer Turki Al Hamad. It's divided into 3 parts. In ascending order they're called "Al Adama", Al Shmaisi and Al Karadeeb.
If anyone wants to read a book that has great descriptions of Saudi and Gulfy lifestyles, as well as being entertaining, then I would recommend this book. It also, I think, perfectly depicts the political mood and idealism that prevaded in the Middle East in the 1960s and seventies (not that I was around then! but it's from what I hear).
The protagonist is eighteen year old Hisham Al Aber, a romantic, idealist youth who lives off reading whatever he can lay his hands on. From Marx to Dostoyevsky, Nizar Qabani to Superman comic magazines you name it. The story follows his development from a highschool teenager to joining a leftist underground group, and the trouble that ensues from this. Along the way, it outlines how he first experiments with sex, love,cigarettes, alcohol, and how he deals with new and old friendships.
The story, I think, excels in many different areas. It first gives a good insight into the political atmosphere of the Gulf in the seventies. It outlines how Arabs felt their pride and expectations sweel with Nasser, and the abrupt crash that occured in feelings after the catastrophe of 1987. It also however does a very good job of outlining how persecution, jailing, and torture occured in prisons in that period. Although beatings and imprisonment did occur, they are not as brutally horrible as some stories always convey.
The writer also does a good job of outlining the emotions and changes a teenager goes through in his transformation through an adult. Hisham's love and sexual experimentation are outlined in detail in the book, which is extremely unusual for a book from the Arabic world, let alone Saudi Arabia. Booze and alcohol are not left out either, and all of this in Riyadh! The book also outlines how Hisham's relationship with his old friends, from the pre-experimenation and leftist-party era, develops, contrasted to his relationship with the friends he met in the underground group. It is also just intriguing finding out how the mentality and thought process of Hisham changes through all his escapades, from an Idealistic youth, to a dejected adult.
What did critics say? What acclaims was the book able to get? Well, it received the highest acclaim of them all, one that I only know of 3 writers to receive. It received a death fatwa on the author (similar to Rushdies', only this time emenating from Saudi scholars), and the banning of the book in several Arabic countries. It's amazing Mr. Al Hamad still continues to live and write in Riyadh.
The trilogy is available in its entirey in Arabic, and the first part Al Adama is available in English, so it might be worthwile to check it out!