The Postcolonial Arabic Novel: Debating Ambivalence

Muhsin Jassim Al-Musawi, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2003. 432 pages.

Muhsin Jassim Al-Musawi’s book offers a fresh contribution not only to studies in Arabic literature but also to postcolonial critique, cultural criticism, comparative literature, and cross-cultural studies. Its interest lies in the fact that it introduces a relatively less explored territory in postcolonial thought and cultural criticism: namely, Arabic literature. The attention of many western and non-western scholars in the field has long been directed toward Anglophone literature from South Asia, Japan, Africa, and Canada, and then to Francophone literature from North Africa and the Antilles.

In the context of the Arab world, the author also situates the importance of his study in how The Thousand and One Nights, a work whose fate and reception he sees as emblematic of the fate of fiction writing in the Arab world, was received. Just like the novel genre in general, this work only received scholarly interest rather recently, after centuries of neglect and disdain by conservatist Arab scholars and elite culture.

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