Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finest writings from the Middle East on contemporary issues "Tablet & Pen" is a literary masterpiece collection

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"Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East" is the perfect book to take with you on a vacation and relax and read through the collection of essays, either in order or selectively by title and topic. The book has 139 essays that address a chronological breakdown of Middle Eastern time periods. The 1910 to 1950, 1950 to 1980 and 1980 until today. Each is further broken up in to more selective decades that add real context to the writings.

Some of the essays in the anthology are well known and others are lesser known but powerful. It's an inspirational collection that gives you some real insight into the Middle East, the Arab mind and the Muslim World. It's a mix of Arab and non-Arab writings, mostly Muslim focused.

You could read it straight through as the writing talent is remarkable, of course. Or, you can do as I did and slowly pick and choose through the essays, re-reading many without boredom. The stories and tales are captivating and run the gamut from Palestine to Persia, Pakistan and Turkey. You get a sense of a common thread that rises above the religion, though, offering real insight in to everyday lives in each era.

This is one you will not want to rush through. You can read through it with interest driven by the detail and the eloquent writing styles of many of the essay authors. Much of the writing is translated from the native languages (Arabic, Turkish, Persian). Essays include writings by Khalil Gibran, Muhammad Iqbal, Forugh Farrokhzad, Yasar Kemal, Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis, Ahmad Shmaloo and Orhan Pamuk.

Edited by Reza Aslan, published by Norton & Co. in New York and London. 2011. 658 pp.

-- Ray Hanania

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