I am one of those dual nationality folks who most unfortunately cannot speak their own language. Despite having an Arab father, the only time he ever spoke to me in Arabic was when I had angered him and he chased me around the house brandishing a shibshib (flip flop), likening me to various animals (donkeys and monkeys stick out the most). I thus had to learn Arabic at university, which means I just about mastered “Hi, hows it going?” and “One falafel please”.
For years I have been looking for a bilingual English/Arabic book of stories to help me along in my pursuit of fluency, but to my great disappointment never found one. I do have a dual language Bible, but I’m not finding it terribly useful in daily life, especially as I keep unintentionally referring to it as the Kitab al–Makdoos (the Pickled Bible) rather than the Kitab al–Mukadas (the Holy Bible), which one could argue is actually more correct. To my great joy, however, the ever esteemed SAQI publishers has just come out with Modern Arabic Short Stories: A Bilingual Reader by Daniel L. Newman and Ronak Husni (May 1 2008). SAQI is always an excellent source for books on and fiction from the Arab world and minorites.
Newman and Husni’s book contains twelve short stories by some of the Arab world’s most notable contemporary writers, including the late Egyptian Noble-prize winner Naguib Mahfouz and Morocco’s Mohammad Shukri, Lebanon’s Hanan al–Shaykh, and Egyptian Salwa Bakr. The well-presented book is complete with useful biographies and notes on terminology, thus making it an indispensable learning tool for any student of Arabic. So far in my reading, I have found it very good, excellent for vocabulary building and highly enjoyable. If you like modern Arabic literature, this collection of stories certainly hit the mark. Now, if only I could just concentrate long enough to read the book in full, rather than running to the blog to talk about it…
(And by the way, the cover of the book is a painting, not a photo…)