You’re Not Consuming More Arabic Literature, Just ‘More of Mahfouz’?


A piece in the Harvard Political Review,“The Head and the Body,” looks at the pigeonholing of non-Western writers, asserting that, “One of the biggest offenders in the creation and promulgation of these cultural stereotypes may be the Nobel Prize in Literature”:

eeb33-naguibmahfouz-feliv20145dThis brings the piece around to the sole Arabophone winner, Naguib Mahfouz. After his win, the author asserts, “a curious phenomenon soon appeared: much of the fiction coming out of Mahfouz’s native Egypt began to look just like his. Western readers who thought they were consuming more of Arabic literature were really just consuming more of Mahfouz.”

It continues:

In an interview with the HPR, professional translator and Temple University professor Lawrence Venuti observed, “Prize-giving is important because it creates patterns.” The official recognition the Nobel Prize committee granted Mahfouz led publishers to look for other Egyptian writers like him because they knew that that style was…

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