Last updated on November 28, 2020

In recent years, many modern Arabic novels were translated into English. In a three part-series, I will present the finest modern Arabic novels which were translated into English.

Part THREE presents modern Arabic literature written by authors from Yemen, Kuwait, Iraq, Sudan, and Saudi-Arabia.

Authors from YEMEN

The Daughter of Suslov

ابنة سوسلوف

by Habib Abdulrab Sarori (حبيب عبد الرب سروري,), Yemen

suslov

The Daughter of Suslov takes place in the seaport city of Aden, Yemen, spanning from the 1960s until the 21st century.

As a young man growing up under communism in South Yemen, Imran finds himself drawn to Hawiya, the daughter of a high-ranking official in the ruling Marxist party. He departs Aden, the seaport city of his childhood, to study literature in Paris, hoping to see “the sunset of capitalism with his own eyes”. Years later he returns to Yemen and meets Hawiya again – only to find that she is now a niqab-wearing Salafist, calling on people to join the conservative Islamist movement.

Authors from KUWAIT

The Old Woman and the River

السبيليات

by Ismail Fahd Ismail (إسماعيل فهد إسماعيل), Kuwait

sabilat

After the ceasefire in 1988, the devastation to the landscape of Iraq wrought by the longest war of the twentieth century the Iran-Iraq War becomes visible. Eight years of fighting have turned nature upside down, with vast wastelands being left behind.

In southeastern Iraq, along the shores of the Shatt al-Arab River, the groves of date palm trees have withered. No longer bearing fruit, their leaves have turned a bright yellow. There, Iraqi forces had blocked the entry points of the rivers tributaries and streams, preventing water from flowing to the trees and vegetation. Yet, surveying this destruction from the sky, a strip of land bursting with green can be seen. The secret of this fertility, sustaining villages and remaining soldiers, is unclear. But it is said that one old woman is responsible for this lifeline.

$13.25 -$1.09 $12.16

You can get the Arabic version on almost any web store, for example, Neelwafurat.

Authors from IRAQ

Dates On My Fingers

تمر الأصابع

by Muhsin Al-Ramli (محسن الرملي), Iraq

dates

Fingers of Dates is set in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule. A beautiful and moving account of daily Iraqi life, Fingers of Dates tells the tale of a man and his relationships with his lover and his family, with a particularly touching look at the father-son relationship.

Saleem, fed up with all the violence, religiosity, and strict family hierarchies of his Iraqi village, flees to Spain to establish a new life for himself. But his lonely exile is turned upside down when he encounters his father, Noah, in a Madrid nightclub after not seeing him in more than a decade. Noah looks and acts like a new man, and Saleem sets out to discover the mystery of his father’s presence in Spain and his altered life.

The President’s Gardens

حدائق الرئيس

by Muhsin Al-Ramli (محسن الرملي), Iraq

garden

On the third day of Ramadan, a small village in Iraq wakes to find the severed heads of nine of its sons stacked in banana crates by the bus stop. One of them belonged to one of the most wanted men in Iraq, known to his friends as Ibrahim the Fated. How did this good and humble man earn the enmity of so many? What did he do to deserve such a death?

The American Granddaughter

الحفيدة الأميركية

by Inaam Kachachi (إنعام كجه جي), Iraq

hafida

At the beginning of America’s occupation of Iraq, 15 years after leaving Baghdad, Zeina returns to her war-torn homeland as an interpreter for the US Army where she finds herself torn by conflicting allegiances.

Index (The Book of Collateral Damage)

فهرس

by Sinan Antoon (سنان أنطون), Iraq

Nameer, a young Iraqi scholar, is hired by filmmakers to help document the devastation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

During the excursion, Nameer ventures to al-Mutanabbi street in Baghdad, famed for its bookshops, and encounters Wadood, an eccentric bookseller who is trying to catalog everything destroyed by war: an index detailing the minute by minute history of the war from the perspective of rocks, trees and animals as well as humans themselves.

The Baghdad Clock

ساعة بغداد

by Shahad Al Rawi (شهد الراوي), Iraq

clock baghad

1991: Two young girls meet and become best friends in a Baghdad bomb shelter where they have taken refuge from Allied aerial attacks. They share their hopes and dreams, interwoven with fantasy and illusion. A stranger arrives from the mysterious future of the city bearing prophecies, causing families to flee the city en masse, leaving it empty.

You can get the Arabic version on almost any web store, for example, Neelwafurat.

Frankenstein in Baghdad

فرانكشتاين في بغداد

by Ahmed Saadawi (أحمد سعداوي), Iraq

frankenstein

From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi – a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café – collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial.

But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. Hadi soon realizes he’s created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive-first from the guilty, and then from anyone in its path.

Authors from SUDAN

The Longing of the Dervish

شوق الدرويش

by Hammour Ziada (حمور زيادة), Sudan

dervish

At the close of the nineteenth century, freed slave Bakhit is let out of prison with the overthrow of the Mahdist state in Sudan.

On the brink of death, the memory of his beloved Theodora is all that has sustained him through seven years of grim incarceration – and his vow to avenge her killing.

Set against a backdrop of war, religious fervor, and the monumental social and political upheavals of the time, The Longing of the Dervish is a love story in the most unlikely of circumstances.

The Grub Hunter

صائد اليرقات

by Amir Taj al-Sir (أمير تاج السر), Sudan

hunter

It is the story of a former Secret Service agent, who having been forced to retire due to an accident, decides to write a novel about his experiences. He starts to visit a café frequented by intellectuals, only to find himself the subject of police scrutiny.

Authors from SAUDI-ARABIA

The Dove’s Necklace

طوق الحمام

by Raja Alem (رجاء عالم), Saudi Arabia

dove

When the body of a young woman is discovered in the Lane of Many Heads, an alley in modern-day Mecca, no one will claim it, as they are all ashamed of her nakedness.

As Detective Nasser pursues his investigation of the case, seemingly all of Mecca chimes in.

Throwing Sparks

ترمي بشرر

by Abdo Khal (عبده خال), Saudi Arabia

sharar

When an opulent palace is built on the Jeddah waterfront near his poverty-stricken neighborhood, ambitious Tariq sees a way out of his life of petty crime. He stares longingly at the huge gates, dreaming of the luxuries beyond.

But dream quickly turns into nightmare. The Palace is ruled by an enigmatic Master whose influence in the city is as wide as it is wicked.

Throwing Sparks is a deeply dark novel which follows the confessions of a hit man, employed by a mysterious rich businessman in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

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