We are excited to announce the launch of Publishers’ Roundtable, a new project from the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI). In each installment, we will bring publishers together to discuss new and emerging trends in Middle East knowledge production, ongoing challenges in academic and trade publishing, highlights from the upcoming 2023 catalog, and more.
This first installment features four prominent publishers in the field of Middle East Studies: American University of Cairo Press (AUC), University of Texas Press (UTP), Georgetown University Press (GUP), and Saqi Books. The roundtable highlights the topics and trends within Middle East Studies that these publishers cover, and the common challenges that they have faced, particularly during the past three years. But it also illustrates the different contexts they inhabit: the issues that GUP, UTP, and other US-based academic publishers face often differ from those faced by Saqi, a trade publisher in the United Kingdom, and AUC, an academic press based in Cairo. We hope this conversation will be a productive resource for students, scholars, and researchers in Middle East Studies – as well as others interested in the mechanics of publishing, and broader questions of Middle East knowledge production.
Over the past 10 years, what are the most salient trends that you have noticed in your coverage of the Middle East?
AUC: A focus on social and cultural history, as opposed to history from above, has been one of the long term trends to come to the fore since the Arab uprisings, as well as – not surprisingly – refugee and migration studies and work on contestation and social movements. In urban studies, there has been a return to environmental design, urbicide, megacities, specialized cities, and futuristic cities, while in political science, political economy, sectarianism, and studies of coups and militaries as well as affect studies have held up for some years now. The trend for survey experiments also appears to be down slightly in political science, with a renewed interest in descriptive research. There remains much interest in environmental studies, as well as infrastructure and logistics. Restrictions on academic freedom and a more dangerous research environment in general appear to have encouraged work in Ottoman archives, as evidenced by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference programs of the last couple of years. There is very clearly a great deal of work being done on the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, a reflection of new geopolitical realities working in tandem with the move away from Egypt, Syria, and other countries as potential sites of research. Trends more broadly in the humanities include settler colonialism and questions of decolonization, as well as archive studies.
UTP: There’s been greater examination of the both the post-World War I period, with the breakup of the Ottoman-Empire, and the post-World War II era in the Middle East, as new borders were established and new countries created and how these countries worked to form a nationalism that could define them. There’s been more work done on the analysis of subaltern identities in the region, with attention paid to sexual, racial, religious, and class-related identities, though there’s still a lot to be done in this area (see below). There’s more sophisticated scholarship in diaspora studies, looking at immigration and the religion, culture, and economies of peoples who settled outside the region and their relationship with their new homes. There’s also work to move beyond area studies and explore the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as part of the Mediterranean world or the Global South to see how various regions are related and have interacted with one another.
GUP: In the areas of linguistics and language learning, we have noticed an increase in interest from heritage language learners (HLLs) of Arabic. HLLs are speakers who may speak the language at home – in the case of Arabic, they may speak a spoken dialect – but whose formal education in the language is at varying levels. There is an interest in increasing Arabic literacy throughout the Middle East. We also have seen an increase in interest in literature from the Middle East in translation.
Saqi: There remains some fatigue over non-fiction focused on certain countries or regions – Yemen, for example – where the political situation remains turbulent. However, interest in titles that speak to the broader Arab experience but focus on particular identity groups has certainly increased. For example, books that focus on the experience of Arab and Muslim women, including The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz, and Believing Women in Islam by Asma Barlas, have done well for us. Anthologies that offer first-hand perspectives and insights also remain popular with readers – last summer, as the football world cup in Qatar took over the news, This Arab is Queer, edited by Elias Jahshan, found a meaningful place on many bookshelves.
We have been excited to see interest from Middle East-based publishers in translating and publishing some of our titles in Arabic, more so than perhaps a decade ago (though these numbers remain low). Humour and satire have done well among audiences in the region, and audiobooks are becoming more popular as well. Moreover, with champions on social media, certain titles can take off thanks to in a way they have not previously, competing with the publicity boost that prize-wins previously afforded a limited number of titles each year.
What are the gaps (if any) that you notice in the production of published knowledge on the Middle East?
AUC: Work on North African has gathered pace since the Arab uprisings, but there is probably still much more that could be published in English on the Maghreb. For scholarship on Egypt, Upper Egypt remains relatively understudied and there is an opening for work on major cities outside of Cairo. Other gaps include studies on mental health services, the treatment of African migrants in MENA, and informal economies (although an absence of reliable data admittedly makes this difficult). More broadly, there is little nonfiction in Arabic that is translated into English.
UTP: There’s still a lot of work to be done on subaltern identities, past and present. Similarly, there’s a lot to be done on indigenous peoples of the MENA region beyond the standard categories of Arab/Turk/Persian/Hebrew. There’s a lot of both historical and ethnographic work to be done on those countries to which scholars have had limited access because of authoritarianism and/or civil strife, such as Syria and Libya. The opening of the Ba’athist archives in Iraq, for example, is a step in the right direction.
GUP: In the areas of linguistics and language learning, there is an interest and a need for more up-to-date applied linguistics and Arabic language pedagogy information in the Middle East. Outside of the Middle East, the debate about whether or not to teach Arabic using the integrated method (i.e., teaching both formal Arabic alongside ‘amiyya, or spoken Arabic) is reviving, and the voices of linguists and pedagogists have not yet reached a wider audience outside of academic circles. Both methods are producing students and the curricula need to account for a gap in knowledge when they arrive in the same classroom.
Saqi: There is a strong culture of producing titles for a predominantly academic market, as well as contemporary (auto)biographies. However, non-specialist readers after serious non-fiction are not well-served. Topics that could be considered taboo, such as religion or politics, are particularly poorly represented among titles that target a general audience. We are especially proud of books such as A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi’is by John McHugo, which inform readers who are looking to find out more about the region but may not have an academic background in specific knowledge-areas. Translations from ancient Arabic texts are also underserved – our author Daniel Newman is an expert in this area, and we look forward to publishing The Exile’s Cookbook, his work and bilingual presentation of a medieval cookery book from Muslim Spain and North Africa, by Ibn Razin Al-Tujibi, later this year.
Has the Middle East as a region – or particular countries therein – remained a consistent source of interest for your readers?
AUC: As a Middle East only publisher, we don’t have lists in other area studies with which to compare ours, but interest in books on Egypt shows no signs of abating!
UTP: Many of our readers already have a long-standing interest in the Middle East region and its cultures, languages, and literatures. Because of this, the past few years have been spent trying to engage readers who might not have broad knowledge of the Middle East but are looking to engage with the literature of that region, or educators who would like to teach literature from the Middle East. To that end, we have worked to make our books accessible as possible to people outside of Middle Eastern Studies and academia as a whole. The Young Adult Fiction initiative allowed us to use our books to teach about the Middle East through engaging narratives and empathetic characters. The Thunderbirdtrilogy was especially successful in drawing the attention of educators all over the country. Translated literature for young adults is not a large field in the U.S., and by developing original curricula for our YA books, we were able to create resources for language arts teachers that easily lent themselves to classroom use, even by teachers with little to no experience with Middle Eastern Literature. Because of the cultural richness and history of the region, as well as the diversity of cultures and artistic and literary traditions, the Middle East has been and will continue to be a source of interest for a wide variety of readers.
GUP: The Middle East as a region remains a consistent source of interest for our readers. Interest peaked during the Gulf War and is not at the same level now–but still remains strong. In recognition of the interest in language learning materials with broader representation of literary and cultural traditions from different Arab countries, we are publishing books likeAswat Mu’asira: Short Stories for Advanced Arabic, an engaging collection of contemporary short stories from various Arabic countries.
Saqi: Unfortunately, it is not possible to distinguish whether sales are high or low in certain regions because of reader interest, or due to availability. In market terms, English language book sales in the Gulf eclipse book sales in other regions of the Middle East where there is a less well-established book selling market.
Egypt, which historically has boasted so many excellent writers and thinkers, is always in vogue. We are also seeing an increase in titles by writers in the diaspora, which is interesting to note. The Maghreb region has maintained its position, with writers such as Mohammed Choukri continuing to sell well and newly-published writers, such as Malika Moustadraf, receiving attention.
Can you speak to how your Middle East-focused publications are received by different types of readers? For example, how does reader engagement differ between academic and general audiences, or between American audiences and those based in the Middle East?
AUC: AUC Press publishes books in a wide range of genres, including academic monographs, general interest books, guidebooks, high-end four-color illustrated books, fiction (especially fiction in translation), and Arabic Language Learning textbooks. Our general interest books in the United States tend to be carried in bookstores in urban areas and college towns, where audiences have more diverse tastes. Naturally, course adoption is important in the United States especially for our fiction-in-translation as well as Arabic language learning titles. In the Middle East – and Egypt in particular – the audience for fiction in translation is smaller, since the Arabic language edition precedes the publication of the translation. The tourist trade is very important to our entire list, especially for our general interest titles in Egypt. With the AUC Press bookstores and our established distribution channels here in Egypt, we have great reach into this very large and well-educated book reading audience. The audience for academic titles in the United States is still very much dominated by the institutional market led by academic libraries and for use by academics for their professional development. Academic titles in the Middle East tend to have a less predictable audience and can occasionally surprise us with a wider general interest readership at times. It’s hard to generalize but sales of titles, academic or general interest, are often led by an author’s professional activities in all markets.
UTP: Though we don’t have much data on this, most of our readers are likely based outside of the Middle East. It is plausible to assume that readers in the Middle East are less interested in translations from Arabic into English, because they have access to the book in its original language. At the same time, there is a real reverence for authors and poets and literature in the Middle East, a degree of respect that generates support from readers in the region when a book from a familiar author receives attention from an English-speaking readership. This can be found in the form of articles and reviews in publications based in the region or the participation of members from these communities in Zoom book events. We haven’t encountered enough examples to speak to the differences in reception between academic and general audiences, our goal has been to publish titles that would be accessible and compelling to both.
GUP: Our strongest market is in the US and is focused on academic readers, as the bulk of our publications are textbooks. Our Middle East-focused textbooks are used both in the US and in the Middle East. It is more often than not the case that the audience, whether in the US or abroad, is American. Our language textbooks are used in higher education as well as by the military and the corporate world to teach Arabic to English speakers. We also have begun to reach more mainstream readers by publishing literary translations from Arabic into English.
Saqi: This is a brilliant question and one we wish we had more time and resources to answer in full. In 2022 we left our office, which was a part of the Al Saqi Bookshop in West London – the bookshopclosed after a wonderful, wonderful 44-year run. It was invaluable to be able to interact in the shop itself with customers from all over the world and hear their salient thoughts on our new books. However, we are very fortunate to have a loyal, core readership, and regularly receive moving personal accounts on the impact a book has had on a reader – particularly readers who do not often see their heritage or interests reflected in mainstream publications. We have received more of these messages in recent times from Australian readers and those from the Indian subcontinent, but regularly receive news from readers around the world. For example, we partnered with the Arab British Centre to launch We Wrote in Symbols: Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers edited by Selma Dabbagh in 2021, and people joined the launch from over 15 countries.
We see a range of titles adopted for course reading lists, and in the US, some of these titles have remained on the same lists for decades. We can also see from licensing and permissions data that certain texts have been cited or photocopied for use in higher education, which we feel very proud about. Each week we also face up to 100 piracy breaches, where our books have been made available freely online (or in print …) and this is not always easy to halt. So in many cases we know there are readers, but have no way of following up with them to discover their thoughts.
Reviews on user-facing platforms such as Amazon, Goodreads or social media offer us ad-hoc opportunities to hear readers’ opinions (though it isn’t clear where reviewers are based). These often bring their own prejudices with them, and I am sorry to say that we do receive hate messages on our social platforms. However, this is more than counteracted by the overwhelming positivity we receive from readers around the world.
To what extent has funding affected your ability to publish on the Middle East?
AUC: Funding is an ever-present concern but it comes up particularly in the context of publications on art and architecture, whether for an academic or general interest readership, since these typically require a significant number of illustrations. We would also publish more translated nonfiction, especially in the humanities and social sciences, if we had access to adequate funding. Bringing more regional voices to the table would add new perspectives to English-language publishing on the region and open up fresh lines of inquiry and dialogue between scholars.
UTP: We distribute three series for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas, and the production costs for this publications program have been covered entirely by book sales and donor funding. Once donor funding dwindled, and when the Center did not receive the federal grant funding on which the publications program relied, the college opted to put the program on hiatus. Relying almost entirely on federal grant funds means being subject to vicissitudes resulting from shifts in national interests. Because it has been such a long-running and well-respected program, however, external support has been offered that will hopefully allow for the Center’s two literary translation series to continue in some capacity.
GUP: It can be challenging to write, translate, and produce books that can be sold at prices both the US academic and the Middle East market can bear, which makes it harder for nonprofit US publishers to share the knowledge throughout the Middle East. Additional funding to help bridge this gap would benefit the Middle East and allow nonprofit US publishers to reach more readers in the region. We do not receive funding specifically for publication of our books and textbooks usually are not eligible, making it a challenge. We remain committed to the Middle East market as an important part of our mission and continue to work hard to support the publication of books for this region.
Saqi: We are an independent publishing house and do not rely on any external funding. This is not an easy position to occupy, but it gives us the editorial freedom and scope to publish the titles we believe need to be available to readers.
Based on your own experience, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the publishing industry?
AUC: Where to start? Many printers went into liquidation as a result of Covid-19, meaning that those left behind have more business with the same or reduced manpower. We have definitely seen the effects of this in longer printing times. Rising paper costs and global paper shortages were also exacerbated by Covid, which we have felt directly through rising production costs. The pandemic has brought home the need to increase the number of our Arabic Language Learning textbooks that are available digitally, as well as make their content more readily available on e-commerce platforms. Adoption of print on demand technology has also accelerated, in parallel with a reevaluation of risk and return on investment on titles across all genres and formats. Zoom book launches and digital marketing in general are now the norm. Many key in-house meetings remain online. Digital marketing has taken on new forms. Even journal reviewers, increasingly, accept digital copies of books.
UTP: We can’t speak to the publishing industry a whole, but our program was affected throughout the pandemic by supply chain issues, a rise in production costs, and a downtick in sales for our titles, with the exception of new titles like Ibn Arabi’s Small Death, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Translated Literature, and the Palestinian YA fantasy trilogy Thunderbird. It would be interesting to know to what extent Covid affected interest in literary translation as a whole, given that the pandemic made the world both smaller and bigger at the same time.
GUP: Our engagement with the market in the Middle East is mainly through Arabic language study abroad programs. Pandemic travel restrictions had an immediate effect on the larger study abroad programs, and this caused us to alter our distribution pattern. We did not offer e-textbooks prior to COVID, but brought them to market quickly after lockdown began in order to meet acute demand driven by remote learning. Since the pandemic began, both the costs for producing print books and the length of time for books to be completed and shipped to locations around the world has greatly increased. These factors have made it a challenge to get books where they are most wanted, when they are needed, and at a price that everyone can bear. Our major textbooks do not easily lend themselves to print-on-demand but we are seeing more uptake of etextbooks in overseas markets, which can be a successful solution to rising costs, price sensitivity, and timing issues impacted by printing and shipping delays.
Saqi: The pandemic has had devastating consequences on us all, in both personal, public, and political spaces. It has seen both well-established and exciting innovators leave the market: there is never a good time to say goodbye to old friends. In some places, Covid has wreaked havoc on top of other severe hardships – in Beirut, for example, which has had to deal simultaneously with the horrific blast in August 2020 and the ongoing recession. Beirut used to enjoy a vibrant book market but we have seen the bottom of that drop out. There have also been production issues in the UK – a combination of Covid and Brexit affected the supply of paper and other resources, and also increased the costs of postage. Margins everywhere have diminished. We would love to say that during the pandemic more people were able to find time to read, but we have seen no evidence to suggest that, and sales in all formats across the board plummeted as bookshops closed in most of our territories (although this was not global – in France, for example, book shops were considered an essential business during the third lockdown and remained open). Many venues and universities that previously hosted author talks and events, which are a valuable platform and often result in book sales, are now more circumspect about their public programmes. We have not seen the zeal for book talks outside of festivals return to pre-pandemic levels and some festivals have folded altogether. However, we are now looking forward to some interesting new developments. Social media (such as Booktok) has opened avenues to new readers, and the production of audiobooks dramatically increased while also becoming more democratised.
New and upcoming publications from AUC Press
Cairo Securitized: Reconceiving Urban Justice and Social Resilience, edited by Paul Amar, Deen Sharp, and Noura Wahby
A rich examination of the securitization of the everyday lives of the citizens of Cairo and how to build a more equitable urban order
Until the year 2000, Cairo had been a model megacity, relatively crime free, safe, and public facing. It featured a thriving public culture and vibrant street life. In recent decades, however, the Egyptian state has accelerated a wholesale dismantlement of public education and public sector jobs and reversed the modest land reforms of the Nasser era. As a result, the vast majority of Cairo’s people have been forcibly deprived of their social rights, social goods, and educational capital.
Eschewing the traditional focus on top-down regime and state security, the contributors to this volume, who represent a wide array of academics, activists, artists, and journalists, explore how repressive policies affect the everyday lives of citizens. They show the ways in which urban security crises are politically fashioned and do not emanate from the urban social fabric on their own: city crime, violence, and fear are created by specific means of extraction, production, and control.
Another kind of city can live again. But how? By tackling a range of issues, including public health, transportation, labor safety, and housing and property distribution, Cairo Securitized unsettles simplistic binaries of thug and police, public versus private, and slum versus enclave, and proposes compelling new ways in which securitizing processes can be reversed, reengineered, and replaced with a participatory and equitable urban order.
Palestinian Music in Exile: Voices of Resistance by Louis Brehony
A historical and contemporary study of Palestinian musicianship in exile in the Middle East, spanning half a century in disparate locations
Palestinian Music in Exile is a historical and contemporary study of Palestinian musicianship in exile in the Middle East, spanning half a century in disparate and undocumented locations. The stories taking center stage show creatively divergent and revolutionary performance springing from conditions of colonialism, repression, and underdevelopment.
What role does music play in the social spaces of Palestinian exile? How are the routes and roadblocks to musical success impacted by regional and international power structures? And how are questions of style, genre, or national tradition navigated by Palestinian musicians? Based on seven years of research in Europe and the Middle East, this timely and inspiring collection of musical ethnographies is the first oral history of contemporary Palestinian musicianship to appear in book form, and the only study to encompass such a broad range of experiences of the ghurba, or place of exile.
State, Peasants, and Land in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Egypt by Maha Ghalwash
An alternative reading of the relationship between the state and smallholder peasants in mid-nineteenth-century Egypt
This book examines the rural history of Egypt during the middle years of the nineteenth century, a period that is often glossed over, or altogether forgotten. Drawing on a wide array of archival sources, some only rarely utilized by other scholars, it argues that state policy targeting the peasant land tenure regime was informed by the dual economic principles of the Ottoman, or traditional, philosophy of statecraft, and that the workings of the relevant regulations did not produce extensive peasant land loss and impoverishment.
Maha Ghalwash presents a rich, detailed analysis of such crucial issues as land legislation, tax impositions, the system of tax collection, modes of land acquisition, large-scale peasant abandonment of land, the emergence of surplus lands, the formation of large, privileged estates, distribution of village land, female land inheritance, and the nature of peasants’ political activity. In investigating these issues, she highlights peasant voices, experiences, and agential power.
Traditional interpretations of the rural history of nineteenth-century Egypt generally specify an avaricious state, so indifferent to peasant well-being that it consistently developed harsh policies that led to unremitting, extensive peasant impoverishment. Through an examination of the relationship between the absolutist state and the majority of its subject population, the peasant smallholders, during 1848-63, this study shows that these ideas do not hold for the mid-century period.
State, Peasants, and Land in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Egypt will be of interest to students of Middle East history, especially Egyptian rural history, as well as those of peasant studies, subaltern studies, gender studies, and Ottoman rural history.
New and upcoming publications from Georgetown University Press
Aswat Muʿasira: Short Stories for Advanced Arabic by Jonas Elbousty. Foreword by Roger Allen
An engaging collection of contemporary short stories from various Arabic countries develops students’ mastery of literary analysis and cultural awareness
Aswat Mu’asira introduces advanced level students to contemporary short stories from across the Middle East. Fifty-five stories in Arabic from twenty countries engage students with current topics and literary approaches that open the door to discovering both established and emerging authors and literary traditions. The book includes voices from often overlooked Arabic-speaking countries and peoples, giving readers the opportunity to broaden their understanding of Arabic cultures.
While most Arabic literature textbooks include only excerpts of longer works, the short stories in this collection are designed to be read in one sitting, giving students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a complete piece of literature. Stories are organized into chapters based on their country of origin. Each story is preceded by an author biography and followed by exercises to help students practice vocabulary and comprehension, explore the literary tradition, and master literary analysis.
Scholars of Arabic literature will also welcome these new stories, many of which are available outside the Middle East for the first time in this collection and expand the understanding of the short story and of contemporary literature from this important region.
Al-Qata’i: Ibn Tulun’s City Without Walls by Reem Bassiouney. Translated from Arabic by Roger Allen
An award-winning novelist’s vibrant portrayal of the struggle to create a more unified society in medieval Egypt and how this has shaped Egypt today.
Brimming with intrigue, adventure, and romance, Al-Qata’i: Ibn Tulun’s City Without Wallstells the epic story of visionary Egyptian leader Ahmad Ibn Tulun who built Al-Qata’i (now Cairo) into a thriving multicultural empire.
The novel begins with the rediscovery of the Ibn Tulun Mosque in 1918 and recounts Ibn Tulun’s life and legacy in the ninth and tenth centuries. Bassiouney presents Ibn Tulun’s benevolent vision to unify all Egyptians in a new city, Al-Qata’i. He becomes so focused on his vision, however, that he cannot see the impact it has on his family or the fate of Egypt. When a betrayal leads to his demise, the rival Abbasid caliph threatens to regain control of Al-Qata’i. In the aftermath of Ibn Tulun’s death, his daughter Aisha emerges as a pivotal figure, bravely taking a stand against the Abbasids to preserve her life, the city, and the iconic mosque.
This contemporary Egyptian writer forces us to consider universal themes, such as diversity and equality, through both a historical and intercultural lens that enriches our understanding of these issues in our world today.
Shocks and Rivalries in the Middle East and North Africa edited by Imad Mansour and William R. Thompson
The first in-depth, multicase analysis of interstate rivalries and shock events in the MENA region with significant findings for the study of global politics.
Shocks and Rivalries in the Middle East and North Africa is the first book to examine issue-driven antagonisms within groups of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) states and their impact on relations within the region. The volume also considers how shock events, such as internal revolts and regional wars, can alter interstate tensions and the trajectory of conflict.
MENA has experienced more internal rivalries than any other region, making a detailed analysis vital to understanding the region’s complex political, cultural, and economic history. The state groupings studied in this volume include Israel and Iran; Iran and Saudi Arabia; Iran and Turkey; Iran, Iraq, and Syria; Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and Algeria and Morocco. Essays are theoretically driven, breaking the MENA region down into a collection of systems that exemplify how state and nonstate actors interact around certain issues. Through this approach, contributors shed rare light on the origins, persistence, escalation, and resolution of MENA rivalries and trace significant patterns of regional change.
Shocks and Rivalries in the Middle East and North Africa makes a major contribution to scholarship on MENA antagonisms. It not only addresses an understudied phenomenon in the international relations of the MENA region, it also expands our knowledge of rivalry dynamics in global politics.
New and upcoming publications from Saqi Books
A sweeping, compelling account of European imperialism that resulted in the Great War and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
In the mid-eighteenth century, most of the Mediterranean coastline and its hinterlands were controlled by the Ottoman Empire, a vast Islamic power regarded by Christian Europe with awe and fear. However, by the end of the First World War, this great civilisation had been completely subjugated, its territories occupied by European states.
Ian Rutledge reveals how the Mediterranean – the fault line between Europe and Islam – became the most important centre of European imperialist rivalry. Sea of Troubles is a masterful account of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, told from all key players’ perspectives. Ian Rutledge illuminates over three centuries of European imperialism in the Islamic Mediterranean, revealing the chain reaction of violence that led to the First World War.
Woman Life Freedom: Voices and Art from the Women’s Protests in Iran, edited by Malu Halasa
An invaluable and deeply moving testimony to resistance, this unique anthology is the first to showcase Iranian protest art and writing. In the wake of the murder of Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022 by Iran’s morality police, which sent shockwaves throughout the country, cries of Zan Zendegi Azadi in Farsi – Woman Life Freedom – echoed in mass demonstrations, which continue today.
This collection captures this historic moment in artwork and first-person accounts by courageous women, including those too scared to reveal their true identities because of the regime. Featuring art, music and photography from the protests, this moving and inspiring anthology exposes hardship, hope and empowerment in modern-day Iran.
Diary of a Country Prosecutor by Tawfik al-Hakim, translated from the Arabic by Abba Eban
At Saqi, we are fortunate to publish a combination of non-fiction and fiction titles. Fiction can do what non-fiction cannot and our 2023 catalogue delivers a superb range of contemporary and classic novels that explore leading issues from this kaleidoscopic region with depth, empathy and humour. River Spirit by Leila Aboulela visits the final, disastrous exit of the British forces from Sudan during the Mahdist War; Mai al-Nakib’s An Unlasting Home follows the impossible position of an academic with Arab parentage, who grew up in Kuwait but was educated in American schools and universities, as she tries to teach whilst authorities work to curb her. I have chosen a classic though as my final pick, the sublime, satirical Diary of a Country Prosecutor by Tawfik al-Hakim, which goes in circles in the Egyptian legal system. First published in 1955, it’s a privilege to bring al-Hakim, who’s work still has much to offer, to readers today.