8 books recommended by the Griot Library in Rome

This article is also available in: Italiano

After our “top” books of 2019, we leave you the “Christmas letter” of one of the most interesting bookstores in Italy: the Griot of Rome. Read it carefully, maybe you will find some more suggestions than the “Middle East” gifts.

“A small death” by Mohammed Hassan Alwan (Saudi Arabia)

A Small Death is the fictionalised account of the life of a Sufi saint, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, from his birth in Muslim Spain in the 12th century until his death in Damascus. It follows his mystic Sufi experience and heroic travels from Andalusia to Azerbaijan, via Morocco, Egypt, the Hijaz, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Of a sensitive and anxious nature, Muhyiddin struggles with inner turmoil throughout the course of his travels. Witnessing fictitious events including savage military conflicts, he attempts to fulfil his mission against a backdrop of states and numerous cities where he meets countless people.

Because with a powerful and poetic prose he manages to transport the reader into the life of one of the most important scholars of Islam, Ibn Arabi, and because it is the first book read by the GRIOT Book Circle!

“Away from Chaos: The Middle East and the Challenge to the West” by Gilles Kepel (France)

The Middle East is one of the world’s most volatile regions. In recent years, from the optimism and then crushing disappointment of the Arab uprisings through the rise and fall of the Islamic State, it has presented key international security challenges. With the resilient jihadi terror threat, large-scale migration due to warfare and climate change, and fierce competition for control over oil, it promises to continue to be a powder keg. What ignited this instability? What ignited this instability? Away from Chaos is a sweeping political history of four decades of Middle East conflict and its worldwide ramifications. Gilles Kepel, called “France’s most famous scholar of Islam” by the New York Times, offers a clear and persuasive narrative of the long-term causes of tension while seamlessly incorporating on-the-ground observations and personal experiences from the people who lived through them. From the Yom Kippur/Ramadan war of 1973 to the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Away from Chaos weaves together the various threads that run through Middle East politics and ties them to their implications on the global stage. With keen insight stemming from decades of experience in the region, Kepel puts these chaotic decades in perspective and illuminates their underlying dynamics. He also considers the prospects of emerging from this long-lasting turmoil and for the people of the Middle East and the world to achieve a more stable future.


Because through Kepel’s rigorous analysis of the last 40 years it is possible to understand what is boiling in the Arab world and in the Mediterranean

“Les Tribulations du dernier Sijilmassi” by Fouad Laroui (Morocco)

Engineer Adam Sijilmassi is on his umpteenth business class trip, returning from Asia. As he flies over the sea he realizes that it is necessary to slow down and change his life. Thus began a daring journey through identity and memory, in search of an authenticity that could represent a synthesis of his different ways of being. After a surreal encounter with an analyst who tries to trace his choices back to a form of nervous breakdown, Adam leaves for his native village. He discovers his grandfather’s library, texts of literature and philosophy from the time of Arab Andalusia and makes reading his main activity. In Adam’s thought, phrases and verses of literary works continually appear which find their place in the interpretation of daily life, settling gracefully alongside the potpourri of Moroccan terms, proverbs, phrases. The encounter between the different linguistic expressions, often at the basis of the works of Fouad Laroui, in this novel finds in Adam a different spokesman, at the same time less energetic and more decisive, passionate and reflective, multifaceted as the magma of works that animates him. With his pungent and elegant irony, Laroui deconstructs stereotypes, categories and visions of the world, questioning the roots of today’s division between East and West. Adam is a character of the picaresque tradition, authentic, very real, yet imbued with literary construction, just as the novel he is the protagonist of, linear and at the same time richly layered, is a profound claim to literature as a founding act of changes.

An article is expected in January

Because Laroui manages to build an erudite and light novel around an unforgettable character who is passionate about literature.

“Jokes for Gunman” by Mazen Maarouf (Lebanon)

Is it right to chase love during a conflict? How does a child restore dignity to a cowardly and ridiculed father? Can you manage to survive even in the most absurd of situations, perhaps together with a cow in a cinema disembowelled by bombs? In an indefinite city, torn by a war that seems to have no end, a series of characters looks and tells a ruthless world in which despite everything, by any means, one tries to resist. A brilliant collection of fictions in the vein of Roald Dahl, Etgar Keret and Amy Hempel. These are stories of what the world looks like from a child’s pure but sometimes vengeful or muddled perspective. These are stories of life in a war zone, life peppered by surreal mistakes, tragic accidents and painful encounters. These are stories of fantasist matadors, lost limbs and perplexed voyeurs. This is a collection about sex, death and the all-important skill of making life into a joke. These are unexpected stories by a very fresh voice. These stories are unforgettable.


Because with a style full of ferocity and irony Maarouf writes stories about daily life during the war as few have managed before

“Le miroir vide” by Samir Toumi (Algeria)

Algeri. On the morning of his forty-fourth birthday, an anonymous employee of the Algerian National Oil and Gas Company wakes up, looks in the mirror and does not see his own image. It is the first of the cancellations that from that day will mark his life determining his fate. In the terror of the empty mirror, the man resorts to the treatment of a psychiatrist, Doctor B., who declares him affected by the “cancellation syndrome”, a very rare disorder, little studied but of great symbolic suggestion and In fact, it seems to affect “mostly Algerian male individuals born after Independence”, just like the protagonist, the son of a valiant and respected former FLN fighter, whose figure continues to weigh like a boulder on his life. Samir Toumi, here translated for the first time into Italian, in a dry but intense writing, tinged with bitter irony and supported by a tight rhythm, with “The mirror empty” gives the reader a story of ordinary folly and the metaphor of a country , contemporary Algeria. The labor of generations squeezed between inherited independence and colonized consciousness.


Because it is a metaphor for the history of Algeria and its present, seen as a mirror that no longer returns the image of those who reflect themselves.

“Epicrisis” by Ashraf Fayadh (Saudi Arabia)

Ashraf Fayadh is a poet, director, photographer, painter and curator of exhibitions of Palestinian origins born in Saudi Arabia on July 15, 1980. He is one of the prominent artists in Abha, the city where he lived. He even participated in the Venice Biennale, representing Saudi Arabia. In the summer of 2014, Fayadh was tried in Saudi Arabia for his collection of poems (which has since been withdrawn from circulation). The instructions are inside, published in Beirut in 2008, which comments on social issues in the Arab world. , exile, love, the situation of refugees. Saudi courts sentenced him to death for the crime of apostasy and for the spread of blasphemous ideas against religion and the prophet, but after a major international campaign in support of him and much solidarity from public opinion, the authorities switched the penalty of 8 years imprisonment and 800 lashes. Fayadh is serving his sentence in the city of Abha and receiving lashes on several occasions. “Epicrisis” is the poet’s second collection.


Because it is the latest collection of a poet unjustly imprisoned in Saudi Arabia whose voice must be listened to and spread

“The family clause” by Jonas Hassen Khemiri (Sweden)

A tender, bruising novel of a family in crisis, The Family Clause reveals one of the real challenges in life- to not let your family circumstances define your destiny. A grandfather who lives abroad returns home to visit his adult children. The son is a failure. The daughter is having a baby with the wrong man. Only the grandfather, the proud patriarch, is perfect – at least, according to himself. Over the course of ten intense days, their relationships unfold and painful memories resurface. The grandfather is confronted by his past. The daughter is faced with an impossible choice. The son tries to write himself free. Something has to give. But the son is duty-bound to the father through a longstanding family agreement – the so-called father clause – and can this clause be renegotiated, or will it forever chain the family to its past? Through a series of quickly changing perspectives, Jonas Hassen Khemiri evokes an intimate portrait of a chaotic and perfectly normal family, deeply wounded by the death of a child and the disappearance of a father


Because it is the funny and painful story of a father and son separated by two cultures and two worlds that seem to fall apart.

“Syria speaks: art and culture from the frontline” (Syria)

In Syria, culture has become a critical line of defence against tyranny. Syria Speaks is a celebration of a people determined to reclaim their dignity, freedom and self-expression. It showcases the work of over fifty artists and writers who are challenging the culture of violence in Syria. Their literature, poems and songs, cartoons, political posters and photographs document and interpret the momentous changes that have shifted the frame of reality so drastically in Syria. Moving and inspiring, Syria Speaks is testament to the courage, creativity and imagination of the Syrian people. A unique anthology providing a window into Syrian art and writing since the uprising. Contributors include internationally renowned artists and writers, such as Ali Ferzat, Samar Yazbek, Khaled Khalifa and Robin Yassin-Kassab. The book includes 108 colour illustrations


Because it is a beautiful collection of Syrian artists who despite the war continue to create and imagine a different life.

If you want to buy the books on site or simply visit the Griot Library, all you have to do is go to via Santa Cecilia 1 / A in Rome. However, we leave you the links to their website, facebook page and Instagram. Follow us on our facebook page, Spotify, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, or on our Telegram channel. Any like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to dedicate ourselves more and more to our passion: to tell the story of the Middle East

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