Extra: 2 must-see books from the Arab world

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2 books from the Arab world on which we could not build a list but which absolutely had to be cited


For some weeks now we have launched a column in which we bring you 3 really essential books of a certain area; this time, however, we were unable to identify a precise place to assign these texts, but they are so beautiful and intense that they are at least mentioned.

“A Small Death” by Mohamed Hasan Alwan (Saudi Arabia)

In this ambitious novel, Mohamed Hasan Alwan leads us to a distant era, at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, reconstructing the life of the “supreme master” Muhyi-d-din Ibn ‘Arabi step by step and in great detail , one of the greatest Sufi sheikhs of all time, philosopher, mystic and poet whose work has influenced many intellectuals and mystics both in the East and in the West (according to some scholars it would have influenced, albeit indirectly, also Dante Alighieri and San Giovanni della Croce ). At the opening of the novel, Alwan imagines Ibn ‘Arabi, in a hermitage on a mountain in Azerbaijan, intent on writing his own autobiography. The following pages retrace, in the form of a first-person narration, the entire life of the Muslim mystic, always closely linked to the historical and political events of the time, which influenced, often in a direct way, his daily life and on his existential path.

Ibn Arabi

A book to read absolutely, a rare pearl to get in touch with the Sufi world. In this text we will be able to discover in depth the figure of one of the greatest spiritual masters of the Islamic world, fully immersing ourselves in his life and history. We will experience sadness and joy, strength and weaknesses of one of the most interesting men of every age, in a continuous journey in search of the meaning of existence. Alwan’s novel is a masterpiece of extraordinary value that will also allow us to have a more faithful look than ever on life at the time of the great mystic, a moment of absolute splendor within the Arab-Islamic world. The question is “why not have it?” and no answer would be satisfactory.

“Frankenstein in Baghdad” by Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq)

The novel is set in Baghdad during the American occupation in 2005-2006. The city is dotted with kamikaze explosions, traversed by sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis and other groups, without a real state and civil order, immersed in economic precariousness. A mysterious character collects and puts together the pieces of corpses produced by the explosions and creates a Frankenstein, a monster who begins to live and avenge the victims. Little by little, this monster, which the police and newspapers investigate in vain, terrifies the people of Baghdad, even hitting innocent victims.

Frankenstein in Baghdad

The absolute pearl of Arab magic realism, “Frankenstein in Baghdad” is able to give a new face to Mary Shelley’s creature, amplifying its most interesting features and perfectly contextualizing everything to the Iraqi reality. The characters are all spot on and extremely characteristic, telling, even if only with their presence, one of the most varied and articulated realities of the whole Arab world. The monster, in particular, is something superb in intensity and depth, representing more than ever concepts such as “life” and the boundary between “good and evil“. A book that unites more genres and more souls and amalgamates them with a rare poetry that blends beautiful prose with a great meaning, truly “unmissable”.

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