Arabic, 2013-14

2015 Update: Watch this space! Some of the books from this reading group are likely to make it into English translation!

Our Arabic reading group is up and running in New York City, Cairo and London, and we hope you’ll join us.

The Arabic group is the second in a series of special reading groups in collaboration with the European Society of Authors and kindly funded by the Michalski Foundation. We’re selecting books from the European Society of Authors’ Finnegan’s List, a list of under-translated, under-recognized works recommended by prominent writers from around the world. Lebanese author Hoda Barakat and Syrian author Samar Yazbek have both suggested Arabic titles for the list in the past two years.

You can take part in discussions in person in New York City, Cairo or London, as well as online in the comments section of the author pages. If your book club in another city is interested in reading along, let us know at

Most of all, we want to know what you think of the novels, and thanks to your discussion online and in person, one or more of the books we discuss might make it into English.

We also invite editors from around the world to read the English samples, peruse the author pages and even come to our meet-ups to hear more. (And Other Stories doesn’t publish many titles each year, so we’d be delighted if you followed up on one of these tips and published the author – do let us know!)

This group is chaired by Elisabeth Jaquette, who can be reached at for more information.

Click here to read an interesting piece by Samar Yazbek in the Washington Post.


Our group will be reading three Syrian novels suggested by Samar Yazbek in 2013:

– The Epidemic by Hani al-Rahib

– The Shell by Mustafa Khalifa

– Ascension to Death by Mamdouh Azzam

Please email us at if you would like to get involved or receive further information about the above books. We look forward to reading your comments.

How it Works

1. Excerpts in English are being added to this website – see the relevant author’s page. To read the whole book, you can order The Epidemic from Neel Wa Furat, and The Shell and Ascension to Death from the Arabic Book Shop (remember to allow 2 weeks for shipping). If you have trouble finding a title we may have a copy. We also have pdfs of the books available – just ask the group coordinator at

2. Read the excerpts and/or the books, then add your thoughts online on the author pages.

3. Come to a meet-up in Cairo, New York City or London to discuss what we have read. You can be sure of lively, well informed discussion.

Where and When

Reading Period: 

September – November 2013

New York meet-ups:

The first New York meeting, to discuss Hani al-Rahib’s The Epidemic, will be held on Wednesday October 2nd, at 8pm at NYU’s Kevorkian Library, 50 Washington Square South, New York.

The second New York meeting,  to discuss Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell, will be held on Monday October 28th at 7:30pm at Book Culture, 536 West 112th Street (between Broadway & Amsterdam), New York.

The third New York meeting, to discuss Mamdouh Azzam’s Ascension to Death, will be held on Tuesday, December 3rd at 7:30pm, at Shakespeare and Co. – 716 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

Cairo meet-ups:

The first Cairo meeting will be held at 7:30pm on September 29th at Dar al Tanweer publishing house, 8 Qasr el Nil Street, Downtown Cairo.

The second Cairo meeting, to discuss Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell, will be held on Sunday, November 3rd at 7:30pm, at Will Barnes’ apartment – email for the location.

The third Cairo meeting, to discuss Mamdouh Azzam’s Ascension to Death, will be held on Wednesday, December 4th at 7:30pm, at Will Barnes’ apartment – email for the location.

London meet-ups: (reading group Safha wa nus or ‘a page and a half’)

The first London meeting, to discuss Hani al-Rahib’s The Epidemic, will be held on 7th October at 7pm at the Royal Festival Hall/Southbank Centre.

The second London meeting, to discuss Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell, is scheduled for November 26th at 7pm in the Royal Festival Hall/Southbank Centre.

The third London meeting, to discuss Mamdouh Azzam’s Ascension to Death, will be held on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 at 7:30pm at the Royal Festival Hall, Blue Bar on the 4th level.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Muftah » Arabic Literature in Focus: Hani al-Rahib
  2. الوباء لهاني الراهب / The Epidemic, by Hani al-Rahib | Cairo Book Club
  3. And Other Stories’ Arabic reading group | Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
  4. Którą książkę przetłumaczyć? Wypowiedz się. « BliskiWschó
  5. The Shell: Memoires of a Hidden Observer | Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

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