|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
21 - 27 March 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
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I was once asked by a foreign journalist to name the five books I would recommend to someone who wanted to read just so many literary works.
Of course, the question is redundant -- as soon as you have named the fifth something else will pop up in the mind, and on, and on. It is also pretty silly to pose such a question to someone whose entire life has been spent reading. But given such reservations, here is my list.
I would say that the first book that comes to mind is, naturally, the Qur'an, and for the many reasons known to those who have read it in Arabic.
I would then choose One thousand and One Nights. It is certainly one of the most seminal pieces of literature, not least because of its profound influence on the patterning and structure of subsequent narrative ventures.
Next I would recommend a reading of Shakespeare's tragedies. In four great dramas Shakespeare managed to capture the dilemma of humanity as no one else before or since. It would be impossible to select one above the others, and they must be approached as a whole.
The great 19th century Russian practitioners of fiction I would probably then select -- Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekov being foremost in my mind. And finally I would recommend one of the great collections of Sufi poetry -- Hafez Shirazi's collection, I think. Every time I finish reading and put it down, I pick it up again.
Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.
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