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View Poll Results: North Africa & The Middle East Vote • November 2013, Multiple Choice
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, Iran 6 37.50%
Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf, Lebanon 5 31.25%
A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz, Israel 8 50.00%
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt 6 37.50%
Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela, Sudan 5 31.25%
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar, Libya 5 31.25%
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami, Morocco 2 12.50%
The Yacoubian Buidling by Alaa Al-Aswany, Egypt 5 31.25%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 16. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-06-2013, 01:32 AM   #1
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North Africa & The Middle East Vote • November 2013

Help us choose the November 2013 selection to read for the MR Literary Club! The poll will be open for three days.

The vote is multiple choice. You may vote for as many or as few as you like.

A discussion thread will begin shortly after a winner is chosen.

In the event of a tie, there will be a one-day non-multiple-choice run-off poll. In the event that the run-off poll also ends in a tie, the tie will be resolved in favour of the selection that received all of its initial nominations first.


Select from the following works:


The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, Iran
Spoiler:
Omar Khayyám (1048-1131)

The Rubaiyat is a collection of quatrains using an aaba rhyme scheme examining aspects of life from an Epicurean, Fatalistic, and Agnostic point of view.

By far the most famous English translation of these remarkable poems is that of Edward Fitzgerald, first published in 1859 and later expanded in four further editions. It would seem that Fitzgerald was attracted to the dark life-view of the Persian poet and this shows in the brilliance of the translation.

Davis in his introduction to the poem describes it as “the most famous verse translation ever made into English. . . . In the 1953 edition of The Oxford Book of Quotations there are 188 excerpts from the Rubaiyat (of which 59 are complete quatrains)--this is virtually two-thirds of the total work. Not even Shakespeare or the Authorized Version of the Bible are represented by such massive percentages.”

Here’s a sample of it:

“Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate.
And many knots unravell’d by the Road;
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.”

or

"Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wine
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
the Flower that once has blown for ever dies."

There are other translations, of course. But the Fitzgerald translation is freely available in Project Gutenberg, Many Books, Feedbooks, Amazon, Kobo etc.


Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf, Lebanon
Spoiler:
Amin Maalouf, a Lebanese-born writer who moved to France in his mid-twenties and writes in French although his first language is Arabic.


Leo Africanus is the

"imaginary autobiography of the famous geographer, adventurer, and scholar Hasan al-Wazzan, who was born in Granada in 1488. His family fled the Inquisition and took him to the city of Fez, in North Africa. Hasan became an itinerant merchant, and made many journeys to the East, journeys rich in adventure and observation. He was captured by a Sicilian pirate and taken back to Rome as a gift to Pope Leo X, who baptized him Johannes Leo. While in Rome, he wrote the first trilingual dictionary (Latin, Arabic and Hebrew), as well as his celebrated Description of Africa, for which he is still remembered as Leo Africanus." (Wikipedia)


NY Times Book Review:

Leo Africanus is a beautiful book of tales about people who are forced to accept choices made for them by someone else...It relates, poetically at times and often imaginatively, the story of those who did not make it to the New World.


A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz, Israel
Spoiler:
From Goodreads:

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award International Bestseller

"[An] ingenious work that circles around the rise of a state, the tragic destiny of a mother, a boy’s creation of a new self." — The New Yorker.

A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother’s suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation.

"One of the most enchanting and deeply satisfying books that I have read in many years." — New Republic


Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt
Spoiler:
Naguib Mahfouz's Palace Walk, which is the first book in his "Cairo Trilogy". Mahfouz got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, and is considered a towering figure in Arabic literature.

The trilogy chronicles the life of a family over three generations, with the first volume spanning from the short period of the Egyptian revolution against the Brits.


Blurb from Random house:

Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent epic trilogy of colonial Egypt appears here in one volume for the first time. The Nobel Prize—winning writer’s masterwork is the engrossing story of a Muslim family in Cairo during Britain’s occupation of Egypt in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The novels of The Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons–the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. Al-Sayyid Ahmad’s rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination in Palace of Desire, as the world around them opens to the currents of modernity and political and domestic turmoil brought by the 1920s. Sugar Street brings Mahfouz’s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician.

Throughout the trilogy, the family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two World Wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, The Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller.


Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela, Sudan
Spoiler:
Leila Aboulela Lyrics Alley, couponable on Kobo. Originally written in English, though the writer was born in Egypt and raised in Sudan.


Blurb from Goodreads:

Lyrics Alley is the evocative story of an affluent Sudanese family shaken by the shifting powers in their country and the near-tragedy that threatens the legacy they've built for decades.

Their fortune threatened by shifting powers in Sudan and their heir's debilitating accident, a powerful family under the leadership of Mahmoud Bey is torn between the traditional and modern values of Mahmoud's two wives and his son's efforts to break with cultural limits.


In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar, Libya
Spoiler:
Link to Hisham Matar, the author and here is what Goodreads says about the book:

Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman’s days are circumscribed by the narrow rituals of childhood: outings to the ruins surrounding Tripoli, games with friends played under the burning sun, exotic gifts from his father’s constant business trips abroad. But his nights have come to revolve around his mother’s increasingly disturbing bedside stories full of old family bitterness. And then one day Suleiman sees his father across the square of a busy marketplace, his face wrapped in a pair of dark sunglasses. Wasn’t he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie?

Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to understand—where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his father’s cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister questions sits outside in a parked car all day; where his best friend’s father can disappear overnight, next to be seen publicly interrogated on state television.

In the Country of Men is a stunning depiction of a child confronted with the private fallout of a public nightmare. But above all, it is a debut of rare insight and literary grace.


Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami, Morocco
Spoiler:
Lalami was born and raised in Morocco and now lives in the United States and writes in English. She became the first Moroccan author to publish a book of fiction written in English with a major commercial press in the United States.


From Amazon:

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Laila Lalami's poetic debut, begins with the illegal journey of four Moroccans across the Strait of Gibraltar. Moments away from the shores of Spain, the boat capsizes and the passengers are forced to swim for their lives, and their freedom. What follows is an exploration of the pasts that led to this passage, and the futures that emerge from this voyage.

Less a novel than a series of biographical sketches, the book seems at times like a tease; Lalami does such a beautiful job creating her characters that readers will undoubtedly be left wanting more. Still, each portrait gives us a chance to not only engage with the character, but to gain an understanding of the religious, socio-economic, and emotional circumstances that compel each person to leave Morocco. Faten, a student who dons the hijab, is forced to flee when her religious beliefs start threatening the lives of influential educators. Murad, a serious, educated young man chances the crossing in search of a better life, where he doesn't have to hustle tourists to make a living. In each scene, Lalami bring Moroccan culture to life, from the tree-lined suburbs of Rabat to the Douar Lhajja slum, "where couscous pots were used as satellite dishes."

With Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Lalami creates a world that is both modern and traditional, hopeful and desperate, mournful and joyous.


The Yacoubian Buidling by Alaa Al-Aswany, Egypt
Spoiler:
The Yacoubian Buidling by Alaa Al Aswany (Egypt)


Originally Posted by GoodReads:

All manner of flawed and fragile humanity reside in the Yacoubian Building, a once-elegant temple of Art Deco splendor now slowly decaying in the smog and bustle of downtown Cairo: a fading aristocrat and self-proclaimed "scientist of women"; a sultry, voluptuous siren; a devout young student, feeling the irresistible pull toward fundamentalism; a newspaper editor helplessly in love with a policeman; a corrupt and corpulent politician, twisting the Koran to justify his desires.

These disparate lives careen toward an explosive conclusion in Alaa Al Aswany's remarkable international bestseller. Teeming with frank sexuality and heartfelt compassion, this book is an important window on to the experience of loss and love in the Arab world.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:53 AM   #2
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We've had exceptionally strong slates lately and here's another. My choices were next thing to random, because I'd love to read any of them.
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Old 11-06-2013, 11:36 AM   #3
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I voted based on length, choosing three or the four shortest books, all of which are on my potential list of reads for next year. I may not read this month's winner until next year some time,but it is a very strong list of candidates

I didn't vote for Hope as it doesn't strike me as from the region as much as the summary says it is about Moroccan's experiences in Spain. I'm finding that the hardest thing in finding books for next year that I want both the author and the subject to be from the country. In some cases, like the US I will skip that as I've read enough, but for most countries I want something that speaks of the country.

In the end, I will probably end up being a hypocrite. I look forward to vilolating my own rules on a daily basis.
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Old 11-06-2013, 12:31 PM   #4
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A quirk I noticed while putting the poll together is that the first seven nominations are, from east to west and from north to south when necessary, in order geographically.

Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird View Post
We've had exceptionally strong slates lately and here's another. My choices were next thing to random, because I'd love to read any of them.
Hear hear. I've been wondering if my tastes were becoming broader, because lately I've been wanting to vote for so many nominations each month. This month I kept my vote to a relatively conservative three, but I was considering up to six.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HomeInMyShoes View Post
...I didn't vote for Hope as it doesn't strike me as from the region as much as the summary says it is about Moroccan's experiences in Spain...
It begins with their voyage across the strait, but then flashes back to their lives in Morocco and what cause them to attempt the voyage. From the Amazon description:

Quote:
In each scene, Lalami bring Moroccan culture to life, from the tree-lined suburbs of Rabat to the Douar Lhajja slum, "where couscous pots were used as satellite dishes."
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Old 11-06-2013, 12:56 PM   #5
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Ooh, this is exciting as I'm Middle Eastern, interesting choices there sun surfer. I voted for Palace Walk. It took me a while to figure out which book that is as the author's name is a bit different in English since the name contains Arabic letters non existent in the English language. Also the Arabic title translates to Between Two Palaces, but when I read the spoiler I figured it out. I have read the Cairo Trilogy in Arabic but would love to read it in English as well.
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Old 11-06-2013, 03:37 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sun surfer View Post
It begins with their voyage across the strait, but then flashes back to their lives in Morocco and what cause them to attempt the voyage. From the Amazon description:
Then I misvoted for sure. Thanks for the extra information.

I based my vote on reading GoodReads description which started with "an authentic look at the Muslim immigrant experience today" which left me wondering how much of the book was about Morocco and how much was about where they ended up. Oh well. The book did sound interesting to me, but I voted as a randomly voted based on quick perusals.

Last edited by HomeInMyShoes; 11-06-2013 at 03:37 PM. Reason: fix some spelling.
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Old 11-06-2013, 07:13 PM   #7
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I agree it's a terrific selection. I ended up voting for the four I can get from my library.
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Old 11-08-2013, 10:42 AM   #8
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So A Tale of Love and Darkness pulls ahead slightly. I was hoping that Palace Walk would come out on top and I could cross another Nobel author off of my list.
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Old 11-08-2013, 01:03 PM   #9
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It ain't over till it's over.

I picked up the Oz book with the recent Kobo magic code, so I'm good to go with that, but some stalwarts have yet to vote.
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Old 11-08-2013, 01:34 PM   #10
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It's certainly up in the air. I'd like to thank everyone for all the nominations that made it and those that didn't, it has served me well in filling in some more potential countries for my reading list for next year.
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Old 11-08-2013, 06:18 PM   #11
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Unfortunately Kobo in Australia doesn't seem to think we want to read most of these books, and my library has only some of them, but I'm certainly going to explore the authors that I can get hold of.

I love this Book Club!
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Old 11-08-2013, 11:19 PM   #12
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I didn't vote this time around. I strongly suspect I would not get around to tracking the book down and reading it in any reasonable time frame. So I've left the voting to those more likely to participate.

Looking at the status it doesn't appear my vote would change the final result anyway so no great loss.

I love the region theme as it gives me a chance to read authors and works outside of my normal reading parameters. Unfortunately this also means that it consists of authors and works outside of my normal reading parameters. So sometimes it works for me and other times it doesn't.
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Old 11-09-2013, 08:39 AM   #13
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Fortunately my local library system has the selected book. On request.
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Old 11-09-2013, 02:58 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookpossum View Post
Unfortunately Kobo in Australia doesn't seem to think we want to read most of these books, and my library has only some of them, but I'm certainly going to explore the authors that I can get hold of.

I love this Book Club!
It is a very fine selection. The only down side is that some are so difficult to get {especially in the West of Ireland }. The present leader is one of the most accessible, and I can easily get it. But whatever wins, I'll make a major effort to obtain it.
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:50 PM   #15
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An excellent selection!
A pity I couldn't vote, as this is the region I love. I would have gone for Omar Khayyám as I am rather attracted to Persian poets. A few years back in Iran I visited the tombs of two famous Persian poets and was very impressed by the youngsters that recited poems near these tombs and laid roses on it.
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travelling in India. In Jodhpur now and, being on low budget, having reliable wifi for the first time this week

I'll happily read all, except for Mahfouz of which I read most last year.
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