Image by calligrapher Mouneer Al-Shaarani via The Ministry of Type
Atul Gawande in the New Yorker on how coaching has helped him reach a new personal best
MERIP’s Maroz Tadros with an important report from the front lines of Egypt’s Bloody Sunday
Images: Women of the early 20th century photographed by the Seeberger Brothers
1. Arabic endearment ‘Habibi’ (حبيبي) is as likely to mean “dude” as its literal sense of “my love.”
2. For more on BO18, read this excerpt from my book, a profile of architect Bernard Khoury
The Arcadian Library is an anthology, but the world it evokes sounds like so much more: a hidden library containing “one of the finest dedicated collections of books ever made about Western entanglement with the Middle East.”
The earliest items are medieval manuscripts, but there are also many incunables, translations of Avicenna and Arabic originals, printed in Venice and Padua; the more recent items include de luxe editions of the Arabian Nights, such as the white vellum, gold-tooled presentation volumes illustrated in luscious colour by Edmund Dulac. The books rise floor to ceiling in two lofty rooms, with a custom-made emerald carpet woven with lily-of-the-valley posies, the colophon of the Library, and a tribute to the flower that grew under the cedars of Lebanon.
The volumes’ beautiful bindings glow in the penumbra protecting them from light damage; a panorama of Cairo, printed in Venice in 1549, and one of the two impressions still extant, is hung off the main reading room (it is the subject of Nicholas Warner’s fascinating study The True Description of Cairo, published in three volumes earlier in the same series, “Studies in the Arcadian Library”).
Visiting the Library is by introduction; it is free. Its location is not advertised and indeed, can’t be discovered from the publication details of this book or of any others in the series (the most recent is Robert Irwin’s treasure trove about the illustrators of the Arabian Nights, “Visions of the Jinn,” 2010); it does not reveal its whereabouts on the internet.
First up, the revolution will be televised: Click on the image above (or here for the Arabic) to see a trailer of Top Goon, puppet political satire from Syria.
If you ever wondered exactly what Andy Warhol was all about, here’s your answer from Intelligent Life.
I’m gearing up to do more Arabic-related posts on this blog and, by way of an introduction, I’d like to propose a new, additional meaning to the phrase ‘Arab Spring’.
As it is, Arabs speaking in Arabic appear to prefer some variety of ‘Arab revolutions’ (الثورات العربية) or ‘Arab uprisings’, even though “Arab Spring” may itself have been coined in the Arab world in early 2005 – following the first demonstrations sparked by former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri’s assassination, though before the largest gathering seven years ago today.
Regardless, seasonal metaphors, by definition, are cyclical, sometimes abruptly so, since the rhetorical spring ushered in by 2011 appears to have passed directly into winter, so far as many prominent commentators are concerned anyway.
Instead of scrapping the term altogether – and it still has the caché of convenience – I’m repurposing it. The increased (though far from sufficient) coverage of the Arab World in the international media over the last 15 or so months has served to underscore the tremendous material wealth of Arab culture, now accessible to to anyone and everyone with an internet connection.
Put simply: There’s no excuse for ignorance anymore.
For me, then, the Arab Spring is an invitation to harvest and enjoy the fruits of an Arab renaissance that has been a long time in developing and that more than merits our attention. More posts to come . . .
Image: Forgive the mixed metaphor, but it is also the year of the Dragon.
At More Intelligent Life, Economist Middle East and Africa editor Josie Delap, sings the praises of Arabic:
To a native English-speaker, searching for a language to learn and probably inexpert in the dark arts of grammar, the simple Romance languages with their common-sense syntax might seem obvious choices, perhaps even those of Scandinavia with their familiar-sounding, if oddly spelt, vocabulary. But instead, breathe deep, and plunge into Arabic. . .
Read the rest.
In the above video (Egyptian Arabic with English subtitles), teenage polyglot Timothy Doner, featured last week in The New York Times, talks about his own Arabic study and some of the different uses of formal and colloquial Arabic.
While I personally don’t agree with his rigid division between the two, his abilities are impressive, especially given how little he’s studied Arabic and how many other languages he’s learning. Inspiring? Intimidating? I’m still not sure.