In the Age of Censorship vs. Instant News, This is When We Need Literature the Most

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

“I believe society has a right to defend itself, just as the individual has the right to attack that with which he disagrees.” — Naguib Mahfouz

Carlos Latuff

Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff has drawn several provocative cartoons related to the revolution.

As discussed in today’s lead story, the mounting revolution in Cairo has shut down the Cairo International Book Fair. Meanwhile, those interested in developments are dependent on impromptu and conventional news gathering forces to keep abreast of what’s happening on the ground. The government in Egypt has shut down the internet, but readers are still awaiting updates from Twitter, Facebook (where the New York Time’s Nicholas Kristof is posting reports) and friends to keep them informed.

There’s an argument to be made that during these times of unreliable information, rumor and conjecture, that perhaps the best way to understand the “news” is to read a book. Contemporary, 21st-century Egypt has been reflected in several novels, such as Essam Youssef’s edgy drug chronicle A ¼ Gram and Ahmed Alaidy’s Being Abbas Al Abd, or graphic novels, such as Metro, published by Dar al-Malameh, itself owned by blogger and activist Muhammad al-Sharqaw. Alaa Al Aswany has, in addition to writing several bestselling novels such as The Yacoubian Building and Chicago, has penned essay’s on the topic of Egypt’s history and its relationship (or lack thereof) to democracy, such as An Attempt to Understand the Causes of Cruelty.

You can also find links to several blog posts about protest poetry on the Web site (Arabic Literature (in English), which originates from Cairo but appears to have been offline since January 27.

Please share some titles in the comments of books you would recommend to understand the ongoing situation in Egypt.

(Illustration credit: Carlos Latuff’s Twitpic feed)

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.