“Contemporary writing from North Africa possesses
a vitality we need more of. Like the iceberg,
what we see is only a fraction of what could be translated.”
The 21 authors of the 26 short stories are:
Latifa Baqa, Ahmed Bouzfour, Rachida el-Charni, Mohamed Choukri, Mohammed Dib, Tarek Eltayeb, Mansoura Ez-Eldin, Gamal el-Ghitani, Said al-Kafrawi, Idriss el-Kouri, Ahmed el-Madini, Ali Mosbah, Hassouna Mosbahi, Sabri Moussa, Muhammad Mustagab, Hassan Nasr, Rabia Raihane, Tayeb Salih, Habib Selmi, Izz al-Din Tazi and Mohammed Zefzaf.
First published in 2005, Sardines and Oranges has stood the test of time, as Peter Clark anticipated when he wrote in the introduction:
The stories in this selection are part of the modern, multicultural world. Pain, hardship, heartache, humour, identity, joy, loss, lack of power, and strategies for survival, are universal themes and all are represented here in tough stories that seem rooted in the authors’ experiences, regardless of nationality, gender and generation.
The countries of North Africa have diverse histories but are united by a shared Arab cultural identity. Over the last century all have been subject to European occupation – Egypt and Sudan by Britain, Libya by Italy, and Algeria and Tunisia by France. Morocco was subject to both French and Spanish control. Although forty-odd years have passed since independences there is awareness of that colonial power, either as something against which to assert national identity, or as a physical refuge that can better social and economic prospects. Generally it is a collective memory, something that, in a negative way, has defined a cultural identity . . . [But], as the stories in this collection reveal, they all have resonance far beyond the confines of the Arab world.
As in the [Banipal] magazine, this selection contains work by both established and emerging authors. As in the magazine, the criterion is significance and quality.Whatever the approach of the author – through autobiographical sketch, philosophical reflection, nostalgia or grim realism – this selection shows that contemporary writing from North Africa possesses a vitality we need more of. Like the iceberg, what we see is only a fraction of what could be translated.