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Contemporary Middle Eastern Literature & the "Being at Work" Poetry Challenge

ns 68 | Spring 2007

In this number we feature poetry from the "Being at Work Poetry" poetry challenge, discuss contemporary Middle Eastern literature, investigate Irving Louis Horowitz's handling of C. Wright Mill's legacy, and debate Edward Said's Humanism. Featured are interviews with Noam Chomsky, Farnoosh Moshiri, Nancy K. Miller, and James Schamus.

Republics of the Imagination

by Amardeep Singh | ns 68

Since 2000, there has been a wave of expatriate narratives from Afghanistan and Iran—both memoirs and novels—and they pose challenges to postcolonial theory and transnational feminism. Memoirs such as Azar Nafisi's bestselling Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (2002) are among the strongest texts by expatriate Iranians, while Afghan Nelofer Pazira's A Bed of Red Flowers (2005) might be the richest offering in the recent wave of expatriate Afghan memoirs. Fictional texts have been fewer in number—possibly due to the current preference for memoir in the US publishing market—but Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner (2003), is far and away the most successful Afghan novelist to have emerged. Amongst Iranian expatriate novelists, Farnoosh Moshiri stands out, particularly with her 2003 novel The Bathhouse.

Iranian and Afghan expatriate writers, despite obvious differences in the recent histories of the two countries, share a concern for the plight of women under intensely repressive Islamic regimes, and a disproportionate number of the published expatriates have been women. Hosseini's first novel, The Kite Runner, does not focus on gender, but his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), addresses the repressive treatment of women in traditional Afghan life as well as the obsession with women evident in the social policies of the Taliban. In contrast to Hosseini's fiction, influential memoirs by Afghan women such as Pazira and Saira Shah have dealt with issues such as the mandatory burqa and the pervasive disempowerment of women in rural Afghanistan as well as in Kabul under the Taliban.

These narratives challenge postcolonial approaches to culture and empire in three ways.

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Poetry | Poems from the "Being at Work" Poetry Challenge | Fiction | Interviews | Revaluations | Surveying the Field | Books for Review | Contributors' Notes

Poetry

Poems from the "Being at Work" Poetry Challenge

Fiction

Interviews

Revaluations

Surveying the Field

Books for Review

Contributors' Notes


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