This is a Words without Borders publication. Words without Borders “translates, publishes, and promotes contemporary international literature.” Every month they publish an online magazine. They also partner with publishers to release print anthologies, of which this is one.
Tablet & Pen is quite a thick & heavy tome, and may appear intimidating to teen readers. But I was surprised by just how accessible the pieces are, and found it a wonderful collection to dip into at random. Most of the prose pieces are excerpts, usually full chapters, from novels or longer nonfiction works. This is a strong choice for school libraries in particular.
Just as Kevin Young’s Ardency could supplement the study of American History, selections from Tablet & Pen could be used to complement a course on Middle East history, culture, literature or religion. Or make for a different recommendation to a teen excited about The Kite Runner.
ASLAN, Reza, ed. Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. 657p. Norton. 2010. Tr $35. ISBN 978-0-393-06585-5. LC 2010032679.
Adult/High School–Literature from the modern Middle East is presented in an anthology divided into three time periods: from 1910 to 1950, 1950 to 1980, and 1980 to 2010. Within each time frame, literature from Arabic-language countries from Persia to Turkey to Pakistan are introduced. With translations from so many different cultures, the book is long for most readers. Teens will want to start with the short informative essays introducing each section and then select poems, essays, and stories to enjoy. Many of the poems are beautifully simple, such as “I Am Listening to Istanbul” by Orhan Velikanik: “I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed/First a breeze is blowing/ and leaves swaying/Slowly on the trees;/ Far, far away the bells of the/Water carriers ringing,/I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.” In the third section, current problems of the Middle East are described by poets and essayists in an insightful way. Persian poets write eloquently of Iran and events since the revolution. This is a Words without Borders anthology, a nonprofit organization founded to translate and publish international literature. Hebrew and Israeli literature are not included in this volume. Works by Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Urdu writers are not seen very often and are most welcome here.–Karlan Sick, formerly at New York Public Library