The Library of Arabic Literature: "More and Better"

The Library of Arabic Literature, which is sponsored by a grant from the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, received strong praise from one of the world's premier literary reviews, the Times Literary Supplement.

"The Library of Arabic Literature rests on a tradition of intellectual cross-pollination between Arabic and Western thought and cultures," wrote Lydia Wilson, a visiting assistant professor at The City University of New York and an affiliated scholar at the University of Cambridge, where she is also the editor of the Cambridge Literary Review. "The study and teaching of medieval Arabic thought and literary creativity will be revolutionized" by the publication and use of these books.

"The review of the Library of Arabic Literature in the Times Literary Supplement is a great accolade, and we are, of course, thrilled about it," Philip F. Kennedy said.

Kennedy, general editor of the series and associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and comparative literature at NYUAD, said that after the first year of production, the project is moving into a new phase: "We have more books coming out. For instance, volumes three and four of Leg Over Leg will come out in the spring. These volumes have been edited and translated by Humphrey Davies, one of the great translators of Arabic. Leg over Leg is extremely important to Arabic literature, and the publication of this translation, the first into English, is the culmination of a huge achievement," Kennedy said.

Leg Over Leg chronicles the adventures of its protagonist, the Fariyaq, the alter-ego of the book's author, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, as he travels throughout the Levant, Egypt, France, and England. The book has been compared to Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy for its humor, satirical voice, and technical inventiveness.

As more books come out, the variety of the Library of Arabic Literature will expand. "Though eclecticism was not a goal in itself, we decided that we might as well start with works that have not been translated," Kennedy explained. "Thus, we have published works of literature, law, religion, and poetry. We did, however, want to be comprehensive as a goal, and as we push forward, we will move closer to that end."

"Put it this way: A few trees planted in a field may not look like much at first, but in time they will grow into a dense forest. So too will these books comprise a comprehensive corpus of high-quality translations of classic Arabic works into English," Kennedy said.