tablet & Pen
Literary Landscapes
from the Modern


Edited by Reza Aslan, Sholeh Wolpé Regional Editor (Iran)

“Remarkable . . . a triumph . . . connects us at the level of our humanity, no matter where we may be from.”                     —Los Angeles Times

“This is a treasure house; a worthwhile attempt at canonizing 20th-century central-Islamicate writing…. It’s a  physically beautiful book which is also compulsively readable.” Financial Times

“A stunning rebuke to the argument that there’s a clash of civilizations [and] shows how we can move beyond politics.” The Daily Beast

“Provocative and illuminating . . . a literary banquet with so many astonishing dishes that we can hardly complain there are not yet more on the table.” The Jewish Journal

… among the finds (at least to this reader) is Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar (1901-1962), a Turk represented by a smart, sensitive excerpt from one of his novels, A Mind at Peace. ” —The Washington Post

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Tablet & Pen

A Words Without Borders Anthology

The countries that stretch along the broad horizons of the Middle East—from Morocco to Iran, from Turkey to Pakistan—boast different cultures, different languages, and different religions. Yet the literary landscape of this dynamic part of the world has been bound together not by borders and nationalities, but by a common experience of Western imperialism. Keenly aware of the collected scars left by a legacy of colonial rule, the acclaimed writer Reza Aslan, with a team of four regional editors and seventy-seven translators, cogently demonstrates with Tablet & Pen how literature can, in fact, be used to form identity and serve as an extraordinary chronicle of the disrupted histories of the region.

Acting with Words Without Borders, which fosters international exchange through translation and publication of the world’s finest literature, Aslan has purposefully situated this volume in the twentieth century, beyond the familiar confines of the Ottoman past, believing that the writers who have emerged in the last hundred years have not received their full due. This monumental collection, therefore, of nearly two hundred pieces, including short stories, novels, memoirs, essays and works of drama—many of them presented in English for the first time—features translated works from Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Turkish. Organized chronologically, the volume spans a century of literature—from the famed Arab poet Khalil Gibran to the Nobel laureates Naguib Mahfouz and Orhan Pamuk, from the great Syrian-Lebanese poet Adonis to the grand dame of Urdu fiction, Ismat Chughtai—connected by the extraordinarily rich tradition of resplendent cultures that have been all too often ignored by the Western canon.

By shifting America’s perception of the Middle Eastern world away from religion and politics, Tablet & Pen evokes the splendors of a region through the voices of its writers and poets, whose literature tells an urgent and liberating story. With a wealth of contextual information that places the writing within the historical, political, and cultural breadth of the region, Tablet & Pen is transcendent, a book to be devoured as a single sustained narrative, from the first page to the last. Creating a vital bridge between two estranged cultures, "this is that rare anthology: cohesive, affecting, and informing" (Publishers Weekly).

I. The Language of Invention: The Renaissance of Arabic Literature, 1910–1920

Khalil Gibran
The Future of the Arabic Language
Yahya Haqqi
The First Lesson  

Tawfiq al-Hakim
Diary of a Country Prosecutor  

Are You Intoxicated?  
The Sheikh Says . . .  
My Kinsmen Say “Leave her!”  

‘Abd al-Rahim Mahmud
The Aqsa Mosque  

II. My Country: The Nationalization of Turkish Literature (1920-1930)

Aziz Nesin
Istanbul Boy  

Ahmet Muhip Dıranas
The Gallows  

Nazim Hikmet
I Love My Country  
The Epic of Sheikh Bedreddin  
Refik Halit Karay   
The Gray Donkey  

III. Once Upon a Time: Politics and Piety in Persian Literature (1930-1940)  

Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh
Persian Is Sugar  

Sadegh Hedayat
The Blind Owl   

Nima Yushij
Cold Ashes  
O People!  

Parvin E’tesami
Iranian Women  
A Woman’s Place

IV. Rise Up! Pakistan and the Independence of Urdu Literature (1940-1950)  

Sa‘adat Hasan Manto
For Freedom’s Sake  

Ismat Chughtai
The Quilt  

Muhammad Iqbal
The Houri and the Poet  
Heaven and the Priest  
God’s Command to the Angels  

Far and Near  
Devadasi and Pujari  
I Forgot  

N. M. Rashed
Near the Window  
Deserted Sheba  
Oil Merchants 

Part Two: 1950-1980: V. I Am Arab: Arabic Literature at Midcentury  

Ghassan Kanafani
Letter from Gaza  

Abu Salma
My Country on Partition Day  
We Shall Return  
I Love You More  

Mahmoud Darwish
To the Reader  
Identity Card  
Athens Airport  
They’d Love to See Me Dead  

The Pages of Day and Night  
The Wound  
Grave for New York  

Mozaffar al-Nawwab
Bridge of Old Wonders  

Zakariyya Tamir
The Enemies  

Yusif Idris
The Aorta  

Haydar Haydar
The Dance of the Savage Prairies  

Naguib Mahfouz
The Seventh Heaven  

VI. Strangers in a Strange Land: Turkish Literature after Atatürk

Yas¸ar Kemal
Memed, My Hawk  

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar
A Mind at Peace  

Sait Faik Abasıyanık
Such a Story  

Melih Cevdet Anday
The Battle of Kadesh  
I Became a Tree  
Are We Going to Live Without Aging?  

Orhan Veli Kanik
Exodus I  
I Am Listening to Istanbul  

Oktay Rifat
Agamemnon I  
Agamemnon II  
Agamemnon III  

VII. Those Days: Persian Literature Between Two Revolutions  

Forugh Farrokhzad
Wind-Up Doll  
Those Days  

Nader Naderpour
False Dawn  

Faraway Star  

Sadeq Chubak
The Baboon Whose Buffoon Was Dead  

Houshang Golshiri
My China Doll  

Jalal Al-e Ahmad

Simin Daneshvar
The Playhouse  

Ahmad Shamloo
I’m Still Thinking of That Crow  
The Song of Abraham in Fire  

Simin Behbahani
Don’t Read  
My Country, I Will Build You Again  
You Leave, I’ll Stay  

Reza Baraheni
I Am an Underground Man  
Doctor Azudi, the Professional  
Zadan! Nazadan!  
Hosseinzadeh, the Head Executioner  
The Shah and Hosseinzadeh  

VIII. Between the Dusk and Dawn of History: Urdu Literature after Partition

Intizaar Hussein
The First Morning  

Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Freedom’s Dawn (August 1947)  
August 1952  
Bury Me Under Your Pavements  

Akhtar ul-Iman
The Last Stop Before the Destination  
The Boy  

Ali Sardar Jafri
Robe of Flame  
My Journey  

Abdullah Hussein
The Refugees  

Ghulam Abbas
The Room with the Blue Light  

PART THREE 1980-2010: IX. Ask Me About the Future: The Globalization of Middle East Literature, 1980–2010

Zakaria Mohammad
Is This Home?  

Haifa Zangana
Dreaming of Baghdad  

Orhan Pamuk
The Black Book  

Melisa Gürpinar
The Bank Teller Tecelli Bey  

Fahmida Riaz
In the City Court  
She Is a Woman Impure  

Azra Abbas
Today Was a Holiday  
A Dot Might Appear  

Kishwar Naheed
We Sinful Women  
To the Masters of Countries with a Cold Climate  

Zeeshan Sahil

Altaf Fatima
Do You Suppose It’s the East Wind

Goli Taraghi
The Grand Lady of My Soul  

Zoya Pirzad
Mrs. F Is a Fortunate Woman  
The Desirable Life of Mr. F  

Manouchehr Atashi
Mountain Song  

Pegah Ahmadi
The Dark Room  
The Girl Sleeping On Top of Oil  
Four Views of a Private Orange  

Cemal Süreya
This Government  
I’m Dying, God  
After Twelve PM  

Can Yücel
Poem X  
The Wall of Love  

Cemil Kavukçu
The Route of the Crows  

Zayd Mutee’ Dammaj
A Woman  

Nazik al-Mala’ika
Jamilah and Us  
The Lover River  

Saadi Youssef
The Bird’s Last Flight  

Faraj Bayraqdar
An Alphabetical Formation  

Hamid Reza Rahimi
A Quarter to Destruction  

Alireza Behnam
Hanging from the Trees of Babylon  

Author Biographies  
Index of Works, Authors, and Translators