Poetry Club: October
Host: Sayed Gouda, poet
Moderator: Polly Ho
Date: 7 October, 2011 7:30 pm

The Book Attic
Cockloft, 2 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong
Poetry Club
Specialised in book restoration
Sayed Gouda will give a talk on Wednesday 31 August 2011 at City University. The topic
was 'Mahfouz and Darwish: From National Literature to World Literature'. He gave the
same talk at an international conference in Beijing July 2011.

Mahfouz and Darwish: From National Literature to World Literature Annotation
When Naguib Mahfouz was awarded the Nobel Prize for his novel Children of the Alley in
1988, his other stories that illustrate the lives of the working class in the local districts of
Cairo had already made him a major novelist in the Arab world. The Palestinian poet
Mahmoud Darwish never won the Nobel Prize, but his fame as a poet has surpassed many
Nobel Prize winners. His poetry about the Palestinian cause gained him regard as the
‘National Poet of Palestine’ in the Arab world first, but he has since become a poet of
universal appeal. Thus, both Mahfouz and Darwish initially achieved international fame by
addressing domestic issues in their fiction and poetry. In the wake of this international
recognition, translations of their works multiplied, and they have become icons and
representatives of modern Arabic literature. But even though there are many other writers
in the Arab world who deserve equal recognition, translations and dissemination of other
works and writers has been inadequate. Moreover, a lot of attention has been given to some
‘lesser’ modern Arabic writers lately. On the one hand, the selectiveness of translation can
construct a certain mis-representative image of a canon. On the other hand, a book like
The Arabian Nights, for example, did not have much bearing on Arabic writers until it was
‘discovered’ and disseminated in the West. When we speak of World Literature, issues of
translation and politics (in its widest sense) have to be taken into account, and, as this
presentation will show, there is a continued need to evaluate and re-evaluate literary
production, and to look into all the factors besides literary value that are significant in the
dynamics of world literature.