How Long It Is, This Arab Spring

By Susan Harris

It's now seven months since Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and ignited the Arab Spring. As we wrap up the first of two issues of writing from the uprisings, it's instructive to look back at Dispatches filed as events were unfolding. At the end of January, Chip Rossetti considered the "rumbling octopus" of the protests in Tahrir Square in the context of Egyptian literature. The next month, Magdy El Shafee filed a graphic report from the demonstrations just hours before Mubarak was unseated. Cecile Oumhani brought a personal perspective to the struggles in Tunisia, and Suzanne Ruta spelled out a lexicon of Algerian repression and rebellion. Hosam Aboul-Ela considered the long tradition of the dictator novel in Egypt. Algerian columnist Kamel Daoud interrogated the definition of "country" in the Arab world. And in our March film issue, Suzanne Ruta revisited the great, and timely once more, Battle of Algiers.  In those first heady moments, great changes looked imminent; but as Boualem Sansal notes in his sorrowful letter to Bouazizi, "How long it is, this Arab spring, and how uncertain its days."


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