This month we celebrate the publication of our fifth WWB anthology, Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan. The aim of this book, and of this complementary issue, is to provide a different, more authentic perception of this complex region, an image not fashioned by the descriptions of invaders, but rather one that arises from the diverse literatures of its most acclaimed poets and writers. These translations from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu display the rich poetic tradition of the region and provide a new paradigm for viewing the mosaic that is the modern Middle East. We hope that the writing presented here and in the anthology may help move our consciousness of the region away from the ubiquitous images of terrorists and fanatics and toward a new, more constructive set of ideas and metaphors—wrought by the region’s own artists, poets, and writers—with which to understand the struggles and aspirations of this restless and multifaceted part of the world.
In an essay appearing here for the first time in English, the great Khalil Gibran frames the discussion with an eloquent argument for the revolutionary power of language. Shahriar Mandanipour, of Censoring an Iranian Love Story fame, snakes inside a family compound turned viper’s nest. Famed female Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad contributes a ravishing hymn to desire. Fouad Laroui recalls the advent of television in Morocco and the dawning of his life’s calling. In work from two Turkish masters, novelist Sait Faik Abasiyanik asks if all things come to those who wait, and poet Murathan Mungan seeks a desert assassin. Azra Abbas considers time and beauty, while her fellow Urdu poets Akhtar ul-Iman and Makhdum Moinuddin offer two views from (and of) the city. Shams Langeroody receives a cargo of sorrow, and Granaz Moussavi searches for hidden sunshine.