Saturday, January 24, 2004

The greatest living Arab novelist,`Abdur-Rahman Munif, is dead. This brave man was kicked out of Saudi Arabia and stripped of his citizenship in 1963. He moved between different Arab countries, and worked as an economist in Iraq in the 1960s. To his credit (while he was a leading Ba`thist) he saw the dangers of Saddam Husayn very early on and left Iraq to never return to it again. He was a fierce opponent of Saddam when many Arab writers, journalists, intellectuals, officials, and Donald Rumsfeld were hailing him as a hero in the 1980s during his war on Iran. His main work, Cities of Salt, is available in an excellent English translation. Yasir: if you are reading this, I offer my condolences. (Aljazeera obituary mistakenly states that Cities of Salt is in 3 volumes; it is a 5-volume novel). The pro-Saudi newspaper, Al-Hayat, which stinks of Saudi crude oil on every page and in every drop of its ink and which fills its editorial pages with vapid "liberal" discourse, did not dare (on its first page obituary of Munif on Sunday) mention that Munif was stripped of his Saudi citizenship. That would have been too embarrassing for the corrupt and polygamous House of Saud.