Abu Dhabi: Arabist Geert Jan van Gelder’s Classical Arabic Literature: A Library of Arabic Literature Anthology was released on Thursday, making it the first book to be produced by NYU Abu Dhabi’s Library of Arabic Literature (LAL).
The 496-page anthology presents a rich array of classical Arabic poems and prose from pre-Islamic times up to the 18th century, drawing from both well-known texts and less familiar pieces that have been made available to English-language audiences for the first time.
Classical Arabic Literature presents a vibrant picture of social, cultural, and intellectual life in the region, from pre-Islamic Arabia to the cusp of the modern era. The book reveals that religion was not the only subject to which writers turned their attention during these centuries.
The anthology includes works ranging from early Bedouin poems that evoke desert life, to poems of love, comic verses, fairy tales, and samples of literary criticism.
“This work is an important foretaste of what is to come from the Library of Arabic Literature,” said the Library’s general editor Philip Kennedy.
“It’s a significant work from one of the most respected scholars in the field, and it provides a great variety of selections that may surprise people who have only a smattering of knowledge of Arabic literature.”
The LAL offers Arabic editions and English translations of key works of classical and pre-modern Arabic literature, as well as anthologies and thematic readers.
The books are edited and translated by distinguished scholars of Arabic and Islamic studies and are published in parallel-text format with Arabic and English on facing pages.
“This anthology, and the works to follow from LAL, will give non-Arabic readers a real window into pre-modern Arabic literature, as currently very few texts from this great corpus of literature have been translated,” Kennedy added.
Geert Jan van Gelder was Laudian professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford from 1998 to 2012. He is the author of several books on classical Arabic literature, including Beyond the Line: Classical Arabic Literary Critics on the Coherence and Unity of the Poem and Of Dishes and Discourse: Classical Arabic Literary Representations of Food.