A pink taxi

A pink taxi

June 1, 2010

Mangas, Sex and Arabic Books....

Step into Kinokuniya bookstore...and you will find the largest collections of mangas we have seen outside of Japan. My children run in a frenzy, looking for Naruto comics (and purple haired Sasouke) and printed accessories.

But you will also discover, and I challenge my sister to this, a large selection of contemporary French literature that is translated into English (original language section is still small). I would even bring myself to conclude that the quantity (and quality) is almost as large as Anglo literature translated intoFrench at the FNAC bookstores in France. She is convinced that French literature has plainly dried out.

I was happy to come across the most obvious LeClezio (all his works) because he is a Nobel Prize winner. I loved The Desert which has a Paulo Cuelho resonance, except that LeClezio wrote his a decade before the Alchimist. In that ame vein is Taher BenJelloum with Sacred Night (an exotic tale of gender mix up). Have you forgotten Amin Maalouf the Great? Shockingly, Houellbec was there, sitting in all his pornography on a bookstore shelf in Dubai (even the covers are saucy). The Henry Miller of our times, even considered to be controversial in France is nevertheless revered for his shocking impact. His writings verge on racism. He is the farthest thing you can imagine from politically correct. So if that is your cup of tea (or should I say cafe au lait) I dare you to read Platform.

To switch languages, I escape to the Arabic section in the children's books. A place I shunned for thirty nine years (amongst many other activities and places I shunned and now partake in, never thought I could do a back bend in yoga!).

Indeed, reading an Arabic children's book does require the same commitment and bravery as the practice of a back bend! I read one a night to my youngest. We began with the simple hardcover single worded ones (thus acquiring zoological vocabulary that stuns any diner party), followed by single sentenced ones (to gather more verbs) and now have reached single paragraph narratives, tongue twisters that keep me gasping for air every night. All these books appearance have been renovated, to resemble the Western ones. The stories are about desert animals, day trips in Dubai and very very melancholic stories that draw all the tears of my little one.

I rarely go to Dubai mall, lest it be to skate with my kids, shop for my husband at Zadig and Voltaire or spend a pair of louboutins worth of money at Kinokuniya.


  1. Where do I begin? I loved the title to this posting. I loved the fact that you brought me up, an attempt (not failed) to get me to comment on your blog! So in my defense, I have been removed from french literature for way too long, and too tempted by Anglo literature. Inasmuch as I have read Houelbecq and actually enjoyed him (does that make me weird??), I find much of 20th century french literature absurd, falsly poetic, or forced. Often the language and the complexity of style take over the characterization and plot, and so those books lose me....But then again, we have different taste in books!!

    On a different note, it does seem like you take pleasure in making your children shed tears as they listen to your stories....I remember you doing the same to me, your younger sister by 8 years. I do enjoy seeing emotions flutter to the surface. It's almost a test in humanity, to see whether that person has feelings or not....

    Love you always,

  2. Literary saber rattling between sisters oceans apart,and a literary gulf that separate them!
    I want to comment on the language barrier that the blogger builds,when it comes to Arabic:relax,it is a beautiful language if you are serious to acquire it,now that your smallest offspring has!

  3. Yasmine, I am delighted and wholly encourage all your forays into French Literature, Japanese Literature and Arabic Literature. I would however appreciate if you could brush up on Aymara spoken on the southern Peruvian shore of Lake Titicaca or the Aymara ...

    I support these forays into literature since, in a couple of years, you are going to have 3 little pupils who will be knocking on your door for tutoring in French, Arabic and Japanese. If by then you have also mastered Aymara, on the off chance that my off springs plan to settle down in Peru that would be great. Feel free to diversify into other languages as well - the more the merrier.



  4. I personally thank our beloved blogger for introducing me to the world of literature from a very young age. I devoured Jojo Lapin series, la Comtesse de Segur stories, Jules Vernes adventures, Tintin comics. Before graduating from high school, i'm proud to have read most French classics such as Zola, Balsac, Hugo, and the list goes on. At Vassar, I discovered my love of the English language and I caught up on a lot of English classics. I'm honored that our beloved blogger still recommends books for me to read. I love reading them and then disecting them with her. Plateforme of Houelbecq for example. Of course, there are too many books and too little time! I dont think we can say books written in French are superior to those written in English and viseversa. Each language written, read, and spoken properly is a divine gift.

  5. Teymour don't try to get on Yasmine's good side so that she tutor's Saad Jr. instead of my 3 darlings. I made a deal with Yasmine BEFORE I even got pregnant.

    However, I'm sure Ava, Vida and Tara will be delighted to pass on the knowledge to Saad...

    NADIMEH (my name is in bold and on the bottom for the benefit of Amou Saad so he doesn't mistake me for ANYONE else)

  6. Nadimeh, Saad Jr already has a headstart! Yasmine reads him pages from the French/English dictionary every day to improve his vocabulary..!