Bad Books for Bad Readers

  • Samah Selim
Part of the Literatures and Cultures of the Islamic World book series (LCIW)


This chapter introduces the field of popular fiction in Arabic at the turn of the twentieth century and explores the critical discourse surrounding the novel genre and its translation through the second half of the century in Egypt. Building on a discussion of the intersections between the cultural discourses of orientalism and nationalism, the chapter examines the politics of translation in modern Arabic literary historiography of the nahda. Selim describes how the perceived “foreignness” of the novel genre according to national critics was constructed around critical and reformist anxieties about both translation and popular culture as objects of suspicion, and how national literary history effectively made a vast corpus of early Arabic fiction disappear while installing realism as the only legitimate mode of the genre.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samah Selim
    • 1
  1. 1.Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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