Nice Interview with Tablet & Pen Editor Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan: I really appreciate that because in my world Adonis is like Adonis, a god. Who doesn’t know… it’s like not knowing who T.S. Eliot is! I mean you’ve got to know who Adonis is! Or Ahmad Shamloo, or Farouk Saad, or Mahmoud Darwish, and Nâzim Hikmet. These guys are like GIANTS, I mean GIANTS in global literature. And even well-read Americans would have no reason to be confronted with these guys.

Guernica: These guys come to us through this very cagey world of anthology that has been made by people who have a very different agenda, so that was one of the things that was so amazing to me about this. It re-frames one’s notion about what anthology is. And who gets to be in the anthology.

Reza Aslan: It’s like history, right? I mean the anthology is sort of like writing a history, and in this case I very much see it as sort of a literary history of this time. And you know history is all about what you decide to put in and what you decide to leave out. That was very much a part of this. Now I tried to be very fair about it and the first thing that I did was just collect thousands of pieces. And read them. That’s all I did, is just read read read read. Then I felt as though this overarching narrative was coming along on its own. But there are a number of pieces I could have inserted into the collection that would have veered it one way or another and chose deliberately not to do so. But yeah, you’re right. All anthologizing is by definition a political process, but it’s a political process because it’s the creation of a history, and all history is political.

More at Guernica.

The book, Tablet & Pen, is pretty impressive. It was one of my favorite reads of 2010.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Favorite Reads of 2010: Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan When was the last time you read an anthology cover to cover? What about a 700-page one? For me the last--and the first--was Tablet &...
  2. The New York Times Quotes Me Anonymously In an otherwise unremarkable article in The New York Times about literature in translation I find myself quoted:...
  3. Stop the Editor Hating! Okay, okay, I know . . . I’ve done it, you’ve done it. At one point in the past five years or so, each and...
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  5. Let's All Go Read The Blind Owl One of the novels excerpted in Tablet & Pen is the novel The Blind Owl (widely described at the greatest Persian novel of the 20th...

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