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Arabic Prison Literature: Resistance, Torture, Alienation, and Freedom introduces prison literature through the prism of works written by Arab authors in the second half of the twentieth century. Geula Elimelekh’s unique approach largely eschews the socio-political-historical review of this subgenre of Arabic political literature. Instead, she delves deeply and humanely into a psychological, critical literary, and existentialist-philosophical analysis of the authors and characters whose lives are scarred and ruined by prisons and torment. This book holds nothing back of the atrocities and horrors that authors like 'Abd al-Rahman Munif in East of the Mediterranean, Sun'Allah 'Ibrahim in That Smell, Sharif Hatatah in The Eye with the Metal Eyelid, and Nabil Sulayman in The Prison sought to bring to the attention of the Arab public and the world.
What happens within the confines of the political prison and to the families of the prisoners and torturers is exposed in this literature through a combination of human episodes described with artistic sensitivity of the highest calibre. This body of literature is doubly important, because on the one hand it demands a re-examination of the Arab culture and mind-set that fosters brutal, patriarchal, self-serving regimes that crush freedom and human rights, while on the other it accurately exposes the inhuman conditions of daily life in prison. It is precisely at this time – during the on-going “Arab spring” – when the historical rhythms of earlier revolutions and uprisings appear to be repeating themselves that the paradoxical duality of prison literature again calls out for the long overdue retrospective found between these covers.