This book is intended as a general introduction to the literature in Arabic that has been written during the course of the last two hundred years or so. Although the particular readership that I have had in mind has been that of the university undergraduate coming to the subject for the first time, I hope that it may also prove of interest to readers interested in comparative literature, as well as to those whose prime interests may not be literary, but who are in one way or another concerned with different aspects of the Middle East–a region of obvious and growing importance in the world today.
In accordance with the title of the series, the book aims to be a survey rather than an exhaustive account. Indeed, it may be questioned whether an 'exhaustive account' of the subject is any longer possible, since, as will be apparent from Chapter 8 in particular, there has been something of an explosion in literary writing in Arabic over the last few years, so that today, in addition to the traditional centres of literary activity such as Egypt and the Levant, vigorous and creative literary production can be found in every area of the Arab world, from Morocco and Mauritania in the west to the Gulf and Iraq in the east. Recent political events have also given a boost to the development of important new centres of publishing in Arabic outside the Middle East itself, in particular, London and Paris.
There have, of course, been a number of introductory surveys of this kind, both in English and in other European languages, since my Durham predecessor John Haywood published his now rather outdated Modern Arabic Literature, 1800–1970 in 1971. Among works in English (details of which can be found in the bibliography), mention may be made of Pierre Cachia's An Overview of Modern Arabic Literature, published in the same series as the current volume in 1990, but which consists largely of reprints of previous articles by the author; the same author's Arabic Literature: An Overview, published in 2002, which covers both the classical and modern periods; M. M. Badawi's A Short History of Modern Arabic Literature, published in 1993; and Roger Allen's An Introduction to Arabic Literature (2000), based on his earlier The Arabic Literary Heritage (1998), which attempts to cover the classical and