Kevin Blankinship is a contributing editor at New Lines magazine. He is an assistant professor of Arabic at Brigham Young University. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement, and more.
Latest from Kevin Blankinship
Debates over “The 1,001 Nights,” including charges of Orientalism, sexism and translation blunders, ignore how the stories are read, enjoyed and performed in the Middle East and divert from the joy of storytelling.
While the plot of Majnun and Layla is simple enough — boy falls for girl, girl’s father marries her to someone else, boy goes insane with love — the nature and depth of passion at the heart of the story are anything but.
In the days before print or copyright, information was fluid and hard to control. This gave rise to countermeasures like self-commentary — an author’s explanation of his or her own works — and self-editing as ways to defend intellectual property, often revealing an author’s self-doubt and insecurity.
Middle East folklore is full of jinn, giants and ghouls. These creatures seem far from human, but in fact they reveal, by contrast, what being human really means. They’re a shrine to the sneaking suspicion that ours isn’t the only reality that exists and that other realities bleed into our own.
During a conference in Istanbul, professor Alithea Binnie meets a trapped djinn who offers three wishes in exchange for his freedom. Thus begins a series of adventures that don’t go farther than Alithea’s hotel room and yet will change her life forever.
In the 1976 film “Network,” a struggling TV company exploits the paranoia of one of its anchors to create a hit show, thus manipulating the American public in the tumult of the 1970s and foreshadowing our own polarized era.
British translator Humphrey Davies, who passed away on Nov. 12, gifted dozens of English literary translations from Arabic but also a legacy of mentorship and warmth.
Hind marched with Quraysh to battle, then stormed the field with other women to mutilate the corpses of the Muslims, slashing off noses and ears and fashioning them into necklaces. It’s said that she gouged out the liver of Muhammad’s uncle Hamza and bit into it.
Seven ancient Arabic odes are still unknown to the West despite having a bedrock status as “Beowulf” does in English: the mu’allaqat or hanging odes, so-called because they were allegedly stitched in gold and draped on the shrine of the Kaaba at Mecca as masterpieces.