The Arts of Suspicion

APR 30, 2014 | 6:30 PM TO 8:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




April 30, 2014: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM





This talk examines the shifting fortunes of “paranoia” (al-paranoya, junun al-irtiyab) as a significant critical and imaginative concern of Egyptian literature since the mid-twentieth century. Its point of departure is the protagonist of Youssef Rakha's Kitab al-Tughra (2011), Mostafa Shorbagi – a grumbling divorcĂ©e turned apocalyptic hero, pitted against a vast, transhistorical “Organization” held responsible for both his failed marriage and the decline of Islamic Civilization writ large. Contrasted with the conspiracy-obsessed literature of older literary mavericks, such as Naguib Surour, Rakha's Shorbagi represents a new literary relationship with paranoia that is satirical and celebratory in equal measures, and performed in dialogue with the paranoid heroes of American authors Thomas Pynchon, William S. Burroughs, and Paul Auster.

Benjamin Koerber is an Assistant Professor of Arabic in the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures (AMESALL) at Rutgers University. His research and teaching is concerned with Arabic literature and public culture from all periods, with a particular emphasis on contemporary Egypt. His creative work has appeared in Akhbar al-Adab and Wasla.

Discussant: Prof. Christopher Stone (Arabic, Hunter and The Graduate Center, CUNY).