In their collection, volume four of the Poems for the Millennium series, Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour present an ‘anthology of the oral and written literatures of North Africa’ that offers fresh selections, well-known canonical works, and unusual texts. The book is attractive both for the quality of the canonical literary choices, in both poetry and prose, and the folk and oral material. (…)
The book should interest all scholars and general readers of literature (and history) on at least four accounts: it insightfully tackles the nature of literariness, a fundamental subject for any lover of literature; it pays attention to the multilingual (Arabic, Tamazight, Hebrew) and multiethnic diversity (Arab, Kabyle, Jewish, European) in past and present North Africa, considerations that are often overlooked in common understanding of national literatures; it includes generous selections from resistance and independence poetry from a region that fought one of the world’s greatest colonial struggles, therefore providing insights into the relation between literature and politics and into engaged writing; and it subtly but persistently challenges accepted literary mappings and boundaries within and without this region.
Joris and Tengour divide ‘Diwan Afrikiya’ into five diwans that rest on chronological, typological, and political underpinnings. The book opens with ‘A Book of In-Betweens: Al-Andalus, Sicily, the Maghreb’. This first diwan includes a number of muwashshahas (by Ibn Quzman and Ibn Labbana), selections from Ibn Hazm’s The Neck-Ring of the Dove, Al Mu’tamid Ibn Abbad, Ibn Hamdsis’s lament for Sicily from his qasidas (or odes) the Siqilliat, Yehuda Halevi’s Songs to Zion, Ibn Arabi’s ‘O My Two Friends’, and Yusuf Ibn Harun al-Ramadi, Ibn Zaydun, and Ibn Khafadja’s ‘The River’. Ibn Labbana’s ‘Al-Mu’tamid and His Family Go into Exile’ movingly mourns the expulsion of that poet prince and his family from Seville, as they embark on the Guadalquivir, ‘precious pearls,/adrift on the foam of the river ’. / Ala Alryyes, (2014) Poems for the millennium, volume four: Book of North African literature, The Journal of North African Studies, 19:5, 864-867, DOI: 10.1080/13629387.2014.930292
Poems for the millennium, volume four: Book of North African literature, edited by Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour, Berkeley, California, The University of California Press, 2012, xxxii + 760 pp., $80.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-520-26913-2/$39.95 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-520-27385-6