Does Protest Rejuvenate or Limit Literature?

Arabic Literature (in English)

Two recent PEN pieces — an event called “Literary Activism: is poetry the strongest form of protest?” and an essay by short-story writer Rasha Abbas, “Art and Culture from the Frontline: In the hope that Syria Speaks even more!” —  both address the relationship between literature and protest:

downloadThe PEN event, an extract of which is available on SoundCloud, featured four writers: Ukrainian poet and novelist Serhiy Zhadan, Indian Tamil-language poet and activist Kutti Revathi, Turkish Kurdish-language poet and columnist Bejan Matur, and Egyptian hip-hop artist and poet Mohamed El Deeb.

An “instrumental” approach to poetry would oversimplify viewpoints, but as El Deeb said:

I was never an activist before the revolution. I used to write as an Egyptian who lived abroad. I lived in the Gulf for a while and I moved back in 2005, which was a real heated year for Egypt, it was when Mubarak wanted to be re-elected…

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