Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Five books that have influenced education and strengthened a friendship

Mohammad El-Jachi shares his five favourite reads

'I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary: The Notebooks, Diaries and Letters of Daniil Kharms' by Daniil Kharms. Courtesy Academic Studies Press
'I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary: The Notebooks, Diaries and Letters of Daniil Kharms' by Daniil Kharms. Courtesy Academic Studies Press

The books on this list have influenced my education, career path and writing habits – two even managed to strengthen a friendship. And while I don’t own all of these books physically, I’ve re-read them more than any of the 100-something paperbacks on my shelf at home.

Men in the Sun by Ghassan Kanafani (1962)

This was the first Arabic novel I read and finished. It tells the story of five Palestinian refugees trying to reach Kuwait via Iraq to chase the oil boom. They hire a dubious transporter who promises to take them across the desert in a metal water tank. The novel transitions seamlessly between each character’s past and present, highlighting motivations and aspirations.

Stoner by John Williams (1965)

William Stoner is a farmer’s son whose eyes are opened to literature in his first year as an agricultural engineering student. Lifelong professor and author John Williams does two things amazingly well in this book – he illustrates the un-remarkableness of campus life and the vast, frustrating experiential gap between educator and student.

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (1966)

I shelved this book in high school, only to pick it up three years later as required reading for a travel-writing course. The novel follows two Sudanese men, an unnamed narrator and Mostafa Saeed, whose lives abroad diverge greatly and then intersect years later to disastrous consequences for their provincial village. It’s a foundational work of postcolonial literature.

I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary: The Notebooks, Diaries, and Letters of Daniil Kharms edited by Anthony Anemone and Peter Scotto (2013)

This book reads like a cautionary tale from a writer caught between gross self-aggrandisation and lofty intellectual ambitions he would not achieve in his lifetime. It reveals his oddly timed sense of religiosity and superstition.

Slint's Spiderland (33 1/3) by Scott Tennent (2010)

This book follows the history and pre-history of Slint, a short-lived group from Louisville, Kentucky, whose dynamic and angular music took notes from the Minutemen, Neil Young, Big Black and the Mekons. Reading a book so well-researched and written with such rigour and love made me want to pursue journalism before I knew what that really meant.

Mohammad El-Jachi is an intern at The National

Updated: July 6, 2019 03:07 PM

SHARE

SHARE