The Quest for Identities

The Quest for Identities

The Development of the Modern Arabic Short Story


9780863563638 November 2007 Hardback 450pp

About the Book

The short story has played a vital role in shaping literary sensibilities in the Arab world. It is probably the most popular literary genre, yet it receives the least attention from literary critics and academic studies. This paradox is typical of the odd but fascinating history of this form.

This long-awaited sequel to the classic, The Genesis of Arabic Narrative Discourse, investigates the genre’s development and contribution to Arabic literary culture. It sheds light on why the genre is more popular in some countries than others, and at certain historical moments more than others. While the novel has long been credited with a vital role in the shaping of the ‘imagined community’, the short story is concerned with the individual’s quest for multiple identities and the process of individuation, which in turn influences that ‘imagined community’.

In its delicate balance between theoretical investigation, comprehensive historical coverage, and close readings of authors such as Yaḥyā Ḥaqqī, Yūsuf Idrīs, Maḥmūd al-Badawī, Shukrī Muḥammad ‘Ayyād, Sa‘d Makkāwī, ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Sharqāwī, Idwār al-Kharrāṭ, Bahā’ Ṭāhir and Jamāl al-Ghīṭānī, among many others, The Quest for Identities investigates the various trajectories of the Arabic short story and the factors which influenced its evolution.

About the Author

Sabry Hafez is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Qatar University. His publications include A Reader of Modern Arabic Short Stories, The Genesis of Arabic Discourse and The Quest for Identities (selected by Choice magazine as one of the outstanding academic titles of 2009), all by Saqi Books.


'This reviewer cannot imagine a more thorough and enlightening study of the most popular genre of Arabic narrative writing.'
W.L. Hanaway, University of Pennsylvania