Political crisis and Yemen’s literary resurgence
by Fareed Al-Homaid, Yemen Times, March 23, 2015
“I have sold hundreds of novels since last June—not world literature masterpieces, but ones written by Yemeni authors. Do you believe that?!” said Abduljabar Al-Attoani, owner of Abu Thaar Bookstore in the capital Sana’a.
Despite ongoing political and economic turmoil, national literature saw an unexpected surge in 2014. Twenty novels were published by Yemeni authors last year, and while that figure may seem insignificant in a regional or global context, it is considerably more than the eight books produced the previous year. Indeed, it is about ten percent of all the books ever published by Yemeni writers, and considering the hardships facing the country today it is an extraordinary achievement.
The Yemeni novel in history
Ahmed Al-Sakkaf’s Qarot’s Girl, published in 1927, is considered modern Yemen’s first work of fiction. Since then, a mere two-hundred books by Yemeni writers are thought to have been published. Until the publication of Mohammed Abdulwali’s celebrated work They Die Strangers in 1971, marking the beginning of popular literature in Yemen, just eight books were produced.