• Al-Ṭayyib Ṣāliḥ's Season of Migration to the North, the CIA, and the Cultural Cold War after Bandung

    Elizabeth M. Holt (see profile)
    2019 MLA Convention
    Arabic literature, African literature, Cold War (1945-1989), Arabian nights
    Item Type:
    Magazine, novel, Surveillance, CIA, Cold War, Literatures of empire, 1001 Nights, Modernism
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    In the fall of 1966, Ḥiwār magazine published al-Ṭayyib Ṣāliḥ's novel Mawsim al-hijrah ilā al-shamāl [ Season of Migration to the North ]. Arabic literary critics both hailed the novel in the Arabic press and mourned that it had been published by the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom's Ḥiwār, part of a global covert cultural front of the Cold War founded and funded by the CIA, maintaining an extensive list of high profile literary magazines, including not only the Beirut-based Arabic magazines Ḥiwār and briefly Adab , but also the London-based Encounter , Bombay's Quest , and the African journals Black Orpheus in Ibadan and Transition in Kampala. A calculated response to the 1955 Bandung conference for Afro-Asian solidarity, the CIA's domination of Afro-Asian literature would give way to the publication of the Afro-Asian Writers Association's trilingual (Arabic/English/French) journal Afro-Asian Writings (later to be called Lotus), a broadly imagined legacy of the Bandung's celebration of decolonization, various forms of communism and socialism, and resistance literature in the third world. Season of Migration to the North , oft read as a postcolonial novel, is better understood as a product of American Cold War cultural imperialism. As it reaches back intertextually to pre-Islamic poetry, the wine odes of 'Abbasid poet Abū Nuwās, and the tales of A Thousand and One Nights in British translation, Ṣāliḥ's novel exposes the long chain of empires subtending the dissemination of Arabic literature that left it vulnerable to becoming a terrain of cultural Cold War after Bandung's call for Afro-Asian solidarity.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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