Improper Narratives: Egyptian Personal Blogs and the Arabic Notion of Adab

Teresa Pepe


In recent years several international scholars have started to move beyond the social and political effect of blogging to define blogs in terms of literary writing (See Fitzpatrick, 2006; Himmer 2004; Van Dijk, 2004). Also in the Arab world, the fact that several blogs have been turned into books and have had considerable success, has provoked a debate over the literary status of blogs: while some critics hail them as a new literary experiment, others claim that they do not have the legitimacy to be included in the category of adab (literature). This has perhaps to do with the fact that in the Arab world (as elsewhere) printed books enjoy more prestige; but also with the fact that the Arab notion of adab is gradually coinciding, though still differing from the European notion of “literature”, and this defines the boundaries of the literary field. In other words, to claim that a work is “literary” because it has aspects of “literariness”, does not wholly correspond to saying that it is adabī, i.e. “literary” for Arab critics. In this article I will discuss aspects of literariness and adab-icity by means of an analysis of the blog al-Kanabah al-Ḥamrā (The Red Sofa), written by the Egyptian Bilāl Ḥusnī. The blog has been reviewed in several Egyptian newspapers and literary websites as “an interactive fiction” or a “adabī/literary and visual blog”. However, its style, contents and materiality challenge both our notion of “literature” and the Arab concept of adab.


Egypt; blogs; literature; literariness; adab

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