In December 2012, Arabist Geert Jan van Gelder's Classical Arabic Literature became the first book produced by NYU Abu Dhabi's new Library of Arabic Literature. The anthology draws from both well-known texts and less familiar pieces that have been made available to English-language audiences for the first time.
Classical Arabic Literature presents a picture of social, cultural, and intellectual life in the region, from pre-Islamic Arabia to the cusp of the modern era. The book reveals that religion was not the only subject to which writers turned their attention during these centuries. It includes works ranging from early Bedouin poems that evoke desert life to poems of love, comic verses, fairy tales, and samples of literary criticism.
"This work is an important foretaste of what is to come from the Library of Arabic Literature," says the library's general editor Philip Kennedy. "It's a significant work from one of the most respected scholars in the field, and it provides a great variety of selections that may surprise people who have only a smattering of knowledge of Arabic literature."
The Library of Arabic Literature offers Arabic editions and English translations of key works of classical and pre-modern Arabic literature, as well as anthologies and thematic readers. The books are edited and translated by distinguished scholars of Arabic and Islamic studies and are published in parallel-text format with Arabic and English on facing pages. Additional titles due out in spring 2013 are al-Shafi'i's The Epistle on Legal Theory, edited and translated by Joseph E. Lowry from the University of Pennsylvania, and A Treasury of Virtues: Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of 'Ali, translated by University of Chicago professor Tahera Qutbuddin.