I read Hend Al Qassemi's Black Book of Arabia with an increasing sense of frustration. At a time when few books by international authors get published in the major presses, it seems unconscionable that an example of such pedestrian plodding prose would be released by the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation. The tales in this book are supposedly stories told in secret to the author (who is a publisher of a Middle Eastern magazine called Velvet), and have some innate points of interest in them, but have been written at the level of a somewhat unimaginative teenager.
I was seated next to my husband Eissa when the brain surgeon at Hamad General Hospital in Doha, Qatar, informed us that my partner of seventeen years had brain cancer. Had it been any other form of cancer I might have reacted more collectedly as recovery rates for many forms of cancer are well above fifty percent. But brain cancer is different. Its recovery rates remain low, and its treatment is difficult and painful. My father had died of another form of cancer, lung cancer, and the nightmare of his agony flashed before me. Cancer was taking everyone I loved from me. When were they going to invent a cure for this Black Death?
Kuwait, UAE, Saudi and Qatar, rich, holier-than-thou, are spoiled, cultural wastelands, with little to offer the rest of the world. What have they done with their ugly billions? And now you have Al Qassemi, Emirati royalty married into Qatari royalty, getting published. It smacks of ticking yet another box among her hobbies. Published author, tick. What is Bloomsbury thinking? There's enough superb literature coming out of the Arab world that such dross should be ignored.