What We Are Reading Today: Impossible Engineering by Chandra Mukerji
Updated 15 November 2021
The Canal du Midi, which threads through southwestern France and links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, was an astonishing feat of 17th-century engineering — in fact, it was technically impossible according to the standards of its day. Impossible Engineering takes an insightful and entertaining look at the mystery of its success as well as the canal’s surprising political significance.
The waterway was a marvel that connected modern state power to human control of nature just as surely as it linked the ocean to the sea.
The Canal du Midi is typically characterized as the achievement of Pierre-Paul Riquet, a tax farmer and entrepreneur for the canal. Yet Chandra Mukerji argues that it was a product of collective intelligence, depending on peasant women and artisans — unrecognized heirs to Roman traditions of engineering — who came to labor on the waterway in collaboration with military and academic supervisors.
What We Are Reading Today: Spiders of North America by Sarah Rose
Updated 02 July 2022
Of the more than 49,000 species of spider worldwide, some 4,000 are in North America. Spiders of North America explores more than 500 of the most common and interesting spiders found in this region of the world.
This richly illustrated guide begins with an overview of spiders—what they are exactly, how they can be found, how they develop, and why they are important.
The book features information on all the major spider guilds: Sensing web weavers, sheet web weavers, orb web weavers, space web weavers, ambush hunters, ground active hunters, other active hunters, and spider hunters.
What We Are Reading Today: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Updated 01 July 2022
“Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of history’s greatest works of literature.
The novel, first published as a complete work in 1878, is centered around a love affair between Anna and Vronsky, a Russian military officer, with the book’s characters highlighting the conflict between socially accepted norms and human desire.
Despite being married to Alexie Karenin, Anna has a scandalous affair with Vronsky and moves to Moscow with him. There they live together as a married couple.
When he finds out about the affair, Anna’s husband gives her an ultimatum: Leave Vronsky and keep the family’s reputation intact — or never see her son again.
Tolstoy is still revered as one of history’s greatest authors.
Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he was a master of realist fiction, and produced plays, essays and short stories.
His most famous works include “War and Peace,” “Resurrection,” “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” and “The Kingdom of God is Within You.”
Tolstoy received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906, and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1909.
What We Are Reading Today: Face and Mask; A Double History by Hans Belting
Updated 19 June 2022
This fascinating book presents the first cultural history and anthropology of the face across centuries, continents, and media. Ranging from funerary masks and masks in drama to the figural work of contemporary artists including Cindy Sherman and Nam June Paik, renowned art historian Hans Belting emphasizes that while the face plays a critical role in human communication, it defies attempts at visual representation.
Belting divides his book into three parts: Faces as masks of the self, portraiture as a constantly evolving mask in Western culture, and the fate of the face in the age of mass media.
Crowds flock to opening of the inaugural Madinah Book Fair
The 10-day event, which began on Thursday and continues until June 25, includes more than 200 publishers and other related organizations from 11 countries
Updated 22 June 2022
MADINAH: More than 200 publishers and other related organizations are taking part in the inaugural Madinah Book Fair, which began on Thursday at the King Salman bin Abdelaziz Center for Exhibitions and Conferences.
During the opening ceremony, Mohammed Hassan Alwan, the CEO of event organizer the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, said: “The commission is seeking to build its role in the book fair industry based on partnership and integration foundations, and we also aim to provide the people of the city with a renewed cultural scene, and we hope to offer the publishing industry beneficial, culturally and economically viable book fairs.
“We are keen that the city book fair will be an annual exhibition with a distinctive position on the map of Arab book fairs.”
The 10-day event, held under the patronage of Madinah’s governor, Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, continues until June 25. It includes workshops, cultural and theatrical programs and events for children that offer a window into the creation of literature and the publishing industry.
In a message posted on June 6 on Twitter, the official account of Saudi Book Fairs wrote: “In the heart of Medina the cultural program activities of the #Madinah_Book_Fair_2022 are launched to provide an integrated knowledge journey that promises visitors a unique cultural experience.”
Organizers said the event aims to enhance the cultural status of Madinah, boost the Saudi publishing sector, encourage cultural exchanges between countries, provide an integrated journey for readers, and highlight the role of reading in raising awareness and improving quality of life.
Eleven nations are participating in the fair: 10 Arab countries — Kuwait, Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria, UAE, Oman, Mauritania, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan — and the UK.
Among the more than 200 publishers and related organizations taking part, more than 80 are from the Kingdom, including universities, research centers, foundations, commissions, bookstores and libraries. The event attracted huge crowds on day one.
Amir Alsaiegh, a 46-year-old literature lecturer and self-professed bibliophile, told Arab News: “I came today with two suitcases to fill them with book selections which I came to pick from the fair.
“I have a long list for today and I am glad about the huge number of publishing houses available here. The fair exceeded my expectations.”
Ibtihal Al-Jabri, 17, visited the fair with her three sisters who, like her, are all book lovers.
“I was so excited for the book fair when they first announced it two weeks ago,” she said.
Her sister Nouf, 22, added: “This event is the first of its kind in Madinah; I have been waiting for it for so many years. I love it and am willing to come here every day.”
The attractions included immersive offerings in Arabic and English for children, including educational theatrical shows and workshops on topics such as storytelling, handicrafts, drawing, writing, interactive reading, heritage arts, Arabic calligraphy and philosophy.
Six-year-old Samia Al-Nahdi said: “I love reading. I came today with my parents because they like reading, like me.”
Madinah Book Fair is part of the Book Fair Initiatives, one of the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission’s strategic initiatives that aims to stage fairs across the Kingdom to give Saudi readers a chance to explore works published by local, Arab and international publishers and learn about the latest developments in the publishing industry.
To accompany the start of the book fair, two other events took place on Thursday. The first was the opening of a new museum at King Abdul Aziz Complex for Waqf Libraries, which was inaugurated by Prince Faisal.
Fahad Al-Wahbi, the organization’s secretary-general, told Arab News: “Today, the complex is participating in this museum, which aims to shed light on a group of important archaeological and historical collectibles, which vary from ancient manuscripts, some of which date back thousands of years, to rare precious Qur’ans that represent different historical periods, and collectibles from the Prophet’s Mosque.”
The other event involved the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism, an organization that celebrates the essence of Salmani Architecture, which has organized an exhibition that was first staged in Riyadh before touring Jeddah, Abha and Dhahran, and has now arrived in Madinah.
Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission at the Ministry of Culture, told Arab News: “We have also taken it to Expo Dubai 2021, and we are taking it internationally because this is an international methodology that we think is applicable anywhere.
“It is one of 33 initiatives that we have in the Architecture and Design Commission. It is one of the earliest and most important, given the extent and impact that we anticipate.”
She said the exhibition aims to reflect the fact that “the experience we have had in Riyadh city through the patronage of King Salman has been so influential that there has been a development of identity within the city of Riyadh through multiple projects that we have seen.
“From an architectural point of view, the charter displayed a masterpiece that has gained international recognition. There are six values within the charter that are guiding principles, including continuity and authenticity, … the individual and community (and) the last values are related to innovation and sustainability.”