What We Are Reading Today: The War for Gaul: A New Translation by James J. O’Donnell

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Updated 24 November 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The War for Gaul: A New Translation by James J. O’Donnell

A translation that captures the power of one of the greatest war stories ever told—Julius Caesar’s account of his brutal campaign to conquer Gaul. Imagine a book about an unnecessary war written by the ruthless general of an occupying army—a vivid and dramatic propaganda piece that forces the reader to identify with the conquerors and that is designed, like the war itself, to fuel the limitless political ambitions of the author. Could such a campaign autobiography ever be a great work of literature—perhaps even one of the greatest?

What We Are Reading Today: Face and Mask; A Double History by Hans Belting

Updated 19 June 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Face and Mask; A Double History by Hans Belting

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.

What We Are Reading Today:  Let’s Talk

Updated 18 June 2022

What We Are Reading Today:  Let’s Talk

When, where, why, and how did life stop being exciting and straightforward? We’ve taken on so much stress and worry. all the time. but why? for what?

In Let’s talk, Art Rios talks about how to make life exciting, easier, exceptional, and filled with pleasures.

It’s straight talk about modern times.

Simple ways to unwind and enjoy life.

Let’s talk is about anything and everything. from happy hour to self-realization. From pursuing pleasures to pandemics to decluttering your life. From gratitude and kindness to lazy Sundays.

Whether you’re 18 or 80, it’s never too late to make the most of your life. Join art and start talking about how to make your life an all-out blast.


Crowds flock to opening of the inaugural Madinah Book Fair

Updated 22 June 2022

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

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.

More than 200 publishers and related organizations are taking part in the 10-day book fair. (Twitter: @SaudiBookFair)

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.

More than 200 publishers and related organizations are taking part in the 10-day book fair. (Twitter: @SaudiBookFair)

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.”


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Beautiful and Damned’

Updated 09 June 2022

What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Beautiful and Damned’

“The Beautiful and Damned” is a 1922 classic novel written by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, which features a recurring theme of works, the excess and lavishness of the Jazz Ara. 

The book is Fitzgerald’s second novel, set in 1920’s prohibition era New York, which tells the story of Harvard-educated, trust fund socialite Anthony Patch and his nonconformist and rebellious wife Gloria Gilbert.

Patch’s close friend from Harvard, Richard Caramel, introduces him to Gilbert, which sees an infatuation gradually become an obsession with her vanity and recklessness. 

The young couple fall prey to primary human instincts in an endless frenzy of bacchanalian hedonism.  

Patch is an orphan, though heir to his grandfather’s wealth, but finds himself excluded from the will due to his lack of purpose and direction. 

The couple’s pleasure-seeking behavior backfires as the Great War ensues, and they find themselves on the brink of poverty. 

The book challenges the idleness and morality of the pair, as their friends succeed in life while they spiral into decadence and decay; their lavish lifestyle dissipating, and bickering setting in as their finances worsen. 

Due to their poverty, Gilbert attempts to take up acting, but is rejected for her age, and Patch is drafted into the military as the US enters the war. 

Fitzgerald’s association with expatriate artists after the First World War had him coin the phrase “lost generation” in reference to the post-war period’s lack of direction, and meaningless wandering of its youth.


What We Are Reading Today: Field Guide to Coastal Wildflowers of Britain, Ireland and Northwest Europe

Updated 05 June 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Field Guide to Coastal Wildflowers of Britain, Ireland and Northwest Europe

Authors: Paul Sterry and Andrew Cleave

The rugged and beautiful coastal regions of Britain and Ireland are among the crowning glories of these islands. Few visitors can fail to marvel at the stunning sight of Cornwall’s clifftops resplendent with flowering Thrift, or be struck by the resilience of plants that thrive on the inhospitable shingle beaches of Dungeness on the coast of Kent.

This field guide covers more than 600 species of wildflowers and other coastal flora found in Britain and Ireland, and coastal mainland Northwest Europe. Detailed species accounts describe wildflowers, grasses, sedges and rushes that occur on the coast or in abundance within sight of the sea.