City of Beginnings: Poetic Modernism in Beirut


Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
6.4 X 9.3 X 1.1 inches | 1.25 pounds

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About the Author

Robyn Creswell is assistant professor of comparative literature at Yale University and a former poetry editor at the Paris Review. His writings have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, and Harper's Magazine, among many other publications. He is the translator of Abdelfattah Kilito's The Tongue of Adam and Sonallah Ibrahim's "That Smell" and "Notes from Prison.


"City of Beginnings is a very important book. Robyn Creswell shows why poetry was at the heart of Arab thought and politics during the Cold War. In prose engaging and clear, he offers exquisite close readings and takes up the key moments of this history with masterful economy and deep erudition. Remarkable."--Elliott Colla, Georgetown University
"A masterpiece of comparative reading and a gripping story of Cold War culture, City of Beginnings is a fascinating journey into the intellectual life of postwar Beirut and the best account we have of the modernist poetry movement in Arabic. Robyn Creswell shows how the Arab modernists took inspiration from the deepest portions of their literary heritage while also breaking with that tradition in daring fashion--with consequences that are still with us."--Elias Khoury, author of Gate of the Sun
"City of Beginnings is an original and much-needed study of literary modernism in Beirut in the decades between the Second World War and the Lebanese Civil War. Creswell challenges breezy generalizations about modernism as a universal literary mode that are often made based almost entirely on Anglophone materials. A great accomplishment."--Aamir R. Mufti, University of California, Los Angeles
In this extraordinary and original work, Robyn Creswell combines poetry criticism and intellectual history to produce one of the finest accounts of Arab modernism.---Qussay al-Attabi, International Journal of Middle East Studies
A pleasure to read, both for the lucidity of its prose as for the tacit but evident sympathy of imagination that enlivens it throughout. Creswell's translations are exact but nuanced. . . . Creswell succeeds admirably in his initial aim. He has set Modernist Beirut firmly on the map.---Eric Ormsby, Etudes Asiatiques

City of Beginnings offers a plethora of sophisticated and accessible close readings of modernist poetry. Creswell weaves them deftly into the cold war context and the shifting political and cultural struggles of the day. . . . Creswell's well-researched book will be a yardstick for years to come of how to
combine literary criticism and intellectual history of the Arab world.

---Jens Hanssen, Journal of Arabic Literature
Winner of the Gaddis Smith International Book Prize, MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University
Beirut has been overlooked in classic histories of modernism, yet Creswell . . . has remedied this with eloquence and erudition in his study of how a group of exiles, iconoclasts, and Γ©migrΓ©s--al-Khal, Adonis, and the Lebanese poet Unsi al-Hajj foremost among them--radically transformed Arabic poetry.---Anna Della Subin, New York Review of Books