The Poetics of Nahḍah Multilingualism: Recovering the Lost Russian Poetry of Mikhail Naimy

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
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  • 1 Assistant Professor, Languages and Cultures Department, United States Naval AcademyAnnapolis, MarylandUSA
  • | 2 Professor, Islamic World and Comparative Literature, College of Arts and Law, University of BirminghamBirminghamUK
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Drawing on archival research, this article introduces several Russian poems by the Arabic mahjar poet and writer Mikhail Naimy (Mīkhāʿīl Nu’aymah) (1889-1988) for the first time to scholarship. By examining the influence of Russian literature on Naimy’s literary output, we shed light on the role of multilingualism in generating literary identities and in shaping literary form. Naimy’s Russian poetry, we argue, furthers our understanding of the nahḍah as a multilingual movement that synthesized influences from many different languages. We also show how this multilingual orientation served as a bridge between the nahḍah and mahjar literature, by helping Arab writers craft a poetics of Arabic modernism in the diaspora. Alongside documenting an important archival discovery, this research contributes to our understanding of the temporality of Arabic modernism while illuminating its geographically and linguistically diverse substance.

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