Khalīl al-Khūrī begins the introduction to his novel, Wayy, Idhan Lastu bi Afranjī [Alas, then I Am Not a Foreigner], by telling the reader about beginnings:Readers of books, ever since the craft of writing was established, have been sentenced with the punishment of also reading introductions. And if we are to embark upon this art, it is not appropriate for us to stray from the path of our honorable authors. So we must therefore present an introduction here, and struggle to understand what … the pen has brought us to write. It is for the reader to burn it or tear it up if it does not suit his mood.1
Rebecca C. Johnson is an assistant professor in the Department of English and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern, where she teaches and writes about the history and theory of the novel in Arabic and English, the literature of the 19th-century period known as the Nahda, literary cosmopolitanism, and the theory and politics of translation. She is currently working on a book manuscript, “A History of the Novel in Translation,” which brings many of these strands together to understand translation as a lens through which to understand the form and function of the genre. Johnson received her PhD in comparative literature from Yale University in 2010. She has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, the Council for Library and Information Resources, the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad, and the Fulbright Foundation. Johnson has also published translations of Arabic literature, including the poems of Iraqi modernist Nazik al-Mala’ika and Sinan Antoon’s novel, I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody.