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Khalīl al-Khūrī's novel Wayy, Idhan Lastu bi- Ifranji dates to the 1850s, making it the first known Arabic novel. Image: Corbis Khalīl al-Khūrī's novel Wayy, Idhan Lastu bi- Ifranji dates to the 1850s, making it the first known Arabic novel. Image: Corbis

Chapter 7 – Importing the novel

Arabic literature’s foreign objects

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

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