Posted on April 13, 2014

Set against the backdrop of the recent history of the Middle East – the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the US occupation of Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – The Hidden Light of Objects is a collection of stories about memory and loss, war and love, growing up and getting older. Mai Al-Nakib is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan and exciting new voice from Kuwait.

The headlines tell of war, unrest and religious clashes. But if you look beyond them you may see life in the Middle East as it is really lived – adolescent love, yearnings for independence, the fragility of marriage, pain of the most quotidian kind. Mai Al-Nakib’s luminous stories carefully unveil the lives of ordinary people in the Middle East – and the power of ordinary objects to hold extraordinary memories.

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Al-Nakib’s short stories include those of a young girl – renamed Amerika in honour of the US role in the liberation of Kuwait – who finds her name has become a barometer of her country’s growing hostility towards the West; a self-conscious Palestinian teenager is drawn into a botched suicide bombing by two belligerent classmates; a middle-aged man dying of cancer looking back on his extramarital affairs and the abiding forgiveness of his wife, and a Kuwaiti woman returning to her family after being held captive in Iraq for a decade.

Mai Al-Nakib was born in Kuwait in 1970. She holds a PhD in English literature from Brown University in the US and teaches postcolonial studies and comparative literature at Kuwait University. The Hidden Light of Objects is her first collection of short stories. She lives in Kuwait, and is currently writing her first novel.