Leg over Leg
By Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq (Lebanon)
Translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies
(Library of Arabic Literature/NYU Press)
Humphrey Davies’ masterful translation of Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg over Leg is the English-language reader’s first introduction to the work of this foundational figure of Arabic letters. The protagonist leaves his native Lebanon to make a life for himself elsewhere as an itinerant scribe, poet, translator, editor, and author. This is a book about books, about conventions of writing, reading, bookmaking, cultural creation and crossings, bristling with puns and long digressions about the “oddities of language, including its rare words”—a preoccupation that makes Davies’ translation all the more remarkable as a work of literature and scholarship both.