This judicious and perceptive critical study is a welcome addition to the scholarship since the early 2000s that has scrutinized the chronology and nature of the beginnings of the Arabic novel in the nineteenth century. Probably the most trenchant of the early revisionist studies was Elliott Colla’s (2009) article “How Zaynab Became the First Arabic Novel,” which persuasively challenged the notion that the Romantic novel Zaynab (1914, 1929) was the first “genuine” novel written in the Arab world. Rebecca C. Johnson’s book takes Colla’s insight much farther to argue that, contrary to accepted belief, translations of Western novels into Arabic record with uncanny precision and prescience the transformations brought by modernity and modernization into the Middle East. As Johnson declares, “Neither importation nor translation can be reduced to Westernization” (14). Instead, the mistranslations, transpositions, and expansions of these works, often hastily produced under the pressure of serialization, reflect...

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