Between Quran and KafkaWest-Eastern Affinities
Between Quran and Kafka
West-Eastern Affinities
Translated by Tony Crawford
What connects Shiite passion plays with Brecht’s drama? Which of Goethe’s poems were inspired by the Quran? How can Ibn Arabi’s theology of sighs explain the plays of Heinrich von Kleist? And why did the Persian author Sadeq Hedayat identify with the Prague Jew Franz Kafka?

‘One who knows himself and others will here too understand: Orient and Occident are no longer separable’: in this new book, the critically acclaimed author and scholar Navid Kermani takes Goethe at his word. He reads the Quran as a poetic text, opens Eastern literature to Western readers, unveils the mystical dimension in the works of Goethe and Kleist, and deciphers the political implications of theatre, from Shakespeare to Lessing to Brecht. Drawing striking comparisons between a diverse range of literary traditions and cultures, Kermani argues for a literary cosmopolitanism that is opposed to all those who would play religions and cultures against one another, isolating them by force from one another. Between Quran and Kafka concludes with Kermani’s speech on receiving Germany’s highest literary prize, an impassioned plea for greater fraternity when confronted with the tyranny and terrorism of Islamic State.

Kermani’s personal assimilation of the classics gives his work that topical urgency that distinguishes universal literature when it speaks to our most intimate feelings. For of course love too lies ‘between Quran and Kafka’.
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  • October 2016
  • 300 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509500338
  • Paperback $26.95
  • 9781509500345
Table of Contents

A Personal Note

1. Don’t Follow the Poets!

The Quran and Poetry

2. Revolt against God

Attar and Suffering

3. World without God

Shakespeare and Man

4. Heroic Weakness

Lessing and Terror

5. God Breathing

Goethe and Religion6. Filth of My Soul

Kleist and Love

7. The Truth of Theatre

The Shiite Passion Play and Alienation

8. Liberate Bayreuth!

Wagner and Empathy

9. Swimming in the Afternoon

Kafka and Germany

10. The Purpose of Literature

Hedayat and Kafka

11. For Europe

Zweig and the Borders

12. In Defence of the Glass Bead Game

Hesse and Decadence

13. The Violence of Compassion

Arendt and Revolution

14. Tilting at Windmills

Mosebach and the Novel

15. One God, One Wife, One Cheese

Golshiri and Friendship

16. Chant the Quran Singingly

Neuwirth and Literalist Orthodoxy


On the 65th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the German Constitution

Speech to the Bundestag, Berlin, May 23, 2014

On Receiving the Peace Prize of the German Publishers’ Association

Speech in St Paul’s Church, Frankfurt am Main, October 18, 2015

About the Text


About the Author
Navid Kermani is a writer and Islamic scholar who lives in Cologne, Germany. He has received numerous accolades for his literary and academic work, including the 2015 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, Germany’s most prestigious cultural award.
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