Asked by an academic friend to name one book I would save if the world were to collapse in an apocalyptic climate change scenario, I thought: ‘it’s too hard’, but then started going though my mental library. ‘You wouldn’t want to save an academic book, would you,’ said my friend, ‘surely a novel, an artist’s book…’. But in those few seconds I had already settled in my head for Salvatore Settis’ The Future of the ‘Classical’ (Polity, 2006, translated by Allan Cameron). Why?
Her work, in her own words, is ‘to see Hamlet splinter and be reconstituted; serve as a mask, a megaphone, and a measuring stick; and tell a story as revealing of his host’s identities as his own’. She explores the presence of ‘Hamlet’ in Arab contexts – as both a play and a character – in various forms, shapes and images, with the last chapter of her book examining six Arab Hamlet off-shoots staged between 1976-2004. The common denominator of these productions is how they reveal the political and social consciousness of the theatremakers staging the various productions.