The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Words Without Borders on Egyptian lit

Chip Rossetti, an editor at AUC Press, is guest-editing Words Without Borders' special on Egypt his month. There's a bunch of new Egyptian fiction on it:
"With the confidence of a woman who knows three languages," the Egyptian writers featured here write fabulism, social realism, modernist irony, and other tongues. In "Veiler of all deeds," by Hamdi Abu Golayyel, "People are delighted when they hear the news that a pious man has been caught red-handed in some wrongful act." A man waiting for a job interview is his own worst enemy in Mahmoud al Wardani's "The Dark and the Daylight," while a seamstress stitches a life for her children in Na'am al-Baz's "Mrs. Saniya's Holiday." The sensual crooning of a wedding singer awakens old and new passions on an island in the Nile, between Egypt and Sudan, in Haggag Hassan Oddoul's "Flirting with the Moon." A hen and a rooster aim for respect and bring about a cultural revolution in Salwa Bakr's "The Rooster's Egg: A Fable of Ancient Thebes." Literary journalist Mohamed Makhzangi observes spring in Chernobyl after nuclear disaster. And poets Tamer Fathy and Iman Mersal, like the Bedouin in Mersal's "Sometimes Wisdom Possesses Me," "knew early on that words fly/and cannot be weighed."
Chip also wrote an introductory article to the whole thing. Congrats to him.

Also on a literary note, the great Egyptian writer Albert Cossery is profiled in Le Monde. Cossery, who writes in French, moved from Cairo to Paris in 1945. When he arrived, he checked into a hotel off St. Germain des Pres and never moved out. He spent the 1950s and 1960s cavorting with the French intellectual jet set. Even though he has lived abroad, his books are about Egyptian life, particularly that of the poor. He's now 92 and has received a lifetime achievement award from a French literary society. I loved the portrait that ran with the article, reproduced below.