The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Cairo 2010

Thanks to Laila Lalami's blog for pointing us to this very very interesting introduction by Brian T. Edwards (a professor of literature at Northwestern University) to an issue of the magazine Public Space dedicated to contemporary Egyptian fiction. Edwards has spent a lot of time in the offices of one of our favourite publishers, Merit, and it was a pleasure to read him describe the often irreverent, sometimes impassioned and always smoke-wreathed atmosphere there.

The issue focuses on the work of young Egyptian writers like Ahmad Al Aidi (the author of Being Abbas Al Abd), Magdy Shafee (the author of Metro) and other authors whose titles I've noticed but who I'm not familiar with. Edwards tentatively classifies this generation of authors as "Cairo 2010" and sees something distinct in "the way they encounter and depict the Cairo of today, the globally inflected and locally congested space of the megalopolis."

I tend to question the inclusion of Mohammed Al Fakharani, whose novel فاصل للدهشة I studied closely in my Masters thesis research, and which, while fascinating if you're interested in the contemporary tropes about عشوائيات (Cairo's informal neighborhoods, or slums), is sloppy and melodramatic both in its social analysis and its writing. On the other hand, I am now eager to find out more about many of the other authors mentioned by Edwards. Unfortunately it's all only available with subscription.