15: Alexandria When?
Inspired by a fiery essay by an Egyptian professor, Ursula and MLQ discuss cosmopolitanism, nostalgia, and literary representations of the city of Alexandria. Marcia also talks about three new books – from Iraq, Southern Sudan and Lebanon/London. She loved two of them.
- May Hawas’s essay How Not to Write on Cosmopolitan Alexandria takes as its starting point Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet and particularly the first book, Justine.
- The renowned poetry of Constantine P. Cavafy has shaped Alexandria’s literary image and aura. Ibrahim Abdelmeguid is perhaps Egypt’s best-known Alexandria-focused author (read his No One Sleeps in Alexandria, for instance, trans. Farouk Abdel Wahab), although Naguib Mahfouz’s Miramar may the best-known book set in the city. Other major Alexandrian writers include Alaa Khaled and the late Edwar al-Kharrat. Bahaa Abdelmeguid’s St. Theresa, trans. Chip Rossetti, is, in part, about the 1960s expulsions from Alexandria. MLQ admits to not being a fan of Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel, sorry.
- Marwan Hisham’s memoir-reportage Brothers of the Gun, with art by Molly Crabapple, came out May 15. It details life under the Islamic State in Raqqa and covers, from a quite different point of view, some of the same ground as DunyaMikhail’s The Beekeper, which we discussed in Episode 8.
- Hanan al-Shaykh’s The Occasional Virgin, trans. Catherine Cobham, comes out June 15.
- Stella Gaitano’s Withered Flowers, trans. Anthony Calderbank, is available in bookshops in Juba, South Sudan. We’ll also see if we can convince them to make it more widely available.