Egyptian Books Now in English: Nov/Dec 2009


Cairo Swan Song, Mekkawi Said. This book was shortlisted for the Arabic Booker in 2007-2008; Said has said in part because of a blog campaign for the book. I haven’t yet gotten hold of a copy; Al Ahram has a one-paragraph review of the book. American University in Cairo Press.

A Dog with no Tail, Hamdi Abu Golayyel. Winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, 2008, billed as an “anti-Arabian Nights.” The narrator is an immigrant (to Cairo) from Fayoum, an aspiring novelist and construction laborer. American University in Cairo Press.

1/4 Gram, by Essam Youssef. This best-seller is set to have its English-translation launch party at the Zamalek Diwan on December 27. It’s apparently the first Egyptian novel to really treat drug addiction in Egypt, aside from Mahfouz’s high protagonists in Adrift on the Nile. The sprawling novel is 635 pages and based on the life of one of Essam Youssef’s friends. The appeal is clearly its true-story delving into a largely unexplored facet of Cairo life. This review from Daily News Egypt suggests it could’ve used a little editing. Which publisher?


(*) Life is More Beautiful than Paradise: A Jihadist’s Own Story, Khaled al-Berry. This remarkable memoir follows al-Berry’s life in 1980s Asyut, his search for meaning, his membership in the Islamist group Jama’a Islamiya, and his time in prison. The prison anecdotes alone—compellingly honest and real—are reason enough to read this book. American University in Cairo Press.