The Animists, Ibrahim al-Koni. February 2010.
I think al-Koni’s Bleeding of the Stone is brilliant, a book of international standing, with things to tell us about Libya’s Tuareg people, about humanity, about our (changing) natural world. And I see beautiful moments in his other works in English: Anubis, Gold Dust, Seven Veils of Seth. They are less Western-friendly, more formally/stylistically interesting, but none of them hold together as well as Bleeding of the Stone. I’m sorry, I know he’s award-winning, but I am not convinced Elliott Colla is bringing out the best of al-Koni’s prose.
To sum up: I love al-Koni, but am prepared to be disappointed by The Animists.
The Scents of Marie-Claire, Habib Selmi. March 2010.
This Tunisian novel was shortlisted for the 2008-2009 “Arabic Booker.” I am not familiar with Habib Selmi, nor really with Tunisian novels, so I’m interested. He tells Samuel Shimon he admires Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Cervantes, Borges, Shakespeare, Julio Cortazar, Raymond Carver, and Italo Calvino.
He also says: “My criticism of the Arab novel is that it overwhelmingly emphasises the social aspect. I understand and like the novel to be a novel of the self as it intersects with its surroundings.”
In short: I’ll pick it up.
Drumbeat, Mohamed El-Bisatie. April 2010.
This book was the winner of the Sawiris Foundation Award for Egyptian Literature. It sounds like a departure for El-Bisatie:
“In a fictional Gulf country, with its gleaming glass towers and imported greenery, the routine of day-to-day life is suddenly interrupted when the national football team qualifies for the World Cup. The Emir issues an edict ordering all native Emiratis to travel to France to support the team, leaving the country to the care of its imported labor. How do they handle such newly found freedom?”
I think el-Bisatie’s A House Behind Trees is very accomplished; I was less fond of Clamor at the Lake; I have not read Hunger, which was also shortlisted for the Arabic Booker and came out in English in 2008.
And: It’s so crazy it just might work.
I am interested in this novel set in the Basra oil fields as the writer spent much of his working life in said fields. He is little-known and died in Baghdad in 2006; I’m also interested in his work because he is an Iraqi author who stayed in Iraq. A rare bird.
In short: I have no idea, but I want to read it.
Munira’s Bottle, Yousef al-Mohaimeed. April 2010.
Yes, he’s the “award-winning author” of Wolves of the Crescent Moon, but it really wasn’t that fabulous a book.
“This controversial novel looks at many of the issues that characterize the lives of women in modern Saudi society, including magic and envy, honor and revenge, and the strict moral code that dictates male–female interaction.”
Briefly: Well, maybe.
Saint Theresa and Sleeping with Strangers, Bahaa Abdelmeguid. April 2010.
I don’t know Bahaa Abdelmeguid, which immediately makes him interesting. This snippet from Al Ahram Weekly offers little: a synopsis without review. The first novella, Saint Theresa, seems to cover too much sociopolitical ground (a la Cairo Swan Song), but perhaps he pulls it off.
The second is quite intriguing:
“In Sleeping with Strangers, Abdel Meguid turns his lens on the United States—following an Egyptian, Basim, who is drawn to the ‘land of opportunity,’ only to end up in an American prison.”
Although I hope Dr./Prof. Bahaa Abdelmeguid is not acquainted with U.S. prisons.
To sum up: Why not?
The Literary Atlas of Cairo, Samia Mehrez. July 2010.
“Readings from literary works that re-construct and re-map the city of Cairo.” Interesting concept; I’ll check it out.
In short: Worth picking up, at least.
The Coffeehouse, Naguib Mahfouz. July 2010.
That’s all right. Nothing against Naguib, but I’m not one of those groupies who needs to read every single thing that falls from the lips of the master.
Re:viewing Egypt: Image and Echo, Photographs by Xavier Roy, Introduction by Gamal al-Ghitani. September 2010.
I probably wouldn’t be interested in a photography book (see how narrow I am!) except for the introduction by al-Ghitani. I got a photography book introduced by Sonallah Ibrahim and was won over; perhaps the author of Pyramid Texts will do the same for me.
In short: I’ll have to go to a bookstore and find one with the plastic ripped off. Or be the surreptitious plastic-ripper myself. (Gentle curses on whoever decided to wrap books in plastic.)
A note from experience: These dates are just guidelines.