And Author Hamdi abu Golayyel (of The Laborer, or, as it’s titled in English A Dog with No Tail) had the most extraordinarily upbeat quote. “Today,” he said, “innovative writing is wanted by the people.”
As in the “Egyptian fiction bored of big issues” piece penned by Hamza Hendawi six weeks ago, Shenker focuses on younger writers Hamdi Abu Golayyel and Ahmed Alaidy (of Being Abbas el Abd). Shenker gives credit to publishing house Dar Merit for cultivating these writers.
Indeed, Dar Merit has offered more freedom to writers. The excellent, Arabic Booker-shortlisted Mohamed Mansi Qandil said, in The National:
There are many constraints on the freedom of the writer. My Moon Over Samarkand was mutilated by the editor of Dar al Helal, who omitted more than one third of it for political reasons. Later on, I had Dar Merit publish it in full.
But Shenker is not just talking about a better, freer publishing house; he’s talking about “Egypt’s nascent literary revolution.” He pinpoints the revolutionary aspect as, in the words of AUC literary professor Samia Mehrez, the literary “periphery” imposing themelseves on Egypt’s literary map.
Yes, there are more working class/underclass authors making their way. And it’s great, and perhaps this will lead to a reading revolution: I would love nothing better. But, more realistically, the piece ends by stating the challenges to this revolution: “the average Egyptian reads a quarter of a page of a novel each year.”
I’m not sure where this statistic comes from, but it’s pretty humbling.