As young Egyptian author Ahmed Nagi (Rogers) happened to email me, I thought I’d ask about his favorite books of the last decade.
With the caveat that “maybe there are other titles I can’t remember now,” he said:
On The Occasion of Life, 2005, Dar el-Merit
بمناسبة الحياة” ياسر عبد الحافظ
by Yasser Abdel-Hafez
On the Occasion of Life is the only one of the three that has appeared in English—at least, an excerpt appeared in Banipal 25, the issue on new Egyptian writing. Laura Hird reviews it here:
’On the Occasion of Life’ is an excerpt from Yasser Abd el-Hafez’s novel, which recounts the story of the one-handed man who liked to weep and confess his sins loudly at the mosque during Ramadan, so that others, including drug dealers, would turn up to hear his secrets. His son becomes the leader of the family, dealing in drugs, who is brought down by a local law enforcement officer. American culture threads through this excerpt – with references to the Mafia, and the arresting officer resembling “a sheriff in a cowboy movie”. There’s a meandering quality to the narrative as it weaves round different characters, and it never loses a sense of humour, even in the darker moments.
Failed Lovers, 2005, Dar el-Merit
عشاق خائبون، إيهاب عبد الحميد
by Ehab Abdel-Hamid
I don’t think anything of Abdel-Hamid’s has appeared in English, although he did have a story in the (now defunct, I think) Meena: A Bilingual Journal of Arts and Letters. UPDATE: A short story, “Cairo,” has also been translated by qisasukhra.
This book won a second-place Sawiris novel award.
Two Thousand and Six, the Story of the Big War
الألفين وستة، قصة الحرب الكبري، نائل الطوخى
This book came out from Dar Merit in 2009, and was amusingly reviewed by Youssef Rakha in Al Ahram.
Here as elsewhere in the work of those who might be termed the post-millennial generation of cultural agents, Literary Life is the perfect target not simply for satire as such – and Toukhy’s book, it should be clear, is among the funniest satires currently on the market, certainly the most hilarious critique of the contemporary Egyptian literary sensibility to date – but also, and especially, for any effective portrait of life in the sprawling, multifaceted city eventually overtaken by the Bald Fat Intellectuals.
As you might expect from Rakha’s comments, this novel seems to have received a wide variety of reviews on GoodReads, ranging from one star accusations to five star accolades.