Seif Salmawy, director at the recently launched Bloomsbury-Qatar publishing house, recently sent out an update re: Arabic books the house will publish in English next year. I would say these are three pop titles (thriller, sci fi, women’s lit), and one literary crossover.
Vertigo by Ahmed Mourad
A photographer in a classy nightclub in Cairo witnesses his friend murdered during a fight between rival young businessmen. A tense thriller that reveals contemporary Egypt and Cairo’s seedy nightlife. This novel has been a bestseller in Egypt and reprinted eight times since its release in 2007.
About the author: Born in 1978, Ahmed Mourad is a photographer, graphic designer and a novelist. Since completing his film studies he has won several awards for his short films.
From me: read Mourad on publishing in Egypt here. Read a review of Vertigo on the blog “Hearing Myself Speak” (didn’t like it), whereas the blogger Not Green Data thought it was one of the best novels of the year.
Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Tawfik
It’s Egypt in 2023. The rich are living decadent lives in guarded compounds while the poor are outside in a dog-eat-dog world. A young man and a young girl venture outside the gated communities to see what Egypt is really like. This novel has been a bestseller in Egypt and reprinted three times since its release in 2008.
About the author: Ahmed Khaled Tawfik was born in 1962 and is probably the Arab world’s bestselling author of science fiction and horror. He has written more than 200 books.
This one, Not Green Data did not like. There’s a good deal about Ahmed Khaled Tawfik online, even in English. (Wikipedia has an entry, for starters.) You can see how GoodReads readers rated Utopia. Daily News Egypt gave the book a brief mention on its “literary highlights of 2008” page.
The DNE also mentioned (among the literary highlights of 2008) Arabic Booker-winning Azazeel, which will be out from Atlantic books July 2011; The Turban and the Hat by Sonallah Ibrahim (not available in English); Metro, by Magdy al-Shafee (yanked from shelves, author fined); Kirieleison, by Hany Abdel-Moreed (never heard of it?); Cairo Swan Song by Mekkawi Said, (out from AUC Press last year); 1/4 Gram by Essam Youssef, (available in English, I believe, only at Diwan Bookstores); and The Last Days, by journalist Abdel-Halim Kandil (not available in English).
The Tobacco Keeper by Ali Bader
Awards: Long-listed for the Arab Booker Prize 2009
The fictional life of a celebrated Iraqi musician. The book uncovers his three identities: as Jewish musician Joseph Saleh who emigrates from Iraq to Israel in the 1950s, which he rejects for Iran where he lives under a new name before moving back to Iraq. Deported to Tehran as an Iranian, he invents a third persona as musician Kamal Medhat and returns to Baghdad where he achieves fame but loses his life in a mysterious kidnapping under the US-led occupation.
About the author: Ali Bader (born 1964) is an Iraqi novelist, essayist, poet, and scriptwriter.
Ali Badr/Bader’s earlier book, Papa Sartre, is available in English. You can read M.A. Orthofer’s review of it here. Youssef Rakha wonders why Badr doesn’t make the Arabic Booker shortlist. This review of The Tobacco Keeper on the blog “Skies” beats around the bush a little, but is definitely praising.
This is the title I am (personally) most excited about seeing.
Nessyane.com by Ahlam Mostaghanmi
Ahlam Mostaghanemi’s newest title is a literary examination of male abuse of women in the Arab world. She advises Arab women on how they should/could forget Arab men who exploit them.
About the author: Ahlam Mostaghanmi is the best-selling female author in the Arab World, whose books have sold tens of thousands of copies.
Mostaghanmi is a force, that’s for sure. A friend who used to work at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair said that the Algerian author was virtually mobbed at a recent appearance.
You can find her novels Chaos of the Senses and The Memory of the Flesh available in English already, both from AUC Press; Memory‘s also going to be turned into a TV serial this coming Ramadan. See ratings of Nessyane.Com on GoodReads. You can also see what Youssef Rakha thinks of Mostaghanmi’s writing elsewhere on this blog.