This is Amin’s second full-length autobiography, coming after Madha Allamatni Al-Hayah? What Has Life Taught Me? (2007, Dar el Shorouk), which poet and critic Youssef Rakha promises is lucidly written, humorous and approachable. Manal al-Jesri, at Egypt Today, concurs.
I give Rahik al-Omr and/or Madha Allamatni Al-Hayah? a decent chance of appearing in English, both because of Galal Amin’s general popularity, and because his Whatever Happened to the Egyptians (and Whatever [Else] Happened to the Egyptians) seem to have sold—or at least circulated—relatively well.
Although the Whatever books were written clearly, and sometimes with humor, I could not recommend them to you: They are generally quick, surface assessments of changes in Egyptian culture with little heart or personal introspection.
Nectar of the Years, Ragab promises, is different. It offers personal, sometimes painful revelations about Amin’s and his family’s lives over several generations in Cairo. It follows his schooling in an excellent “Model” school, his children’s at Ma’adi’s (now dilapidated) Victory College, and his grandchildren’s at what must be the (wildly expensive) CAC. The book, Ragab says, also pays close attention to women’s lives and opportunities (and the lack thereof).
There is relatively little Arabic memoir available in English: Taha Hussein’s The Days, Sayyid Qutb’s A Child from the Village, Khaled al-Berry’s recent Life is More Beautiful than Paradise, and Nawal al-Saadawi’s Memoirs of a Woman Doctor, and Mourid Barghouti’s excellent I Saw Ramallah are a view that spring to mind. Of course, the saucier memoirs are more likely to sell—like Abdallah Taia’s Salvation Army—but certainly there is a role for the socio-historical memoirs as well.