Highlights from the AUC Press Fall 2010 Catalog

AUC Press just released their fall catalog. In the world of Arabic Literature (in English), this is the equivalent of (major designer X) releasing their fall line. Hmm, apparently I’m fresh out of analogies today. Anyhow!

What I’m looking forward to:

  • Re:Viewing Egypt. In the tradition of Cairo from Edge to Edge (from Sonallah Ibrahim and photographer Jean Pierre Ribiere), Re:Viewing has an introduction by Gamal al-Ghitani and photos by Xavier Roy. Although of course I greatly enjoy and respect al-Ghitani (Zayni Barakat, Zafarani Files) I am very, very partial to Sonallah Ibrahim. Still, Roy’s photos promise, from the looks of the few I’ve seen, a larger artistic imagination and emotional interest than those of Cairo from Edge to Edge.
  • Red Wine, by Amina Zaydan. This novel won the Naguib Mahfouz prize a couple years back, and should (finally) appear this November. The blurb says of Red Wine’s protagonist: “Suzy Galal, born in the Egyptian city of Suez during the War of Attrition in the late 1960s, is a woman of inner conflicts, at once a fighter and a lover, who traverses the boundaries of ethnicity and religion.” Translated by Sally Gomaa (I’m not familiar with her work).
  • The Puppet, by Ibrahim al-Koni. I am a big al-Koni fan, and still remember the first time I read the beautiful Bleeding of the Stone. Al-Koni is a genre-bender, a fascinating storyteller, a visceral scene-setter. Who can forget bloody human flesh and camel flesh being pulled apart? You will find many of his favorite themes in The Puppet: “This mythic tale of greed and political corruption traces the rise, flourishing, and demise of a Saharan oasis community. Aghulli, a noble if obtuse man who has been chosen leader of the oasis, hankers after the traditional nomadic pastoralist life of the Tuareg. He sees commerce as the prime culprit in the loss of the nomadic ethos. Thus he is devastated to learn that his supporters are hoarding gold.” William Hutchins (trans.) also translated The Seven Veils of Seth and Anubis by al-Koni. (I think that Bleeding of the Stone and Gold Dust have come off the best in English, but Hutchins is generally reliable and I’ll read anything by al-Koni.) In the U.S., I believe this is coming out in the fall from University of Texas Press.
  • Time Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets, by Khairy Shalaby. I had a mixed reaction to The Lodging House, although it had some very enjoyable character sketches and plot lines. However, this premise sounds so silly, who could fail to pass it up? “Ibn Shalaby, like many Egyptians, is looking for a job. Yet, unlike most of his fellow citizens, he is prone to sudden dislocations in time. Armed with his trusty briefcase and his Islamic-calendar wristwatch, he bounces uncontrollably through the Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Mamluk periods, with occasional return visits to the 1990s.” Translated by Michael Cooperson.

I’ll also read:

  • The Calligrapher’s Secret, by Rafik Schami (translated from German by the brilliant Anthea Bell). I had a very mixed reaction to Schami’s The Dark Side of Love, which was shortlisted for the Independent’s foreign fiction prize. Still, his prose (and Bell’s translation) were so lovely that I’ll certainly pick up The Calligrapher’s Secret.
  • Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control, by David Sims. I generally don’t go in much for the poli sci end of the AUC Press catalog (lazy!), but I was delighted by this: “The book argues that understanding a city such as Cairo is not a daunting task as long as pre-conceived notions are discarded and care is taken to apprehend available information and to assess it with a critical eye. In the case of Cairo, this approach leads to a conclusion that the city can be considered a kind of success story, in spite of everything.”

You might be interested in:

  • If you’re a particular fan of AUC Press, they’re coming out with a book called Writing Egypt: History, Literature, and Culture that promises to showcase “50 Years of Publishing Excellence at the American University in Cairo Press.” So, excerpts from various works over the last 50 years. With an introduction from long-time AUC Press Director Mark Linz.
  • If you’re a Mahfouz buff, they’re coming out with his The Final Hour, written in 1982 and translated by Roger Allen, his In the Time of Love, translated by Kay Heikkinen (who I don’t know, hence the link), and his The Coffeehouse, translated by Raymond Stock. (I’m not saying I won’t read these books, I’m just saying I’ve read a lot of Mahfouz in my day.) There is also an Essential Naguib Mahfouz, edited by Denys Johnson-Davies, although this seems less useful than the essential Yusuf Idris and Tawfiq al-Hakim, whose works are harder to find in English. But for those who are just coming to Mahfouz, why not? Maybe this is useful in a university “intro to world lit” course.
  • Galal Amin’s Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak, 1981-2010 is out in translation by David Wilmsen. But what you really want are Galal Amin’s memoirs. ISA they will be coming out soon, too.