The Jordanian news-and-culture website 7iber.Com is launching its new book club, “Inkitab – انكتاب,” with a reading of The Committee (1981, 2001 English) by celebrated Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim.
The in-person book-group meeting will take place on Thursday, Feb. 24 in Amman. You can find more details on 7iber’s website.
However, even if you aren’t in Amman, you can participate by reading the book in Arabic, in English translation by Mary St. Germain and Charlene Constable, or (why not?) both.
I assume 7iberians chose The Committee for its satirical take on former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s “open-door” economic policies and closed-door cultural policies, for its critique of global capitalism, and for how the novel reflects the shape of contemporary Egypt. The novel—often referred to as “Kafkaesque”—certainly is allegorical and universal. But to simply see it as a revisioning of Kafka is to lose the specific flavor of 1970s Egypt as well as Ibrahim’s criticisms of imperial capitalism.
During the protagonist’s initial appearance before “The Committee”:
We will not find, your honors, among all I have mentioned, anything that embodies the civilization of this century or its accomplishments, let alone its future, like this svelte little bottle, which is just the right size to fit up anyone’s ass.
The final clause is presumably a reference to a prison interrogation method that Elias Khoury further elucidates in his award-winning Yalo.
More on Sonallah Ibrahim:
Ahmed Alaidy, ever with his camera, gets Ibrahim to talk about writing.
Ursula Lindsay had Ibrahim take “the Proust questionnaire.” I think, when I read it before, I didn’t notice that he answered the question “What characters in history do you most dislike?” with “Henry VIII and Hosni Mubarak.”
Youssef Rakha interviewed Ibrahim in 2003 and again in 2007.
From Daily News Egypt: Sonallah Ibrahim’s “expert witness” testimony on behalf of the banned graphic novel Metro. According to the report, “Ibrahim concluded his evidence by telling the court that literature and creativity are ‘under siege.'” Apparently, the court was not convinced, as the the novelist, Magdy al-Shafee, lost his case. The novel, while recently published in Italy, remains banned in Egypt.