The Hashish Waiter, by Khairy Shalaby, trans. Adam Talib
The tagline: “A serious comic novel from the award-winning author of The Lodging House.”
Note that Shalaby was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction this year for his Istasia, and—when he didn’t make the shortlist—several writers protested, including the shortlisted Miral al-Tahawy.
AUC Press describes the novel:
Tucked away in a rundown quarter, just out of sight of fashionable downtown Cairo, a group of intellectuals
gather regularly to smoke hashish in Hakeem’s den. The den is the center of their lives, both a refuge and a stimulus, and at the center of the den is the remarkable man who keeps their hashish bowls topped up—Rowdy Salih.
While his former life is a mystery to his loyal clientele of writers, painters, film directors, and even window dressers, each sees himself reflected in Salih; but without his humor, humility, or insight, or his occasional passions fueled by hootch. And when the nation has to face its own demons during the peace initiative of the 1970s, it is Rowdy Salih who speaks for them all.
This is a comic novel with a broken heart very like Salih himself, whose warm rough voice calls out long after we have recovered from the novel’s painful conclusion.
So You May See, by Mona Prince, trans. Raphael Cohen.
The Press further writes:
This audacious novel opens with Ayn as she reflects on the act of writing and wonders if love alone is sufficient subject for a narrative. Haltingly at first, she weaves the tale of her love affair with Ali with witty asides about her own writing, and the limits and self-deceptions that are at the heart of all storytelling. As the story finds its way, through sea and desert, and the realms of mysticism and magic, we learn of a passionate, volatile relationship, one severely tested through countless separations, of Ayn’s relationships with other men, including her intense encounters with a Corsican ex-convict, and of her own desire to escape the confines of marriage, even to the man she loves.
Disarmingly candid in the telling, So You May See leads us gently into a revolt, a fierce rebuttal of conventional romantic literature and an indictment of the sexual mores and unquestioned attitudes to marriage and relationships in contemporary Egypt.
Homecoming: Sixty Years of Egyptian Short Stories, Selected and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Note that: Johnson-Davies is one of only a few Arabic-English translators with a memoir about his career, Memories in Translation.
Further on the collection:
Short story writing in Egypt was still in its infancy when Denys Johnson-Davies, described by Edward Said as “the leading Arabic–English translator of our time,” arrived in Cairo as a young man in the 1940s. Nevertheless, he was immediately impressed by such writing talents of the time as Mahmoud Teymour, Yahya Hakki, Yusuf Gohar, and the future Nobel literature laureate Naguib Mahfouz, and he set about translating their works for local English-language periodicals of the time.
He continued to translate over the decades, and sixty years later he brings together this remarkable overview of the work of several generations of Egypt’s leading short story writers. This selection of some fifty stories represents not only a cross-section through time but also a spectrum of styles, and includes works by Teymour, Hakki, Gohar, and Mahfouz and later writers such as Mohamed El-Bisatie, Said el-Kafrawi, Bahaa Taher, and Radwa Ashour, as well as new young writers of today like Hamdy El-Gazzar, Mansoura Ez Eldin, and Youssef Rakha.
Among the notable nonfiction:
Galal Amin’s Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak, 1981–2011 is forthcoming this month, and should make for an interesting read.
And, coming at an inopportune moment for its author: Read Me a Book: The Story of Egypt’s Former First lady and Her Grandson, by Suzanne Mubarak. According to the tagline, it’s, “A personal chronicle of a child’s intellectual
and emotional growth through reading.” It’s forthcoming in May; no more H.E. in the biography: “Suzanne Mubarak is Egypt’s former First lady. She has led a campaign called Reading for All, which seeks to increase literacy and reading among children.”