Discussions of Muslim-Coptic relations have been riding the post-25 January swing of hope, denial and despair. In one moment, Muslims and Christians are “one hand.” In the next, nothing has changed. An eye-blink later, we’re headed for armed sectarian doom.
Literature, meanwhile, offers a broader, longer view. The five books below take us from a time when Copts were the majority in Egypt through the good and ugly of the twentieth century.
Salwa Bakr’s The Man from Bashmour, trans. Nancy Roberts
Bakr’s acclaimed The Man from Bashmour is set in ninth century Egypt – four centuries after Youssef Ziedan’s controversial Azazel. The action takes place during a peasant revolt sparked by an exorbitant land tax and provides a deeply detailed look at early Coptic communities. The book gives life to the medieval-era relationships between Copts and Muslims, and, as translator Nancy Roberts notes in her introduction, helps “to clarify the profound commonalities shared by Muslims and Copts.”