Translating Ehab Abdel-Hamid

Again, I piggy-back on the work of the enigmatic qisasukhra:

Hawaiian Shirt.

It was a couple years back that author and journalist Ahmed Naje (Rogers) told me that Ehab Abdel Hamid’s عشاق خائبون (Failed Lovers), published by Merit in 2005, was one of his three favorite books of the previous decade.

As far as I know, Failed Lovers remains untranslated, except as a brief one-page excerpt that appeared in Dr. Samia Mehrez’s The Literary Atlas of Cairo, in the section on public spaces.

But now, qisasukhra has translated Abdel Hamid’s “Cairo,” from the collection قصص قميص هاواي (Hawaiian Shirt) which was published by Merit in 2010 and won that year’s Yusuf Idris short story competition. The Yusuf Idris award was presented by the Supreme Council for Culture and came with a prize of 25,000LE.

Novelist Khairy Shalaby headed up the judging committee that year, and he described Hawaiian Shirt as unique in its care for detail. Shalaby said, trans. Ahram Online, that the collection “reveals a writer who is well aware of what he’s writing and where to stop, expressing himself in minimal words, careful to diversify the details without losing the line of the story, capturing each instant of storytelling with great talent and using different narrative methods that can create a pure image.”

At the time of winning the award, Abdel Hamid told Ahram Online, “Despite my passion for novels and winning the Sawiris Award, my love of short stories has never ended and while everyone hailed the age of novels, I have never stopped writing short stories. I write with the pleasure of reading in mind.”

“Cairo” begins:

She came to take a break from dancing and sat down beside me as I was lifting my head to drink what was left in my green bottle. A scent struck me, momentarily lifting me out of my drunken state then propelling me back into it with irresistible force. “Thanks,” I said to her, and that was that. Keep reading on qisasukhra.