Big Historical Novels Out from AUC Press This Fall Interweave Fiction, Fact

There are several interesting books in the American University in Cairo Press’s fall catalog, including Radwa Ashour’s Tantoureya (A Woman from Tantoura), Ezzat al-Kamhawi’s Naguib Mahfouz Medal-winning Beyt al-Deeb (House of the Wolf), Farouk Abdel Wahab’s final translation, and more:

tantoureyaEgyptian novelist Radwa Ashour — who is married to Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti and mother of Palestinian-Egyptian poet Tamim Barghouti — has returned and returned in Palestine in her writing. In The Woman from Tantoura, Ashour follows the story of Ruqayya, a girl from al-Tantoura, one of the villages on the Palestinian coast which was destroyed in 1948.

When the book was released in 2010, Ashour said that “Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict are strongly present in our modern history, and in the experience of my generation, as well as in my personal experience, and this is what explains their presence in my writing. Years before Al-Tantoureyya I wrote Atyaf (Spectres, 1999) and Qita min Euroba (A Piece of Europe, 2003) which partially address the subject.”

The book interweaves the factual and the fictional, as Ashour said in 2010:

…I sometimes make a fictional character like Raqia or one of her family members participate in a scene with a real personality like Maruf Saad (the Lebanese leader who was martyred in 1957) or Dr. Bayan Nubhad (the Lebanese historian), or Dr. Anise Sayegh,  founder of the Palestinian Research Center, and so on. It’s an artistic game that a reader may or may not notice and it evokes additional meanings.

Outside of the Granada trilogy, Tantoureya has perhaps been Ashour’s most well-loved novel. Here, it has been translated by Kay Heikkinen; the translation is scheduled to come out in January.

el-deebIt was just last December that Ezzat El Kamhawi’s House of al-Deeb was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. The sweeping novel also tracks with history, following four generations and interweaving a fictional village with strands of Egyptian history from Napoleon’s nineteenth-century expedition to the 20th century’s Gulf War. When the prize was awarded last December, judge Humphrey Davies said in a prepared statement, that the novel was one of “grandiose sweep that pits the lives of generations of a single rural family against the events of Egypt’s history over the past one hundred years.”

The English edition, scheduled for November, has been translated by Nancy Roberts.

Also appearing in December is Farouk Abdel Wahab’s final translation before his death in 2013: Hala El Badry’s Matar 3la Baghdad (Rain over Baghdad). The narrator is an Egyptian living in Iraq. According to AUCP, the protagonist:

has a mystery to solve: an Iraqi woman from the marshes in the south has disappeared, and as the mystery unfolds we learn of her love for an older Egyptian Marxist journalist. This is Iraq before and beyond Saddam, Iraq as the Arabs knew it, in the lives of interesting people living in a vibrant country before the attempted annexation of Kuwait and the American invasion.This is the Iraq that was. . .

And out next month is Hamdy al-Gazzar’s second novel in translation, Private Pleasures, which chronicles a three-day sex, drink, and drugging bender. This, like al-Gazzar’s previously translated novel, Black Magic, was translated by al-Gazzar’s friend and celebrated translator Humphrey Davies.

A number of paperback editions will also be released, including Samah Selim’s Banipal-prize-winning translation of Yahya Taher Abdullah’s The Collar and the Bracelet.