Egyptian novelist Bahaa Abdelmeguid appeared, at the beginning of this month, at one of the AUC Press “Book Alley” events, where he spoke about his novellas Sleeping with Strangers and St. Theresa, trans. Chip Rossetti, and his forthcoming Temple Bar, trans. Jonathan Wright:
Although it’s Temple Bar that’s set in Dublin, Abdelmeguid said that, when he started writing St. Theresa, he was living in Dublin.
“So I tried to see: How can I use my background as an Egyptian to write a novel about Egypt? So I started to write about Shoubra, which is a place where I used to live when I was young.” He has since moved to Maadi. “When I lived in Shoubra, I wanted to go out. But actually since I left Shoubra, I started to miss the heat, I started to miss the noise.”
St. Theresa is set in Egypt after the 1967 defeat. But Abdelmeguid called the novel autobiographical.
“The novel [St. Theresa] is autobiographcial because me, as I have seen Shoubra, where the Christian and the Muslim and the Jewish were living together in a very idealistic atmosphere with no prejudice against one another.”
Abdelmeguid took this atmosphere of tolerance and then he shook it up. “If the situation in Egypt is okay, then they are friendly, they are nice to each other. If the political regime disturb it, or the politics has a problem, so they start to have some kind of misconceptions.”
Sleeping with Strangers, on the other hand, he called “a catharsis,” whereas with Temple Bar Abdelmeguid was more focused on creating art. “I wanted to say: This is my own writing.
Although Temple Bar follows an impoverished Egyptian scholar who lives in Dublin, “I don’t want to say that it’s completely autobiographical, it’s semi-autobiographical. I wanted to create art more than confession.”
The full video:
One-minute Review: Bahaa Abdelmeguid’s Sleeping With Strangers
One-minute Review: Bahaa Abdelmegid’s Saint Theresa
Forthcoming: Temple Bar, trans. Jonathan Wright