It is always a surprising shame that Taha Hussein’s (1889-1973) seminal A Nightingale’s Prayer (1934) isn’t available in English translation:
The film and novel are both significant twentieth century artistic productions: popular (and populist). The 1934 novel is narrated by the charming Amna, who’s from the Upper Egyptian village of Beni Warkan. She’s all at once jealous, bright, greedy, insightful, and human. It’s a novel with significant insights into class and gender in twentieth-century Egypt that’s also fun to read.
A.B. as-Safi has done a translation, which he writes about here, but it doesn’t seem to be in print.
The book was made into a film by Henry Bakarat and Youssef Gohar a quarter-century later, and, as a recent review in Mada Masr notes, the film “has minimal dialogue and depends…on the protagonist’s monologues and promises to the bird [nightingale]. … Yet Barakat and writer Youssef Gohar also created a poetic script that almost matches the novel’s genius.”
Both works are widely acclaimed: The film was chosen as one of the top 15 of the twentieth century by Egyptian film critics and the novel one of the top 100 by the Arab Writers Union.