This story appeared in Montasser Al-Qaffash’s story collection At Eye Level, which won the 2014 Sawiris Prize for Short Fiction:
It appears in World Literature Today, translated by Gretchen McCullough, and opens:
The story started with a phone call from Mohsen. He found an apartment on the Nile. The price was within my budgeted savings. I refused right away when I learned it was close to Tora Prison. I also smelled a rat because it was so cheap. “You don’t lose anything if you come look at it.” I had heard this statement so much that I thought I would gain nothing but looking at apartments and imagining myself living in them. I decided to go since this was the first apartment Mohsen had offered to show me himself—he had heard most of my apartment stories.
I arrived on time. Not that I was usually punctual, but because the traffic was unexpectedly light along the corniche, flowing so smoothly a passenger in the microbus kept saying, “What’s up?”—unconvinced by any of the answers of the other passengers, commenting on them: “For sure, it’s something else,” without adding a different answer.
Also read the translator’s note: “Sheltering Words: Collaboratively Translating Montasser Al-Qaffash”