Friday Finds: Harry Potter in an Egyptian Prison

In Mada Masr, young prisoner of circumstance Abdelrahman al-Gendy writes about bringing a magic wand into an Egyptian prison. The narrative — beautifully translated by Katherine Halls — is by turns funny and miserably sad:

Twenty-two-year-old al-Gendy was arrested from a car in downtown Cairo along with his father in October 2013. They were charged, in a mass trial that involved more than 60 others, with “murder, attempted murder, vandalism, possession of weapons and disturbing the public peace, and were sentenced to 15 years in prison, five years probation and a LE20,000 fine by the Cairo Criminal Court on Sept 30, 2014.” Although al-Gendy’s father was pardoned, he remains in prison, where he is studying by correspondence. He has written several essays for Made Masr.

From the middle of his most recent one:

I approach the guard who sits at the entrance to the wing, ready for the second visit-day search and pat down. I place the bags in front of him and he checks their contents one by one. Food, clothes, sweets, soap. When he gets to the rectangular box, he peers at it, then opens it. He takes out the wand, turns it over several times in bemusement, then looks up at me.

“What’s this?!”

I hesitate awkwardly, then venture, “Ever heard of Harry Potter?”

He stares me as if I’m speaking Chinese, then turns his attention back to the wand and starts trying to bend it in half. I decide I’d better tell him the truth before he breaks it.

“It’s a magic wand.”

He raises his gaze slowly and looks me straight in the eye. I return his gaze with total seriousness.

“God protect us, whatever next?” he scoffs, slapping his hands together and shaking his head, having tossed the wand and its box back into the bag and waved me through. As I pass, he is muttering to himself about the sights he sees in prison these days. I act innocent. He doesn’t know that the wand he was holding in his hands just a few seconds ago was created by Death himself.

Read the whole essay on Made Masr.