Friday Finds: An Excerpt of Ibrahim Abdel Meguid’s ‘Clouds over Alexandria’

Ibrahim Abdel Meguid’s Clouds over Alexandria,in Kay Heikkinen’s translation came out from Hoopoe earlier this month:

Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Abdel Meguid (b. 1946) is one of the most-laureled Egyptian novelists of his generation, and is a very prolific writer. You can read translations of several of his novels in English. Clouds over Alexandria, which was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2014, is his latest to be moved into English.

Four of his novels have been translated into French and six into English. Among these, three were translated by scholar-translator Farouk Abdel Wahab: Birds of Amber, No One Sleeps in Alexandria, and The Other Place. One was translated by Hosam Aboul-Ela (Distant Train) and one by Noha Radwan (The House of Jasmine). Some of Abdel Meguid’s work has also been adapted for television and film.

You can read an excerpt from the translation of Clouds over Alexandria over at the Hoopoe website. In the novel, Abdel Meguid starts out setting the scene of Cairo in the latter half of 1975:

Time was flying in the second half of 1975, and news of President Sadat dominated the headlines. He traveled to France, and France announced that Mirage jets would soon circle the skies over Egypt. From there he traveled to New York, and the American president, Gerald Ford, announced that Egypt would be supplied with American weapons. President Sadat gave a speech at the United Nations, suggesting that the Palestinian Liberation Organization be included in the Geneva Conference that would be held to discuss the situation in the Middle East. Egypt and Israel were then separated in these discussions, which were to result in the second withdrawal, the evacuation of the Israeli army from southern Sinai, and the return ofthe oil fields. Syria, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the Soviet Union were all displeased with the separate discussions and with the strong rapprochement between Sadat and the West.

On his return, Sadat announced in England that the West could supply Egypt with weapons that the Soviet Union could not provide. During Sadat’s visit, the world-renowned actor Omar Sharif had announced in New York that he was returning to Egypt and that he would build a resort on Alexandria’s North Shore. The film The Summons, based on the novel by Yusuf Idris, was being shown at the Cinema Rivoli in Cairo and Cinema Radio in Alexandria, while the Cinema Royale in Alexandria was showing One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which had been preceded by the fame of the actor Jack Nicholson, and of course of the producer, Miloš Forman. The play The Lesson’s Over, Stupid continued its successful run in the Bab al-Luq Theater in Cairo.


Ibrahim Abdel Meguid as Literary Bard and Dostoevsky’s Great Grand-nephew