Cover Reveal: Haytham al-Wardani’s ‘The Book of Sleep’

Haytham al-Wardani’s acclaimed The Book of Sleep will be out in Robin Moger’s translation as part of Seagull Books’ “Arab List” next March 15, 2020, seven years after its conception:

Like al-Wardani’s brilliant How to Disappear, his The Book of Sleep is part philosophical meditation, part poetry, part memoir,  part social analysis, and part story. The book is steadfastly pro-literature, anti-genre, in its contemplation of the act of sleep. “My concern was not to create a literary product in the conventional sense, but to try and use literature as a methodology for thinking,” El Wardany has said.

From a section of Part I on minor literature[s]:

The room is full of its things. There is a little desk by the door and a lamp beside the bed. There is a suitcase against the wall and a flowerpot on the window frame. In the desk drawer there is a passport and a marriage certificate and, lying in the dresser drawer, a gold earring, a bracelet. A bright shirt has been carelessly tossed over the chair and abandoned on the floor is a sock inverted. We leave all this behind and are drawn towards the gulf which is called sleep.

From a second of Part II on minor literature[s]:

There is no phenomenology of sleep, Jean Luc Nancy wrote in The Fall of Sleep, and that is because sleep offers only disappearance and absence. Sleep is not a phenomenon to be described and analysed but an absence which answers to no analysis of any kind. In this absence, the self returns to itself, and to attain this goal it must fall.

From an interview with Roger Outa:

Haytham El Wardani: I had been interested in sleep but hadn’t yet seen the form that writing about it and around it should take. Subsequently, I tried thinking about sleep without reference to established approaches—the sociological in particular—and without reference, too, to the convention of glossing sleep as dream. This is how I started out, sometime between the latter part of Mohammed Morsi’s presidency and June 30. People were coming out onto the streets and at the same time there was this sense of imminent disaster. What happened on June 30 happened, the defeat came to pass, and it was then that I started to take the subject seriously.

Mahmoud Hosny’s review: Book of Sleep’: Intensive Reflections from Haytham El-Wardany

In his most recent work, Book of Sleep (Al-Karma Books, 2017), the Egyptian writer Haytham El-Wardany (b. 1972) explores multiple dimensions around the act of sleeping. He does this through both linguistic and literary research, allowing us to grow closer to his ideas on the subject in El-Wardany’s unique way.

The author moves easily between the sociological and psychological worlds with his transparent writing style, enlivened by the soul of Sufism, which appears in different places throughout the book. He analyzes sleeping through a huge background of reading, including many philosophers and intellectuals such as Maurice Blanchot, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Walter Benjamin. Yet he never states a decisive answer to his questions about human sleep.

You can pre-order the book now.