Friday Finds: A New Excerpt from ‘Born: The Story of Naela Kamel, née Marie Elie Rosenthal’

The Los Angeles Review has published a second excerpt from Nadia Kamel’s Born, also translated by Brady Ryan and Essayed Taha:

The first excerpt of Kamel’s Born, a memoir/biography hybrid, appeared in Words Without Borders, as part of Beyond Representation: Life Writing by Women in Arabic,“ co-edited by Nariman Youssef and Sawad Hussain.

Ryan and Taha said of the book:

Born straddles traditional genres, though it reads like a memoir with Kamel writing in her mother’s voice. It will appeal to a readership hungry for a unique perspective on twentieth-century history, the Middle East, and feminism. Born will draw in readers with its witty and poignant narrative voice. Immediately readers will recognize in Marie the spirit of the matriarchs in their own lives, whose stories have perhaps yet to be told.

The book was a 2019 Sawiris Award co-winner, along with Sahar Mougy’s Musk of the Hill.

Naela, the book’s protagonist, was originally named Mary Ely Rosenthal, born to a Jewish Egyptian father and an Italian Christian mother. The story of Nadia Kamel’s mother also appears in her film Salata Baladi.

The excerpt of Born in WWB opens:

As the French communists left the country, they handed me over to an Egyptian cell. The guy in charge of this Egyptian cell—and by extension, me—was someone called Abdelssetar Ettawila.

The new one, in The Los Angeles Review, starts:

Tante Aziza and Nana came over to our house on Naim Street and said that Saad wanted to marry me. We sat around the dinner table, which was a square table in the middle of the living room. Our house was very humble – no salon, not even a sitting room – but that didn’t matter to me.


The excerpt in WWB

The excerpt in The Los Angeles Review