Bulaq 52: ‘Widows, Conmen, and Crimes’

Episode 52 of the BULAQ podcast comes together around a discussion of three books:

First, we talked our way through a book that tells the stories of women who rallied to ISIS; then a novel that focuses on a Franco-Moroccan family grappling with the end of colonialism; and last, a picaresque, satirical novel from 1940s Egypt that has been recently re-discovered.

Show Notes:

Ursula’s review of Guest House for Young Widows, a book about women who joined ISIS, appeared in the last issue of The Point magazine. It references a few other books, such as Dunya Mikhail’s  The Beekeeper of Sinjar (which gathers the testimonies of Yazidi women enslaved by ISIS) and David Thomson’s The Returned, about French jihadis.

Ursula’s review of the Moroccan-French author Leila Slimani’s latest novel, Le Pays des Autres, will be out soon from the New York Review of Books. Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny was an international best-seller; her new book is part of a planned historical trilogy set in Morocco.

Adel Kamel’s long-forgotten, now-remembered classic Malim al-Akbar recently appeared in English as The Magnificent Conman of Cairospecial section on ArabLit marked the launch.

Literary detective Mohamed Shoair is author of the acclaimed 2018 popular history Children of the Alley: The Story of the Forbidden Novel, which follows the story of Naguib Mahfouz’s most controversial novel. A chapter of Shoair’s book appears online in Samah Selim’s translation.

Mahfouz talks briefly about the Harafish, his circle of literary friends, in Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber: Reflections of a Nobel Laureate, 1994-2001, from conversations with Mohamed Salmawy.

Albert Cossery was a French writer of Levantine origin, born in Cairo. Although he settled in Paris in 1945, he set all his wonderful novels — about criminals, layabouts and would-be revolutionaries — in Egypt or the middle east. 

The crime issue of ArabLit Quarterly is available now.