Sonallah Ibrahim’s ‘Provocative Masterpiece’ Warda Coming June 2021

Translator-scholar Hosam Aboul-Ela announced that his translation of Sonallah Ibrahim’s Warda would be forthcoming from Yale University Press in June 2021:

Aboul-Ela, who is also the translator of Ibrahim’s masterful coming-of-age novel Stealth, said bringing this book into English was perhaps the most challenging thing in his career thus far:

Several of Ibrahim’s novels are available in translation, including his seminal That Smell (in two different translations, by both Robyn Creswell and Denys Johnson-Davies) and The Committee (translated by Charlene Constable and Mary St. Germain). His recent novel Ice was published last year in Margaret Litvin’s translation, and his 1984 novel Beirut Beirut was translated by Chip Rossetti and published in 2017. His novel Zaat (adapted into an acclaimed TV series) was translated by Anthony Calderbank and published by AUC Press, but is now unfortunately out of print.

However, others of Ibrahim’s key novels have not been translated, including Honor, Amrikanli, and Warda, a novel set in published in 2000 and set in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s Cairo, Beirut, and Muscat.

From its English publisher, Yale University Press:

At a leftist meeting, idealistic journalist Rushdy encounters the enchanting Warda, along with her older brother Yaarib. Years later, after Warda goes mysteriously missing, Rushdy immerses himself in her diaries in a quest to uncover her whereabouts. The quest takes him to the bucolic, remote region of Dhofar, Oman, where he discovers Warda’s guerrilla role in a regional revolt and secret involvement in revolutions with echoes around the globe, from the march against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C., to the trial of Angela Davis and the actions of George H. W. Bush. Piece by revelatory piece, Rushdy uncovers the truth about Warda—and the fiery commitment that drove her to choose the life she lived.

Warda was initially published in 2000, and Amir Bibawy wrote at the time: “Sonallah Ibrahim’s latest novel, Warda, comes at a time when the literary output of Egypt is at an all-time low. Controversial works of fiction that have been banned in Egypt have led to an alarming decline in the number of books published in the country.”

In classic Sonallahesque style, pioneered in his Honor and Zaat, Bibawy writes, “Excerpts from books, newspapers, and speeches by political leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Fidel Castro are part of Warda’s diaries[.]”

Bibawy added: “Oman, which is not often in the media spotlight, appears to the reader of Warda not only as a country with a rich tradition and heritage, but also the scene of a violent power struggle between its different political factions.”

More about the translation at Yale University Press.