Lit & Found: An Excerpt of Basma Abdel Aziz’s ‘Here Is a Body’

This is Egyptian novelist Basma Abdel Aziz’s follow-up to her award-winning novel, The Queue, which was translated by Elisabeth Jaquette:

In an interview about Here Is a Body, which has been translated by Jonathan Wright, Abdel Aziz said:

The idea for Here Is a Body had been flourishing in my mind over the past few years. It grew out of an event I had witnessed closely, at least partly, and I felt crushed by its monstrous details. No one dared to stop it. No one could even talk frankly about it and accusations arose as a way to deter anyone who tried to highlight the crimes.

The novel was there, living and maturing day by day. I just had to choose when to pick up my pen. The difficulty came from the fact that I had to face again some disastrous events, and re-experience unmanageable pain, and then turn it all into a good read, telling readers about the other side of the story, what really happened, and how ugly the truth is.

Here Is a Body represented a vivid memory and a huge challenge; I found myself trying to overcome numerous lies, expose fake stories, and unveil the inhuman face of authoritarianism. With all my heart, I wanted to work against the reshaping of history by conjuring up the whole scene again before watching eyes, no matter how much criticism or praise I received as a result.

Here Is a Body opens, in Wright’s translation:

They came at four o’clock in the morning and I was too sleepy to get out of the way in time. They trampled on the big trash bin and planted their heavy boots on the mass of bodies. My hand was crushed under someone’s boot, along with Emad’s arm. I gasped silently. Then someone started lifting my leg, which was stuck under Youssef’s stomach, and then my body too. I clung on to Youssef’s clothes, but the hand lifting me was much too strong for me. I suddenly found my head swinging through the air. I stiffened my neck to try to control it, but it was no use. I couldn’t make out where the voice giving orders was coming from but it was definitely from above.

You can keep reading the excerpt on Hoopoe Fiction’s website.