Lit & Found: ‘An Attempt to Remember My Face’

Asymptote has published an excerpt from Salma El Tarzi’s An Attempt to Remember My Face, translated by Katharine Halls.

El Tarzi, a Cairo-based filmmaker, visual artist, and writer. Her book An Attempt to Remember My Face, is a blend of text and drawings, or, as she described to Mostafa Mohie, as he relayed in his review for Mada Masr: “It is something you can look at, read, or touch.”

The excerpt, luminously tr. Halls, is packed with depression and rage and the sort of hope that exists when hope is no longer possible.

As Mohie wrote in his review for Mada Masr, which has been translated by Yasmine Zohdi, “The book can be situated among a growing series of contemporary works of art centering on their creators’ relationships with their parents, including Amr Ezzat’s Room 304 or How I Hid from My Dear Father for 35 Years (2018), filmmaker Mohamed Rashad’s Little Eagles (2016) and Nadia Kamel’s The Newborn (2018). But Salma’s narrative extends beyond her relationship with her mother to include myriad reflections on death, loneliness and other fleeting or consistent personalities in her life.

From the excerpt:

A friend once told me that when he’s walking down Mohammed Mahmoud Street, his heart contracts. He feels like the street’s inhabited by the souls of the people who died there. I thought I felt the same way—my heart does the same thing when I walk down Mohammed Mahmoud—but it’s not because I feel like it’s inhabited by the souls of the people who died there. It’s because I feel like it’s inhabited by our souls, ghosts of us when we were at our most alive. Sometimes I think that if humans are allotted a fixed amount of life that’s distributed out over the course of their years, then maybe we used up our share in those moments of concentrated life that we imbibed so hungrily and so madly. We inhaled them. We smoked them. We drank them. We injected them. We ate them. We got down on the ground and rolled around in them until we’d finished them up. All that’s left now is a few puffs of vapor that’ll have to last for what remains of our lives.

Read the excerpt:

At Asymptote

Read the review:

At Mada Masr