Ihsan Abdel Kouddous (1919-1990) was an iconic, hugely important writer in Egypt and beyond, during his lifetime and beyond. The author of numerous major novels, his work has been too little known in English and to readers here. Thanks to translator Jonathan Smolin, professor of Asian Studies at Dartmouth and translator from the Arabic of other such writers as Abdelilah Hamdouchi and Youssef Fadel, his work is now more readily available, this in the form of I Do Not Sleep (American University of Cairo Press), a sixty-year-old novel which shocked readers when it first appeared in the 1950s. Betrayal, desire, and family drama are all part of this, the narrative being in the form of a letter written by a central protagonist. “What sets Ihsan Abdel Kouddous apart is his ability to combine, on the page, the different overlapping threads of politics and society.”―Al-Shorouk.
Slated to be with Jonathan Smolin to discuss I Do Not Sleep is Alaa Al Aswany, one of the most acclaimed writers – Egyptian and otherwise – working today. His novels include The Yacoubian Building, Chicago, and, most recently, The Automobile Club of Egypt. The recipient of numerous international literary awards, he has had his books translated into over thirty languages. .
Abdel Kouddous’s masterpiece, لا أنام, was adapted into a classic of Egyptian cinema in 1957, and its publication for the first time in English as I Do Not Sleep, translated by Jonathan Smolin (published by Hoopoe/AUC Press) is an international publishing event.
Jonathan Smolin is the Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor in Asian Studies at Dartmouth College in the US. He is the author of Moroccan Noir: Police, Crime, and Politics in Popular Culture (2013), and the translator of several works of Arabic fiction. He lives in Hanover, NH.