Cairo, Mother of the World, embraces millions but some of her children make their home in the streets, junked up and living in the shadows of wealth and among the monuments that the tourists flock to see. Mustafa, a former student radical who never believed in the slogans, sets out to tell their story, but he has to rely on the help of his American girlfriend, Marcia, who he is not sure he can trust. Meanwhile, his former leftist friends are now all either capitalists or Islamists.
Alienated from a corrupt and corrupting society, Mustafa watches as the Cairo he cherishes crumbles around him. The men and women of the city struggle to find lovers worthy of their love and causes worthy of their sacrifice in a country that no longer deserves their loyalty. The children of the streets wait for the adults to take notice. And the foreigners can always leave.
Pharaoh Khufu is battling the Fates. At stake is the inheritance of Egypt's throne, the proud but tender heart of Khufu's beautiful daughter Princess Meresankh, and Khufu's legacy as a sage, not savage, ruler.
As the tale begins, Khufu is bored in his great palace at Memphis. To entertain him, his architect Mirabu expounds on the mighty masterwork he has so far spent ten years building, with little yet showing above ground - what will become the Great Pyramid of Giza. Mirabu and the clever vizier Hemiunu try other amusements as well - but to no avail. Then one of the king's sons fetches a magician with the power to predict the future. The sorcerer says that Khufu's own offspring will not inherit Egypt's throne after him, but that it will fall instead to a son born that very morning to the High Priest of Ra. Furious, Khufu and his crown prince, the ruthless Khafra, set out to change the decree of the Fates - which fight back in the form of Djedefra, the boy at the center of the prophecy, and his heart's desire, Princess Meresankh. Yet will the unsuspecting Khufu survive the intrigue around him - not only to finish his long-awaited book of wisdom, but to become truly wise?
This novel of home and homelessness, of exile both physical and psychological, centers on Kimi, a fragile heroine suffering from a rift in her persona, unable to distinguish between her own pain and the pain of others. For Kimi it is not a simple case of to be or not to be, but rather of how to be in disjointed and contrary times. Leaves of Narcissus, like earlier Arabic novels about East-West encounters by male writers such as Tawfiq al-Hakim, Taha Hussein, and Tayeb Saleh, is about a young Arab student going West in search of education. Here, though, the protagonist is a young woman and her destination is Ireland, a part of the West and at the same time a victim of the ravages of colonialism -- adding ambiguity to the customary representations of the East/West dichotomy. In this captivating novel, Somaya Ramadan displays a rare virtuosity in evoking and interlacing literary motifs -- from the popular to the learned, from the folk to the mythic, from the Egyptian to the Irish -- and poses questions rather than answers, questions that hold a mirror to our selves.
This novel from one of Tunisia’s leading writers, the first of his works to be translated into English, narrates a love story in all its stages, in all its glorious and inglorious details. Moment by moment we become acquainted with the morning rituals, the desires of the flesh, the turbulence of the spirit, and even a few unattractive personal habits. It is a journey that takes us inside the nuances of what passes between two lovers, from the first glances of attraction to the final words of anger. It is a journey filled with all the hallmarks of the complex relationship between one man and one woman—the mystery and the ambiguity, the intricacy and the confusion—which, in the end, serve to expose its fragility. This is an intimate tale that manages to tell not only the story of two individuals, but also that of the collision of two cultures.
The pharaonic novels of Naguib Mahfouz
Against the background of the high politics of Sixth Dynasty Egypt, a powerful love grows between Rhadopis, a courtesan whose ravishing beauty is unmatched in time or place, and youthful, headstrong Pharaoh Merenra, worshiped by his people as a divine presence on earth. Rhadopis comes of poor peasant stock, but her star rises until she become the most celebrated woman in the kingdom, entertaining her countless lovers, who include the most powerful men in the realm, with her dancing, singing, and stimulating intellectual conversation in her white palace on an island in the Nile. Despite the attention and the endless stream of suitors, however, Rhadopis’s heart remains cold and loveless—until events conspire in the strangest of ways to bring her to the attention of Pharaoh himself. From there the two of them embark on a journey of intense passion that is totally absorbing and ultimately tragic. As their obsession for one another burns wildly, they become caught up in the violent turbulence of the politics of the day—Merenra through his desire to sequester the properties of the priesthood and Rhadopis by her efforts to control the march of destiny and avoid their untimely but inevitable fate. But for Rhadopis, who has played with men’s minds and danced on the scattered shards of their broken hearts, and Pharaoh, who has sought to flout ancient tradition for his own ends, can the power of love ultimately offer protection?
An ‘anti-memoir’ set against the backdrop of the Chernobyl disaster
In the spring of 1986, Mohamed Makhzangi was living in Kiev, an Egyptian doctor studying in the Ukraine. As a result, he—like thousands of others—found himself living a nuclear nightmare when the Chernobyl plant had a catastrophic meltdown. Despite numerous fail-safe protections, human error sent massive quantities of deadly radiation into the serene spring of the Soviet sky. In superbly crafted prose, Memories of a Meltdown describes the days that followed from Makhzangi’s dual perspective, as both an outsider and a victim. Described by the author as an ‘anti-memoir,’ this assemblage of impressions in the aftermath of the meltdown offers a searing account of factual events distilled through the filter of literature. Blending the realism of journalism with the emotional resonance of fiction, Makhzangi conveys the quiet but steadily mounting atmosphere of fear and panic, the dubious reliability of official statements, and an overall loss of the sense of safety, of anything ever being right with the world again. From the balding colleague who is concerned only about whether his hair will fall out, to a grandfather, fetching his young grandson a drink, who believes that there is less contamination in hot tap water than cool, Makhzangi portrays people unwilling or unable to believe in the magnitude of the disaster unfolding around them. In the finest tradition of literary reportage, Makhzangi masterfully conveys here the loneliness of exile, the urgency of a great tragedy, and the intimacy of personal experience.
Mahfouz traces the life of a middle-class Cairene family living in the early 1980s helplessly watching as their world rapidly disintegrates in “the kingdom of the corrupt.”
In this breathtakingly compact novel, written in the mid-1980s, the focus is once again on the generational paradigm featured in the Cairo Trilogy. This time, Mahfouz traces the life of a middle-class Cairene family living in the early 1980s under President Sadat. It was an era of transition in Egypt, a time of acute crisis, as everywhere ordinary people were being pushed into the ‘’abyss of Infitah.’’ In the mad rush, there was a sense of an ending, a feeling of panic as the innocent helplessly watched their world rapidly disintegrating. A whole way of life with its age-old traditions and values was simply falling apart, making way for a merciless new materialism in ‘’the kingdom of the corrupt,’’ where survival had indeed to be for the fittest. The novel reaches its climax with the assassination of Sadat on October 6, 1981, an event around which the fictional plot is skillfully woven.
For over 150 years, Pride And Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen herself called this brilliant work her "own darling child." Pride And Prejudice, the story of Mrs. Bennet's attempts to marry off her five daughters is one of the best-loved and most enduring classics in English literature. Excitement fizzes through the Bennet household at Longbourn in Hertfordshire when young, eligible Mr. Charles Bingley rents the fine house nearby. He may have sisters, but he also has male friends, and one of these—the haughty, and even wealthier, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy—irks the vivacious Elizabeth Bennet, the second of the Bennet girls. She annoys him. Which is how we know they must one day marry. The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and Darcy is a splendid rendition of civilized sparring. As the characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, Jane Austen's radiantly caustic wit and keen observation sparkle.
Ahlam Mosteghanemi's second novel picks up where Memory in the Flesh left off, with the story of love set in the battered and bruised Algeria of the1990s. Mosteghanemi takes her readers through the streets of suspicion and suspense, and the ups and downs of a forbidden love affair, through a story within a story, as a writer stuck in a loveless marriage to an important military man inadvertently writes what eventually comes true.
She begins - after a period of not writing - by penning the narrative of a mysterious man who courts the object of his desire through deceptive words, then she helplessly follows the path of her fictitious character only to find that the mystery man exists and it is he who has led her to his door and into his life. One twist leads to the next, as the question remains of which man the writer was destined to meet and fall in love with - the mysterious artist or the doomed journalist.
This lyrical adventure teases the reader with facts for fiction and fiction for facts. The backdrop of political chaos creates a sense of foreboding and fear for two powerless lovers. But where is reality and where is fantasy?
With its Sufistic parables of the human condition, rendered in a style redolent of both the austere meditations of Borges and the dark engorged ruminations of Arthur C. Clark, Pyramid Texts engages the mind and beguiles the imagination. In a series of chapters each shorter than the last so that, like their subjects, they taper ultimately into nothingness the author evokes the obsessions that have drawn men over the centuries to the brooding presence of mankind's most ancient and mysterious monuments. Among others in a procession of exotic characters, a Moroccan seeker after knowledge spends years contemplating the pyramids in the hope that one day he will understand the mysterious writing that fitfully appears on their sides. Another waits patiently for the moment when the shadow of one will diverge from its accustomed path and bestow immortality, and the Sphinx performs a celestial dance. Pyramid Texts leads us into a world of endless passages and mysterious sighing winds, a world whose claustrophobic and shadowy spaces may be illuminated by flashes of ecstasy leading to scintillating transfigurations and dizzying annihilations.
From the acclaimed bestselling author of Philistines at the Hedgerow comes a remarkably revealing profile of the Miami Beach no one knows–a tale of fabulous excess, thwarted power, and rekindled lives that will take its place among the decade’s best works of social portraiture.
Created from a mix of swampland and dredged-up barrier reef, Miami Beach has always been one part drifter-mecca and one part fantasyland, simultaneously a catch basin for con men, fast-talk artists, and shameless self-promoters, and a Shangri-La for sun worshippers and hardcore hedonists. In Miami Beach it’s often said that "if you’re not indicted you’re not invited." But the city’s mad, fascinating complexity resists easy stereotyping.
Fool’s Paradise is more than just a present-day profile of a dark Eden. Gaines journeys back into the city’s social and cultural history, unearthing stories of the resort’s past that are every bit as absorbing–and jaw-dropping–as those of its present. The book begins with a snapshot of the city’s current excess (this is, after all, a sun-washed hamlet that boasts, on a per capita basis, more bars–and breast implants–than any other place in America), then plunges into the Beach’s origins, chronicling the audacious rise of such hoteliers as the Fontainebleau’s Ben Novack and the Eden Roc’s Harry Mufson, the sharp-elbowed tactics of Al Capone and Frank Sinatra, and the Mac-10 shooting sprees of the Marielito and Colombian drug lords.
From there, the narrative shifts to two wildly eccentric souls who gave their lives to preserving the city’s architectural dazzle and creating its color palette, introduces us to "the Most Powerful Man in Miami Beach," and arrives finally in the modern day, where we meet, among others, a kinky German playboy who once owned a quarter of South Beach and publicly flaunts his sexual escapades; a fabulously successful nightclub promoter whose addictive past seems to have given him a portal into the night world’s id; and a gaggle of young sexy models, dreamers, and schemers on a mission to achieve significance.
Evoking the Beach’s surreal blend of flashy Vegas and old Hollywood glamour, as well as its manic desperation and reckless wealth, Gaines persuasively demonstrates that though the Beach is–in the words of its most famous drag queen–"an island of broken toys . . . a place where people get away with things they’d never get away with anyplace else," it casts an irresistible spell.
The novel recounts the story of a family over three generations. It is a small book though, a mere 175 pages to tell the life of an entire family before, during and post-war in Algeria up to the mid-70s. But the aim seems to lay elsewhere, that of telling the evolving social condition of the Algerian woman, and her rights or lack thereof, during these three cornerstone eras.