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Black, not Noir

Adam Shatz: Sonallah Ibrahim

7 March 2013
‘That Smell’ and ‘Notes from Prison’ 
by Sonallah Ibrahim, translated by Robyn Creswell.
New Directions, 110 pp., £11.99, March 2013, 978 0 8112 2036 1
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... When we first meet the nameless narrator of SonallahIbrahim’s 1966 novella That Smell, he’s just been released from prison, but no one is there to greet him, and he’s in no mood to celebrate. He remains under house arrest, free to wander the streets of ...

We’ll win or lose it here

Robert F. Worth: Lessons from Tahrir Square

20 September 2017
The City Always Wins 
by Omar Robert Hamilton.
Faber, 312 pp., £14.99, August 2017, 978 0 571 33517 6
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Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt 
by Yasmine El Rashidi.
Tim Duggan, 181 pp., £11.70, June 2017, 978 0 7704 3729 9
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... an appealing urban serenade to young vloggers in 2011, but only if they had their eyes tightly closed and headphones on. It is not the history-burdened, misery-stained city one sees in the novels of SonallahIbrahim, Alaa al Aswany or Naguib Mahfouz; nor would it be recognisable to ordinary Egyptians. Hamilton and his hero seem only dimly aware of the fatal mismatch between their hipster-rebel worldview ...

The bullet mistakenly came out of the gun

Jack Shenker: The Age of Sisi

30 November 2017
The Queue 
by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette.
Melville House, 220 pp., £10.99, June 2016, 978 0 9934149 0 9
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... Abdel Aziz’s work draws on a rich lineage of Egyptian literary styles, from the character portraits drawn by Naguib Mahfouz to the satire of Gamal al-Ghitani and the allegorical minimalism of SonallahIbrahim. She probes the gulf between official rhetoric and the stubborn inconvenience of real events, and delights in the convoluted absurdities that derive from them. The book’s protagonist, Yehya ...
27 May 2010
... ideology of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party has undergone marked shifts in recent years, alternating between Milton Friedman and Muhammad, as the occasion demands. Arab unity, as the novelist SonallahIbrahim remarks, has been reduced to the ‘unity of foreign commodities consumed by everyone’. Not inappropriately, the most popular military officer on billboards in Egypt isn’t Mubarak but ...

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