We’ll win or lose it here

Robert F. Worth

  • The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton
    Faber, 312 pp, £14.99, August, ISBN 978 0 571 33517 6
  • Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashidi
    Tim Duggan, 181 pp, £11.70, June, ISBN 978 0 7704 3729 9

One of many remarkable aspects of Egypt’s 2011 revolt was its intense self-consciousness. It wasn’t just that the sit-ins were being broadcast 24 hours a day on satellite TV, with huge screens mounted in Tahrir Square so that the crowd could watch itself writhing in pixels, like the mosh pit in a nightclub. There were swarms of journalists from dozens of countries interviewing people day and night (myself included), while at least half the participants seemed to film everything they did on their phones. I remember one group of protesters who’d proclaimed themselves guardians of the revolution’s history: they were trying to obtain recordings and documents of every daily clash and bulletin, every song and chant, for an imagined ‘museum of the revolution’. One of them told me that future generations would never forgive them if any detail of these sacred events were not faithfully preserved. As for the poets and writers and filmmakers – some of them present in the crowd – you could almost feel their eagerness to take on this vast drama. Many older Egyptians declared that they had been waiting for this revolution all their lives.

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