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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 Sonallah Ibrahim’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 Cairo so long as he returns home by dusk, when his police minder has to sign off on his curfew ...

We’ll win or lose it here

Robert F. Worth: Lessons from Tahrir Square, 21 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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... and headphones on. It is not the history-burdened, misery-stained city one sees in the novels of Sonallah Ibrahim, 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 and the conservatism of the Egyptian masses, which ...

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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... drawn by Naguib Mahfouz to the satire of Gamal al-Ghitani and the allegorical minimalism of Sonallah Ibrahim. 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, goes around with a bullet lodged in his guts, a ...

Mubarak’s Last Breath

Adam Shatz, 27 May 2010

... between Milton Friedman and Muhammad, as the occasion demands. Arab unity, as the novelist Sonallah Ibrahim 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 Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The ...

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