Magazine article World Literature Today

Egypt

Magazine article World Literature Today

Egypt

Article excerpt

What to Read Now

Egypt

The following books offer insights into the hot, gritty quotidian of a desert nation and the machinations of an authoritarian power structure as integral to Egypt's character as the Nile.

The Committee

Sonallah Ibrahim

Mary St. Germain & Charlene Constable, tr.

The effects of Egypt's controlobsessed upper echelon on the psyches of everyone occupying the base of the pyramid is hilariously portrayed in Sonallah Ibrahim's novel The Committee. Seeking some unnamed but stringently required permission, the narrator runs the gauntlet of a sinister higher authority, subjected to bewildering and humiliating interrogations. The committee's prodding and procrastination in deciding his fate is so torturous that the narrator is compelled to undergo his society's severest punishment, without having even been asked to do so. In his home after dark, he begins to eat himself, his autophagia the consummate allegory for the rapport between people and the paternalist state.

Autumn of Fury

Mohammed Hassanein Heikal

Veteran journalist Mohammed Hassanein Heikal's firsthand account of the 1960s rise of Egypt's (still reigning) military establishment, Autumn of Fury, focuses on the career of Anwar Sadat from his modest beginnings in a Nile Delta village to his 1981 assassination while attending his annual "Victory Day" parade. Sadat is portrayed in all his contradictory glory, as visionary and paranoiac, his pious, austere public persona at sharp odds with an ostentatious private lifestyle. …

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