b. 1937, Egypt
writer and essayist
A highly respected Egyptian fiction writer and essayist, Cairo nativeunc Allah Ibrāhīm began his literary career in Egyptian newspapers while a law student at Cairo University. He was imprisoned from 1959 to 1964 for his leftist political views.
Shortly thereafter, Ibrāhīm worked as a journalist in East Germany, then moved to Moscow, where he studied film-directing. Some of his novels have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, and Chinese. Ibrāhīm's fiction is extremely experimental, constantly incorporating "non-fictional" elements into his narrative: personal letters, newspaper clips, and governmental documents. His first novel, The Smell of It (1971) (Tilka al-Rā'iha) (1966) reveals, in an autobiographical mode, the dehumanization and destructiveness of incarceration, and how the intellectual is reduced to a meek victim upon his release from prison. The political message and the explicit sexual scenes in the novel led to its banning in 1966. Najmat Aghusus (The Star of August) (1974) is a complex work whose structure reflects the construction of the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt. In an inflexible language, the deeply alienated narrator questions the point of this technological enterprise in a sociopolitically awkward society. Written in a docufictional form, Dhāt (1992) is a condemnation of oppression and corruption in the 1980s in Egypt.
KHALED AL MASRI
b. 1937, Niamey, Niger; d. 2002, Niamey, Niger
politician, diplomat, and writer
Born in 1937, Oumarou Idé has attained both political and literary prominence in Niger, but he is also known for his distinguished political and diplomatic career, having served as his government's cabinet director under Seyni Kountché, as Niger's representative to the United Nations, and as the secretary general of the Organization of African Unity. His two most widely known works are the novels Gros Plan (Close-Up), which won the Grand Prix Littéraire for Francophone Africa in 1978, and Le Représentant (The Representative) (1981). Gros Plan takes place over the course of a single day and the central plot focuses upon the wrongful arrest and detention of the main character, Tahirou, a chauffeur. Focusing on diverse scenes, including the homestead and the public, political, space, Idé uses his narrative to explore the everyday problems experienced by Nigerien society as it is forced to cope with the changes brought about by indepen-