Hamdi Abu Golayyel
Translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth
In this acclaimed Egyptian novel, a young Bedouin man trying to find
his way discovers a raucous yet endearing community in a multifamily
tenement deep in a crowded Cairo neighborhood.
Hamdi Abu Golayyel is Winner of the 2008 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature
Hamdi Abu Golayyel offers a striking portrait of a marginalized Egyptian community, bringing to life the absurd and tragic characters who occupy the margins of society while paying tribute to a historical Cairene neighborhood. By turns comic, reverential, beautiful, and tawdry, the novel reveals a social climate where ruthlessness and goodness seem almost indistinguishable and humanity is on display in all its rich variety.
The novelist’s distinctive vision of Egypt’s various postmonarchy political regimes and ideologies shapes this dark comedy of human relations and underground pursuits in late twentieth-century Egypt. Through intricate levels of allegory, puns, and double meanings, Abu Golayyel effectively plays on the rhetoric associated with the nationalist government of Gamal Abdel Nasser, including the post-Nasser turn toward international capitalism with its a consumer-oriented economy-and movement away from the workers’ rights orientation of the 1960s.
This novel represents a new voice and a new stage in contemporary Arabic literature, as it criticizes official ideologies, whether socialist, capitalist, or Islamist. Abu Golayyel’s cast of memorable characters embodies the arbitrariness of life and the search for purpose and dignity in a social milieu that offers little of either. Marilyn Booth’s translation fluently renders the novel’s delicate levels of diction and rhythm, making this brilliant Egyptian novel available to a much-deserved wider audience.
View other series books on Middle East Literature in Translation
Hamdi Abu Golayyel is editorial director for the Folk and Popular Culture Studies Series in the Mass/Public Culture Administration, Government of Egypt. He writes for Jaridat al-Ittihad al-Imaratiyya (Newspaper of the Emirates' Union). Hailed by critics as an important new voice, he has won three literary prizes in the region. He lives in Cairo with his wife and two daughters, Hala and Dunya.
5 1/2 x 8, 152 pages