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Books
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 18 - 10 - 2018

Abla Al-Roweini, Al-Ganoubi (The Southerner), Cairo: Al-Shorouk, 2018, pp148
First published in 1985, this is a moving biography of the Egyptian poet Amal Donqol (1940-1983) written by his wife, who takes the reader on a complicated journey trying to analyse Donqol's personality and its many contradictions. What Abla Al-Roweini ends up producing, however, is less of an objective biography than a personal memoir recounting the union love forged between two people. As much as anything, this is one woman's account of how she accommodated the conflicts and challenges of the man she loved.
Al-Ganoubi
Born in Cairo in 1953, Al-Roweini is a journalist and art critic. She married Donqol in 1979. She was editor-in-chief of Akhbar Al-Adab in 2011. Al-Ganoubi was her first book. She has since published Al-Shoaraa wal Khawareg (Poets and Rebels, 2004), Haki Al-Taer (The Bird's Tale, 2005), Wakaanahu Al-Hawa (Like Love, 2007) and Nesaa Hassan Suleiman (Hassan Suleiman's Women, 2009).

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Horoub Fatena
Hassan Abdel-Mawgoud, Horoub Fatena (Alluring Wars), Cairo: Al-Kotob Khan Publishing House, 2018, pp134
This is an exciting new collection of 10 stories, each fresh and convincing with the intensity and power of a novel. The settings are solid: a space overlooking the Tora Prison, a village in Yemen and an army bunker. The characters are convincing and the emotional palette varied. Reality is altered only as much as it helps the reader to integrate the narrative flow and the characters' experience.
Hassan Abdel-Mawgoud has written two novels, Ain Al-Qitta (Cat's Eye, which won the Sawiris Award in 2005) and Nasiyat Batta (Batta's Corner), as well as two collections of short stories; Al-Sahwo wal-Khataa (Forgetfulness and Error) and Saq Wahida (Lone Leg).
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Ashbah Beit Heinrich Böll
Alaa Khaled, Ashbah Beit Heinrich Böll (Ghosts of the Heinrich Böll's House), Cairo: Al-Shorouk, 2018, pp268
Following the January Revolution, a writer ends up in a small German village on a residency together with writers from Russia, Chechnya, Serbia and China. They have been gathered in the house of the German writer Heinrich Böll (1917-1985), in the middle of the forest, where discussions of the meaning and purpose of revolutions and debates about their history commence.
The Alexandrine poet and founder of the celebrated non-periodical magazine Amkena, Alaa Khaled is also a novelist and a travel writer, and this is an example of his unique combination of lyricism and philosophy.
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Al-Zawga Al-Maksikiya
Iman Yehia, Al-Zawga Al-Maksikiya (The Mexican Wife), Cairo: Al-Shorouk, 2018, pp319
This is a retelling of the great writer Youssef Idris' novel Al-Baydaa (The White Woman), a complex love story involving Egyptian stand-in for Idris and a Mexican girl named Ruth, in this book the daughter of the famous artist Diego Rivera. Set between Cairo, Vienna and Mexico in the early to mid-1950s and mixing reality with fantasy against the backdrop of the struggles and conflicts unfolding in both countries at the time, the book is told in two voices, that of Iman Yehia and Ruth.
Yehia's first novel, Al-Ketaba Bel Mashrat (Writing with a Scalpel) appeared in 2013.
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Al-Qahera wi Ma Fiha
Mekkawi Said, Al-Qahera wi Ma Fiha (Cairo and All That's in It), Cairo: The Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, 2018, pp488
A compendium of tales about places and times in Downtown, this book documents the informal history of the art scene and the life of intellectuals. The late novelist Mekkawi Said, a Downtown dweller and chronicler, published two other non-fiction books on the topic: Downtown's Collectibles (2010), which attempts to discover the Egyptian character through the peculiarities of the neighbourhood; and On Tahrir Square and its Manifestations (2013), a record of the January Revolution.
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Mazag Horr
Mohamed Al-Fakharani, Mazag Horr (Free Mood), Cairo: The Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, 2018, pp189
Blending narrative with philosophy and moving freely through space and time, this meta-fiction is the story of a writer who journeys on foot carrying no food, water or money. He wanders around with only a small bag holding a few rags, and meets three characters at a café with whom he discusses the relationship between the writer and his work. He also meets various other characters — clowns, homeless people, angels and devils — with whom he converses.
Born in 1975, Mohamed Al-Fakharani has written Fasel Lel Dahsha (Intermission for Surprise, 2007), Qabla An Yaaref Al-Bahr Ismahu (Before the Sea Knew Its Name, 2010), Alf Genah Lel Alam (The World's Hundred Wings, 2016) and Eshroun Ebna Lel Khayal (The Imagination's Twenty Daughters, 2017).
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Ahl Al-Souq
Fouad Kandil, Ahl Al-Souq (Market People), Cairo: The Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, 2018, pp182
This is the last novel by the late writer Fouad Kandil, sets at the Friday Market in the working-class neighbourhood of Al-Sayeda Aisha neighbourhood and bringing together a variety of faces and characters, buyers and sellers from various social and professional backgrounds whose stories are expertly woven into the overall picture presented.
Kandil is an Egyptian novelist born in 1944, he published large number of novels like Al-Nab Al-Azrak (Blue Tooth), Al-Walad Al-Dhahabi (The Golden Boy), Qublat Al-Haya (Kiss of Life Kiss) and, for children, Madinat Al-Dokhan (Smoke City). He received the Naguib Mahfouz Award for Literature in 1994.
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Horoub Al-Rohamaa
Ibrahim Eissa, Horoub Al-Rohamaa: Al-Qatala Al-Awaail (Wars of the Merciful: The First Killers), Cairo: Al-Karma Publishing House, 2018, pp688
This is the sequel to political analyst and TV host Ibrahim Eissa's novel Rihlat Al-Dam (The Journey of Blood), published two years ago, which is a record of the horrors of Islamic history starting with the death of the Prophet Mohamed. This sequel is set in the era of Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, the caliph whose authority is eventually challenged by Muawiya Ibn Abi Sufyan, leading to the Battle of the Camel and the Great Sedition (also the Sunni-Shia split). Eissa attempts to see the impact of such bloody events on modern-day Muslims.
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Hona Badan
Basma Abdel-Aziz, Hona Badan (This Is a Body), Cairo: Al-Mahrousa Publishing House, 2018, pp500
In this novel, two groups of people — a band of street children being abused by powerful people for illegal purposes, and their rivals represented by a character named Omniscient Narrator — engage in a conflict reflecting the conflict of a corrupt regime with the opposition.
Born in 1976, Basma Abdel-Aziz is best-known for The Queue (2013). A physician, visual artist and Al-Shorouk newspaper columnist, she has also published May God Make It Easy (2008), a collection of short stories for which she won the Sawiris Award, and The Boy Who Disappeared (2008). She also published a sociological study of police violence in Egypt which won the Ahmed Bahaaeddin Award in 2009, The Temptation of Absolute Power.
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Al-Wassaya
Adel Esmat, Al-Wassaya (The Commandments), Cairo: Al-Kotob Khan Publishing House, 2018, pp296
In the form of 10 commandments, a grandfather leaves his grandson the story of the family, a kind of rise-and-fall saga that involves philosophising about life and love, joy and pain, and the spread into diaspora. It also chronicles the 1952 Revolution, the rule of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar Al-Sadat and the 1967 and 1973 wars. Opening with the legend of Ali Selim, an incredibly rich and powerful man of whom nothing is left but dust, Grandfather Abdel-Rahman tells a complicated love story involving Abdel-Rahman (himself), his brother Naim, his friend Noureddin and one woman, Kawthar, followed by the story of his sister Fatma, the most prominent member of the family — and the mother of Ali Selim.
Adel Esmat is a Tanta-based novelist whose works include Hekayat Youssef Tadros (The Tales of Youssef Tadros) and Sout Al-Ghorab (The Crow's Sound).
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Describing Egypt through Crime: What Happened at the Bottom of Society in a Quarter Century
Nabil Omar, Describing Egypt through Crime: What Happened at the Bottom of Society in a Quarter Century, Cairo: General Egyptian Book Organisation, 2018, pp227
This is an attempt to analyse Egyptian society through crime and violence over 25 years. It is made up of seven chapters describing how people use crime to defend themselves and seek out their interests instead of turning to the law. Blaming the government, social media and the disintegration of social morality as well as corruption, the writer demonstrates the extent to which crime has been normalised in Egypt.
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Sayedat Al-Zamalek
Ashraf Al-Ashmawi, Sayedat Al-Zamalek (The Zamalek Lady), Cairo: The Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, 2018, pp375
The latest novel by Ashraf Al-Ashmawi is another historical murder in which a troop of four foreigners and one Egyptian led by the notorious Jonah Dario set out to rob the villa of the famous early 20th-century businessman Solomon Cicurel in the then quiet upper-class neighbourhood of Zamalek and end up murdering Cicurel. The foreigners had worked with Cicurel, but the Egyptian, Abbas Al-Mahalawi, was discovering a new world that would change his life forever. Blending real incidents with the imagined crime, Al-Ashmawi brings the action all the way into the 1990s, offering a kind of alternative history of a 70-year period by telling the same story in five different ways as each character saw it.
Al-Ashmawi is an author and a judge. He has published four novels; The Time of the Hyenas, Toya (which was longlisted for the Arabic Booker in 2013), The Guide and The Barman.
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Hassan Abdel-Mawgoud, Horoub Fatena (Alluring Wars), Cairo: Al-Kotob Khan Publishing House, 2018, pp134
This is an exciting new collection of 10 stories, each fresh and convincing with the intensity and power of a novel. The settings are solid: a space overlooking the Tora Prison, a village in Yemen and an army bunker. The characters are convincing and the emotional palette varied. Reality is altered only as much as it helps the reader to integrate the narrative flow and the characters' experience.
Hassan Abdel-Mawgoud has written two novels, Ain Al-Qitta (Cat's Eye, which won the Sawiris Award in 2005) and Nasiyat Batta (Batta's Corner), as well as two collections of short stories; Al-Sahwo wal-Khataa (Forgetfulness and Error) and Saq Wahida (Lone Leg).


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