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Books
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 01 - 11 - 2018


Ahlam Shams
Nael Al-Toukhi, Al-Khuroug min Al-Balaa (Out of the Gutter), Al-Karma, 2018, pp456.
Horiya Ismail Abdel-Mawla is a Nubian widow living alone with her introverted son, but she roams the streets of Cairo with her headphones in her ears listening to music all the time. She works as a mathematics teacher, and so she meets the father of one of her students, Kamal, who turns out to be a widower with a romantic interest in her. For once she no longer feels alone. In spite of all the complications that face them, with Kamal's mother opposing the relationship, Horiya and Kamal are married, and they would live happily if not for something horrible happening.
Nael Al-Toukhi is an Egyptian novelist, journalist and translator from the Hebrew who was born in 1978. He published five novels. His most recent novel before Out of the Gutter was Women of Karantina (2013).

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Zizinia
Yehia Al-Gammal, Ahlam Shams (Dreams of Shams), Al-Shorouk, 2018, pp199.
This is fantastical tale based on real history. Relying on real-life incidents that took place over the last 30 years in Egypt, novelist Yehia Al-Gammal advances the theory of parallel universes (aka the multiverse), which as it turns out has existed since the time of Plato. The protagonist, Shams, lives three separate lives, partly continuous with each other but in other ways very different. In the general, Sufi atmosphere, the climax is a conversation between Shams and an angel.
Yehia Al-Gammal is an Egyptian novelist and political analyst who graduated from the American University in Cairo's political science department in 1995. Dreams of Shams is his second novel. His first was After the Party (2016).
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Mahmoud Abdel-Wahab, Zizinia, Al-Ain Publishing House, 2018, pp212.
Set in the Alexandrine posh neighbourhood after which it is named, Zizinia traces the life of a middle-class family in these formerly regal surroundings full of pretty buildings and villas. Novelist Mahmoud Abdel-Wahab expertly recounts the joys and pains of this family through the device of a narrator who regains his personality as a child, then once again as an adult. He documents the father, the mother, the uncle, the aunt and her husband as, with the dawn of a new era, they begin to fade away — just like Alexandria itself.
Abdel-Wahab was born in Cairo but lived in Alexandria. He started writing in his 40s, publishing five novels and short story collections including Siratuha Al-Oula (Its Early Chronicle, 2006) and Ahlam Al-Fatra Al-Intiqaliya (Dreams of the Transitional Period, 2013).

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Qanoun Al-Baqaa
Amr Ashour, Qanoun Al-Baqaa (Law of Survival), Al-Ain, 2018, pp145.
The two protagonists of this novel, Nagui and Adel, have lives that lack any humanity, coherence or sense. Their ultimate goal is to keep living in this ironic world full of taboos, which they knew how to break it.
This is the philosophically minded Amr Ashour's fifth novel. His most recent was The God of Stories.

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Rihlat Nasreddin
Ayman Howeira, Rihlat Nasreddin (Nasreddin's Journey), Kotobia, 2018, pp260.
Set in 1920s Istanbul where people from different countries have gathered at the Haydar Pasha railway station, where they can board trains to Aleppo and Damascus, all the way to Mecca and Medina, this novel tries to imagine what it was like for people from Rabat, Tétouan, Pristina, Cairo and Jerusalem to live through the end of the Ottoman Empire and how its disappearance reshapes their identity in various ways.
Ayman Howeira is an engineer who started writing recently. This is his first novel.

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Zigzag
Radwa Al-Aswad, Zigzag, Nahdat Misr, 2018, pp304.
This novel follows the lives of six women who were once colleagues at a French school but have been separated for many years.
Novelist Radwa Al-Aswad traces these women from the age of 36 till 45 and from within their lives she reveals the predicaments of the Egyptian society; political, social and cultural and also she handles religious fanaticism and how it negatively affects our society.
Al-Aswad published a number of novels; Hafl Al-Meaweya (The Centenary Party, 2010), Tashabok (Entanglement, 2013) and Kol Hadha Al-Sakhab (All this Tumult, 2015). Zigzag is her fourth novel.


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Nazli
Rawya Rashed, Nazli: Malika fil Manfa (Nazli: Queen in Exile), Al-Shorouk, 2018, pp153.
Struck by the beauty of a small palace in Beverly Hills, California, to her astonishment the author of this book found out it was the property of King Fouad's second wife and King Farouk's mother, the flamboyant and controversial Queen Nazli. This led to a great deal of research into Queen Nazli's journey from Cairo to Istanbul and from France to the US. Having been queen from 1919 to 1936, she lived for another 40 years in exile. Nazli was a figure of controversy as well: she and her youngest daughter Fathia converted to Catholicism in 1950, scandalising King Farouk. They were friendly with one of Farouk's mortal enemies, a Christian émigré named Riad Ghali, who shot her dead following their divorce in 1976.
Rawya Rashed is a television presenter and screenwriter. She wrote Malika fil Manfa (Queen in Exile), a film starring Nadia Al-Guindi, in 2010.

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Ayyam Al-Kharif
Hossam Al-Adli, Ayyam Al-Kharif (Autumn Days), The Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, 2018, pp382.
A complex and engaging drama of forbidden love and shifting fortunes, this is the story of monarchy-era Prime Minister Al-Maraashli Pasha's granddaughter Laila, the effect on her of being divested of her family's property and land following the 1952 Revolution and her romantic attachment to her daughter's fiancé Hisham. Laila is a strong woman who puts a brave face on her misfortunes and hides her vulnerabilities well, but she is not the only female presence in the Hossam Al-Adli's second novel. There is also Fadwa Al-Geretli, a TV political analyst who reveals the corrupt relations between the media and the security apparatus.
Born in 1982, Al-Adli's first novel, Lamahat (Glimpses), appeared in 2016.

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Fardaqan
Youssef Zidan, Fardaqan: Ietiqal Al-Sheikh Al-Rayes (Fardaqan: Detaining the President Sheikh), Al-Shorouk, 2018, pp319.
A fictionalised life of the great Persian polymath and father of medical studies Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the latest by Youssef Zidan focuses on the episode of his imprisonment in the castle of Fardaqan in Iran, where he wrote some of his most seminal books. The novel also gives a comprehensive idea of the world in which Ibn Sina lived and worked, the power struggles of the Islamic Golden Age, the hegemony of the Arabic language, and how such a mind as Ibn Sina's interacted with all that.
Zidan is a scholar and a popular novelist who was the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's Manuscript Centre and Museum. His novel Azazeel (Beelzebub) won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

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Inshitar Al-Tayr
Ahmed Abdel-Ati, Inshitar Al-Tayr (Bird Fission), Dar Al-Kotob, 2018, pp142.
This is the first collection of short stories by the winner of the 2016 Akhbar Al-Adab Award. In the course of 16 different stories the writer manages to blend fantasy and reality in an exciting way, taking the story of the Prophet Ibrahim with the birds as a basis for these self-referential tales, a kind of search for the truth of existence and for God.
Ahmed Abdel-Ati has completed a second collection of 11 stories.
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Lan Yantahi Al-Bo's
Mohamed Tarek, Lan Yantahi Al-Bo's (Misery Will Never End), Tashkeel, 2018, pp363.
This is a dark journey on which the author goes in search for what might drive someone to suicide, reliving all manner of dark details, battles and conflicts related to money and power, and showing how despair results from apparent success through the experiences of a famous businessman, a revolutionary activist, a drug dealer, black metal musicians and many others.
Mohamed Tarek is a young Egyptian writer. His two previous novels are Paris La Taarif Al-Hobb (Paris Knows No Love) and Kol Al-Toroq La Tuadi Li Roma (All Roads Do Not Lead to Rome).
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Al-Jaliya Al-Makhfiya
Mohamed M Al-Arnaout, Al-Jaliya Al-Makhfiya: Fusoul min Tareekh Al-Alban fi Misr (The Occluded Community: Chapters from the History of Albanians in Egypt), Al-Shorouk, 2018, pp217.
This compelling non-fiction read is an attempt to unveil what happened to Egypt's Albanian community, which was the fifth largest community in the time of Mohamed Ali Pasha, himself an Albanian Ottoman. Their presence precede the pasha's, however, and they commanded remarkable economic and social status. How — and when — did they vanish?
The Jordan-based Syrian scholar Mohamed M Al-Arnaout specialises in the history of the Levant under the Ottomans.


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