Magdy al-Shafee’s Metro to be Published in English in 2012

Arabic Literature in English is reporting that Magdy al-Shafee’s Graphic Novel Metro which has been baned in Egypt will be coming out in English in 2012. I don’t have too much more information on the book, but I have been waiting for this to get published into English or Spanish so I could give it a read. It has gotten a lot of good criticism. You can read an excerpt at Words Without Borders (link below).

And, further on the good-news front, Magdy al-Shafee’sMetro, which was yanked from stores in April 2008, will receive a new edition. According to al-Shafee,Metro will be republished by Dar Merit (in Arabic) in conjunction with a Lebanese publishing house.

Metro also will also soon have an English version. The graphic novel—the first Egyptian graphic novel for adults—has been translated in full by Humphrey Davies, who earlier translated an excerpt for Words Without Borders. It will be published in early 2012 by Metropolitan Books, which also publishes Joe Sacco.

 

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2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (Arabic Booker) Coverage at Arab Lit (In English)

Arabic Literature (In English) is doing an excellent run down on the candidates for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (Arabic Booker). If you are interested in some of the  better writers in Arabic, you should check the list out and the many postings of author bios. You can find the long list here and a partial list of profiles here.

As predicted, this year’sInternational Prize for Arabic Fiction (“Arabic Booker”)longlist has more women than in previous years. This year’s longlist is nearly 50-50, with 7 women and 9 men.

Total entries this year were up slightly (123), with the most coming—as in past years—from populous and pen-filled Egypt.

Egyptians on the longlist include my friend Khaled al-Berry (yay, Khaled!), Naguib Mahfouz medal-winning Khairy Shalaby (whose Time Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets is just now out in English), and the excellent Miral al-Tahawy, who Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah once told me is “the next big thing.” (Or something like that. Don’t consider that a quote.)

 

New Edition of Classic /Beer in the Snooker Club

Arabic Literature (In English) reports that a new edition of Beer in the Snooker Club is coming out in December. What little I know about it sounds interesting.

I was surprised to see Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club on Kotob Khan’s June bestseller list. After all, the book was originally published in 1964, and I hadn’t heard anything about Ghali in the news that might cause a run on this classic book.

Other books on the bestseller list are more easily explicable: Bilal Fadl’s hot A Chagrined Laugh, the Arabic Booker-winning Azazeel as well as the Response to Azazeel. Alaa el-Aswany’s latest nonfiction.

But Karam Youssef, owner of Kotob Khan, explained that her staff often suggests classics, such as Beer in the Snooker Club, to book-browsers. Beer in the Snooker Club, she said, is a perennial seller.

Comics and Graphic Novels Emerge in the Middle East

Publishing perspectives has an article called Undiscovered Art: Comics and Graphic Novels Emerge in the Middle East. It is interesting overview of graphic novels in the middle east, few of which make it into English.

While comics have long been popular among children in the Arab world (two of the biggest series are the venerable “Mickey Mouse” and the Egyptian-based “Aladdin” comics), there is a new spark of interest in adult comics in the region. “In the last two years, there’s been a kind of synchronicity in Egypt, Lebanon, and Emirates for graphic novels,” says artist and writer Magdy El Shafee. In March, for example, the young Emirati author, Qais Sedki, won the prestigious Shaykh Zayed Book Award for his graphic novel Siwar al-Dhahab (Gold Ring), the first Arabic-language manga comic.

Samandal Inspires Others

Also participating in the Cairo workshop was one of the leaders of Lebanon’s growing field of comics authors, Fadi Baki (who goes by the moniker “the fdz”.) He is one of the publishers of the Beirut-based Samandal, which bills itself as “a multilingual comics magazine” with the aim of “produc[ing] a comic book revolution that will herald a new era of peace and understanding between cultures in the Middle East and the rest of the world.” On a more practical level, Baki and his co-editors see Samandal as “a showcase for comics we find interesting…We hope that this gallery will coalesce into a distinctive identity with serialized stories and returning artists and thus become a conduit between them and a wider public thirsty for comics that speak their realities.”

Baki cheekily describes himself as a product of “a childhood rife with comics, telly, and Nutella,” and like his co-editors, he is a graduate of the American University of Beirut. Samandal publishes comics in Arabic, French and English in each issue: with sections switching between left-to-right and right-to-left scripts, they hit upon the innovation of what they call a “flippy page” — a page instructing the reader to flip the magazine upside-down to continue reading the next section.

Miramar by Nagib Mahfouz – A Review

Miramar
Nagib Mahfouz

Nagib Mahfouz’s comparably brief novel, Miramar, captures a moment of great change in the history of Egypt through the lives of the inhabitants of a the pension Miramar. Although politics are ever present in the background, the novel focuses on the way the lives of the inhabitants of the pension have been changed by the Nasarite revolution of the late 50s. Mahfouz, the great story teller he his, uses the personal disappointments brought on by the revolution to draw a picture of a country trying to radically change, yet tied to the past and unable to change many of its ways despite official policies. His subtle focus on the relationships between the characters of the pension, drawing out the conflicts between the shifting class of people, lifts the book above politics and draws a fascinating picture of classes rising and falling.

Miramar is divided into four chapters, each told by a different resident of the pension. Amir Wagdi, the first to narrate, is a retired journalist who provides a historical memory to the story. He had seen the uprising against the British in the twenties and later the revolution. A long time friend of the proprietor of the pension, Mariana, he has returned an old man, content to live in his memories and accept what his life has given him. He has a sage like quality that in conversation with his contemporary the Pasha, a rich man now disposed of most of his lands, he is able to avoid arguments about politics. Much of his chapter has a dream like feel of the lost, and his interactions with the Pasha and Mariana recall the days when he was amongst the action, before their respective lives and the movements they belonged to failed and faded into the past.

When a young peasant girl, Zorha, comes to work at the pension, everything changes for the boarders. For Amir Wagdi, he takes on the role of a grandfather, hoping for her to succeed as she attempts  leave the country side and survive in a world where everyone wants to take her independence. Zorha is a defiant woman who had left the village when her family wanted her to marry someone she didn’t want to marry. Surrounded by men in the pension, she stands up to them and though shy she, she is strong enough to fight back against all the things that befall her. She is one of the few characters in the book that really is looking towards the future and doing it on her own terms. She is illiterate, but hires a teacher to learn to read even though most people tell her it is a waste of time. She is also one of the few, perhaps the only, who is good hearted. One read could see Zorha as the future of the new Egypt, but Mahfouz is too clear eyed for that simplicity, because all the young who live in the pension either want the old society, or are just looking for ways to exploit the new corruption that has replaced the old corruption. Nor is the country side a bastion of wisdom. If it were, Zorha wouldn’t have needed to leave the country side. Instead, Mahfouz celebrates an individuality that is strong and not tempted by the faults of society.

The other men, Husni Allam, a rich playboy, Mansour Bahi, an indecisive radio host, and Sarhan al-Behairi, a low ranking party man whose is looking to make money on the black market, have only one interest: what they can get for themselves. They are consumed by lust, which varies in cruelty, but is all consuming and is an attempt themselves in a position of power, using women without care. The hustling nature puts them in conflict with each other, especially as they fight for Zorha’s affections. Ultimately, the mix of hustling, sexual tension and the close confinement leads to the murder of Sarhan al-Behairi, who is found on a street one morning. As each of the three men narrate their section, the events that lead up to al-Behairi’s death become clearer. It is obvious that none of these men are particularly praiseworthy. Yet even in a character such as Husni Allam, Mahfouz creates evocative characters that also express the frustrations of men who, in many ways, don’t have many options. On the one hand, the rich are loosing their lands, and on the other those are part of the new regime can’t get ahead either. The frustrations add complexity to what might have otherwise been a simple tale of lust and envey.

Ultimately, it is not important if al-Behairi’s murderer is found, what is important is Mahfouz’s picture of post revolution Egypt. The conflicting interests and impulses he presents avoids the pessimistic, yet there is an air of fatalism in the characters who cannot get beyond their pasts. Only Zorha offers hope, but it is unclear what that it is. It is not for Mahfouz to describe the future. Still, one hopes Zorha will survive, for it suggests there is a future worth having.