"This is a wonderful existential novel."—Booklist
"This powerful, thought-provoking novel offers a fascinating glimpse of the mechanics of repression worldwide."—Library Journal
"Possesses both uncanny contemporary relevance and, in its surreal climax and dénouement, tremendous narrative and symbolic force."—Kirkus
"This spare, swift and ultimately chilling fantasy of interrogation and persecution in contemporary Egypt suggests that all of us are controlled by forces we often have no inkling of. The novel begins with a frustrating and unexplained interview conducted by a group known simply as the Committee. . . . In keeping with Ibrahim's reputation as the 'Egyptian Kafka,' the Committee is anonymous, oppressive and symbolic of familiar social forces—though recent world events will prompt readers to associate it with more specific clandestine organizations. Ibrahim . . . creates a highly claustrophobic mood with elegant descriptions and the smooth incorporation of historical detail, bringing global depth to this work. As the dark narrative proceeds, its critique of broader social madness masquerading as civilization becomes clearer and clearer, making this a provocative addition to Ibrahim's respected oeuvre."—Publishers Weekly
This wry take on Kafka’s novel The Trial revolves around its narrator’s attempts to petition successfully the elusive ruling body of his country, known simply as “the Committee.” Consequences for his actions range from the absurd to the hideous.
Ibrahim offers an unbroken first-person narrative rendered in brief, crisp prose framed by a conspicuous absence of vivid imagery. Furthermore, the petitioner is a man without identity. The ideal antihero, he remains, as does his country, unnamed throughout the intricate plot with a locale suggestive of 1970s Cairo.
The Committee pierces the inflammatory terrain between ordinary men, unbridled displays of power, and other broader concerns of the author’s native Egypt. The novel’s corrosive, shocking conclusion catapults satiric surrealism into a new realm.
Sonallah Ibrahim is an Egyptian novelist and a major literary figure in the Arab world. He has published short stories, historical and scientific children's books, translations of American and German fiction, and seven novels, including Tilka al-ra' iha (The Smell of It), Beirut-Beirut, and Warda.
Mary St. Germain is head of the Near East section at the University of Washington Libraries.
Charlene Constable studied Arabic at the University of Washington and has traveled in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
She has a long-standing interest in translation.
5 x 7, 0 pages