Birthday night songs – Culture – Al-Ahram Weekly
Ghali Shukri, Mawawel Al-Laila Al-Kabira (Birthday Night Songs), Cairo: General Organization of Palaces of Culture, 2022. pp220
The only novel of the famous historian and literary critic Ghali Shukri, Mawaweel Al-Laila Al-Kabeera was recently reprinted by the General Organization of Palaces of Culture, whose edition is directed by the poet and playwright Gerges Shukri. Its first edition appeared with Dar Al-Taliaa in Beirut in 1985.
Written in the 1980s, the novel reflects Shukri’s view of historical events that took place in Cairo, Beirut and other Arab cities in the 1950s and 1960s. It therefore references the names of Egyptian political leaders throughout the modern era: Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Mohamed Ali Pasha, Saad Zaghloul and many other historical and political figures in Egyptian history.
Anniversary Night Songs is the story of a law school student who also works as a journalist, her beat being courts and trials. She stumbles upon a “top secret” file that seems to be related to Egyptian public affairs, and as part of a thriller, through her experience, Shukri finds a way to tell the issues of the time. In the process, it tackles historical events such as the Revolution of 1919, the Revolution of 1952, the war of 1967 and the social, political and cultural transformations of these eras in both directions, making extensive use of judicial archives. found by her heroine. than the classified file.
In a further gesture of homage to femininity, Shukri dedicates her only novel to her daughter Nahed.
Ghali Shukri (1935-1998) was a famous scholar well known for his literary criticism. He obtained his doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris, with a thesis entitled The Rise and Fall in Modern Egyptian Thought, directed by the French Arabist Jacques Burke. Shukri was the editor of Cairo magazine and he received the State Prize for Literature in 1996.
Among his publications are Salama Moussa and the Arab Crisis of Conscience (1962), Sheirena Al-Hadith Ela Ayin? (Our Modern Poetry, Where To?, 1968), Egypt, Portrait of a President, 1971-1981: The Counter-Revolution in Egypt, Sadat’s Road to Jerusalem (1981), Al-Aqbat fi Watan Motaghayer (Copts in a Changing Nation , 1991), Burj Babel: Al-Naqd wal Hadatha Al-Sharida (The Tower of Babel: Criticism and Lost Modernity, 1993), Al-Hulm Al-Yabani (The Japanese Dream, 1994) and Youm Tawil fi Haya Qassira (A long day in a short life, 1999).
Mariam Abdel-Aziz, Honak Haytho Yantahi Al-Nahr (Where the river ends), Cairo: Al-Kotob Khan Publishing House, 2022, pp191
This is the debut novel by Mariam Abdel-Aziz, who published a short story book, Min Maqam Rahat Al-Arwah (From the Place of Resting Souls) in 2016. This novel is set in the Egyptian city of Rashid, the one of the two points where the Nile flows into the Mediterranean. There, Salma faces one of the most miserable and critical situations of her life. After her father’s death, she is surprised by the appearance of strange men claiming to be her uncles, although she has never seen them in her life.
Salma then embarks on a complex journey through the brutality of Cairo and the many challenges of life – aggressive neighbors, failed attempts at professional or emotional fulfillment – to Alexandria and back to Rashid. Carrying a photo her father gave her, she embarks on a journey of discovery only to find herself embroiled in an illegal immigration operation that has always been closer to her than she thought.
Osama Allam, Tariq Motasei Li Shakhs Wahid: Hekayat Min 12 Madina Agiba (A Wide Road for a Lonely Person: Stories from 12 Curious Towns), Cairo: Al-Shorouk Publishing House, 2022, pp190
As the famous novelist Mohamed Al-Mansi Qandil says in his introduction to this book, Osama Allam is someone who is obsessed with traveling and discovering new places. But it’s more than a travel book as such, with its unique blend of (creatively reanimated) portraits of places and objects. Set in New York, Paris, New Jersey, Montreal, Edmonton and elsewhere, the stories it contains nevertheless focus on specific material elements of these places and give them universal human significance.
In one story, the narrator recounts buying a vintage wedding portrait at an antique fair in New York, which he says dates back to the 1940s or 1950s. After hanging the portrait on his wall, he begins to see the couple in his dreams, and their presence grows stronger and stronger until he feels they are advising him on his own life. He returns the portrait, and the man he bought it from confesses that they are his parents and that they continued to ruin his life even after their death…
Osama Allam is an Egyptian-Canadian novelist who has published five novels; Wahet Al-Zohour Al-Sawdaa (Oasis of Black Flowers), Al-Ekhtefaa Al-Ageb Li Ragol Modhesh (The Curious Disappearance of an Incredible Man), Toulouse, Al-Washm Al-Abyad (The White Tattoo) and Al- Hai Al-Arabi (The Arab quarter).
Lana Abdel-Rahman, Tamimat Al-Asheqat (Lovers’ Amulet), Cairo: The Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, 2022, pp221
In these seven stories mixing granularity and fantasy, the author quickly passes from one temporality to another. As the Arabic title suggests, all the heroines are women in love. The book opens with a story set in ancient Egypt featuring Alara, a woman in love who struggles between desire and asceticism, eventually becoming a legendary champion of freedom. The writer goes from Cairo to Mount Lebanon in the 1960s, and from Azerbaijan at the beginning of the century to Baghdad – Seville. It intertwines past, present and future in legends of courage against the backdrop of falling empires, wars, pandemics and how the world is reorganizing itself.
Lana Abdel-Rahman is a Cairo-based Lebanese writer and journalist who graduated from the Lebanese University of Beirut and the American University in Cairo. His books include the novels Oghneya Li Margret (A Song for Margret, 2011), Thalj Al-Qahira (Cairo Snow, 2013) and Qeid Al-Dars (Write Down the Lesson, 2016).
Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid, Resala Ela La Ahad: Aan Wattan wa Kotob wa Ahebaa (A message for no one: about a nation, books and loved ones), Cairo: The Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, 2022, pp360