The Book of Cairo

Edited by Raph Cormack

Available now!

A police officer tortures one last suspect in the most important assignment of his career: to find the ultimate Truth…

A woman confesses her love to a reclusive, masked man in a video rental shop...

A disgraced doctor confronts a man whose job it is to create rumours that spread across Cairo…

Founded over a thousand years ago under the sign of Mars “the victorious”, Cairo has long been a welcoming destination for explorers and tourists, drawn by traces of the ancient cities of Memphis and Heliopolis. More recently, the Egyptian capital has become a city determined to forget. Since 2013, the events of the “Arab Spring” have been gradually erased from its official history. 

The present is now contested as writers are imprisoned, publishing houses raided, and independent news sites shut down. With a new Administrative Capital being built in the desert east of Cairo, the city’s future is also unclear.

Here ten new voices offer tentative glimpses into Cairene life, at a time when writing directly about Egypt’s greatest challenges is often too dangerous. With intimate views of life, tinged with satire, surrealism, and humour, these stories guide us through the slums and suburbs, bars and backstreets of a city haunted by an
 unspoken past.

Translated by Adam Talib, Raphael Cohen, Basma Ghalayini, Thoraya El-Rayyes, Raph Cormack, Andrew Leber, Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, Elisabeth Jaquette, Kareem James Abu-Zeid & Yasmine Seale.


One of World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations of 2019.

'[The Book of Cairo] has no need for camels or pyramids or an exaggeration of whatever the Western eye is looking for. Reading it feels like sitting in a cafe in Cairo with young literary men and women, listening to their stories that dig deep into what Cairo is and is not.' - Asymptote Journal

'Though each story in The Book of Cairo is unique – ten stories by ten writers, translated by ten translators – they feed into one another artfully, like a movie soundtrack, a concept album, or a full novel. The cogs of Cairo turn through this book, and they move faster and more erratically as the pages turn – just as life in Cairo itself does. An appreciation grows through the reading of this book – appreciation for its people, its place on the global scale, and its ability to work as a culture that often seems like a Frankenstein’s monster of inharmonious pieces.' - Books and Bao

'In The Book of Cairo, you’ll find no Pyramids. No doe-eyed camels and no majestic Nile. Here you’ll find gender politics, idiot bureaucrats and corrupt officials, but in the main, these stories are about the ways, active and passive, that a pall of oppression gets broken down, assimilated, absorbed and expelled. ‘Forget what you know – this is Cairo’, ten compelling new voices are saying. And through some delicious storytelling, they deserve your time.' - Bookmunch

'The Book of Cairo has something for everyone... It’s quite rare that you’ll laugh, cry and smile within the space of a 100 pages but this volume manages to do that perfectly.' - The Bobsphere 

'In the introduction, the editor says that this book “tells the story of a city that is struggling to forget”, and indeed, the old memories of its history still live deeply in its heart.' - Egyptian Streets

'The themes reach far and wide, from identity crises to social hierarchies... The city lives and breathes on the pages of this book.' - STORGY

'The Book of Cairo sheds light on life and laughter in the Egyptian city through short stories' - Interview with editor Raph Cormack and author Eman Abdelrahim in The National

'The slim volume of only 85 pages makes a perfect addition for any collector of modern Arabic fiction in translation, but also a great choice to slip into your bag to dip into during your daily commute or place on your nightstand...' - Mel Plant, The New Arab

‘The Book of Cairo presents ten short stories (four of which are by women writers), and brings to life this troubled, complex city.’ - Translating Women

Read Nahla Karam's story 'The Other Balcony' (translated by Andrew Leber) as featured on National Translation Month.

An interview with editor Raph Cormack on ArabLit.


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Book Details

24 Apr 2019