The Book of Cairo
A City in Short Fiction
Book type: Anthology
Published: 24 Apr 2019
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 mysterious masked man in a video rental shop, agreeing to make the ultimate sacrifice for him...
A disgraced doctor confronts a man whose job it is to spread baseless, career-ending rumours...
Once the centre of the ancient world and, for a thousand years, a welcoming destination for explorers and tourists, Cairo has more recently become a city determined to forget. Since 2013, the events of Tahrir Square and Rabaa al-Adawiya have been gradually erased from its official history; writers have been imprisoned, publishing houses raided, and independent news sites shut down by the authorities. With the Egyptian government currently moving many of its ministries to the desert new builds, east of Cairo, the city’s future (as well as its past) seem uncertain.
Here ten new voices offer tentative glimpses into the city’s life at a time when writing directly about its greatest challenges is often too dangerous. With satire, surrealism, humour and a flair for the microcosm, 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.
'A successful attempt to capture the essence of Egyptian storytelling in the wake of mass social change and shared trauma.' - World Literature Today
'[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
'So much about Cairo in 2020 seems to be stuck in just such a loop. And still, these authors also find a way to let their characters breathe, transgress, fight and joke.' - Cleveland Review of Books
'Living in the aftermath, most choose to forget. In The Book of Cairo, we can witness this forgetting transformed into artistry.' - The Manchester Review
'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
'An entertaining and varied collection.' - The Short Story Publishing
'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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