Sign in using your account with
Samia Mehrez: The Literary Atlas of Cairo
The essence of Cairo, in all its glory and grime, is very difficult to capture. This fascinating city has many faces and has seen many drastically different times, creating a hub of cultural contradictions and intriguing characteristics.
Over the past century, some of the greatest literary minds in Egypt have written about Cairo, and AUC professor Samia Mehrez has compiled these stories to produce The Literary Atlas of Cairo, an intelligent and brilliant love letter to the city.
Published in early 2010, the collection of short stories is the fruit of one year’s hard labour of assembling, translation and editing. Mehrez, who is well respected for her work in Arabic literature, found so many beautiful stories about Cairo that she was compelled to turn the project into a two-part series. The second instalment, The Literary Life of Cairo, will be published soon.
The 313-page-long collection of over seventy excerpts from both classic and modern local authors reads like a who's-who of the biggest names in Egyptian literature: Naguib Mahfouz, Sonalla Ibrahim, Yusuf Idris, Ihsan Abdel Quddus, Taha Hussein and Bahaa Taher are featured. Popular modern writers are also included, such as Alaa Al Aswany, Omar Taher, Mona Prince and Khalid Al Khamissi.
Mehrez has selected a perfect collection of authors to write about Cairo. If you read their respective biographies at the end of the book, you’ll find that all authors have had some solid connection to the city, whether born and raised in the city or forced into exile away from it.
The stories span different genres from romance to autobiographies, with the random murder mystery thrown in for good measure. The different faces of Cairo are featured through familiar locations, ranging from Shepherd’s Hotel to Al Azhar Mosque. Equally, characters from all social backgrounds are portrayed, from the aristocrat to the Bedouin beauty. If you’ve lived in Cairo long enough, you will recognize the locations and the common issues faced in the city. Often, the characters seem so familiar and so acutely detailed, that you catch yourself wondering (in true Cairene form) ‘Could I possibly know them?’
The point is that we all know these characters as we do their stories of struggle, frustration, poverty, cultural clashes and loneliness on the tireless streets of Cairo.What they all share is a heavy sense of nostalgia for the forgotten glory days of Cairo. Be it the simpler times of one’s childhood or the pre-revolution era, each story attempts to pinpoint the better days that every generation of Cairenes subsequently sighs about and longs for. The characters all seem to struggle with life in the often frustrating and overwhelming city in all its beauty and dust.
Meticulously translated and compiled by Mehrez, The Literary Atlas of Cairo is a wonderful collection of vivid fiction that will appeal to anyone that has lived in and loved this city. The excerpts are short enough to sustain even the most distracted reader, with enough variety in writing styles and subjects to appeal to everyone. Highly recommended.
The first impression of main character Abby, a freshman at university, is that she’s a goody-two-shoes and seems to have a reserved, shy personality. She is just starting a new independent life as a student far away from home, but her peace of mind is soon disturbed when she meets Travis; an underground fighter who goes to the same school. He's the kind of guy that every girl should avoid but still dreams of taming. With tattooed arms, the rebellious enigma captures Abby's attention instantly and though he has trouble written all over him, she can't help but get sucked into his world.
But on the other hand, Travis is also somewhat spellbound by Abby's innocence. What he doesn't know, and neither do we at the time, is that he’s in for a surprise; with a sharp tongue and a strong personality, Abby manages to charm the bad boy into submission. As the story progresses, we see Abby building a shield to protect herself from being another challenge that Travis conquers. Frustrated with Abby, Travis is forced to comply with her strict rules and settles for being ‘her friend’.
The novel takes an unusual turn when Abby loses a bet with Travis and is forced to live with him for a whole month. The lines between innocent friendship and love become blurred and as the story goes on, McGuire gradually delves deeper into Abby's fears and the dark past that is still hunting her.
Jumping up the New York Times bestselling charts soon after being published, Beautiful Disaster is much more than a just another romance novel.