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A corrupt police officer trawls the streets of Cairo on the most important assignment of his career: the answer to the truth of all existence… A young journalist struggles over the obituary of a nightclub dancer… A man slowly loses his mind in one of the city’s new desert developments... There is a saying that, whoever you are, if you come to Cairo you will find a hundred peo A corrupt police officer trawls the streets of Cairo on the most important assignment of his career: the answer to the truth of all existence… A young journalist struggles over the obituary of a nightclub dancer… A man slowly loses his mind in one of the city’s new desert developments... There is a saying that, whoever you are, if you come to Cairo you will find a hundred people just like you. For over a thousand years, the city on the banks of the Nile has welcomed travellers from around the world. But in recent years Cairo has also been a stage for expressions of short-lived hope, political disappointments and a violent repression that can barely be written about. These ten short stories showcase some of the most exciting, emerging voices in Egypt, guiding us through one of the world’s largest and most historic cities as it is today – from its slums to its villas, its bars and its balconies, through its infamous traffic. Appearing in English for the first time, these stories evoke the sadness and loss of the modern city, as well as its humour and beauty.


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A corrupt police officer trawls the streets of Cairo on the most important assignment of his career: the answer to the truth of all existence… A young journalist struggles over the obituary of a nightclub dancer… A man slowly loses his mind in one of the city’s new desert developments... There is a saying that, whoever you are, if you come to Cairo you will find a hundred peo A corrupt police officer trawls the streets of Cairo on the most important assignment of his career: the answer to the truth of all existence… A young journalist struggles over the obituary of a nightclub dancer… A man slowly loses his mind in one of the city’s new desert developments... There is a saying that, whoever you are, if you come to Cairo you will find a hundred people just like you. For over a thousand years, the city on the banks of the Nile has welcomed travellers from around the world. But in recent years Cairo has also been a stage for expressions of short-lived hope, political disappointments and a violent repression that can barely be written about. These ten short stories showcase some of the most exciting, emerging voices in Egypt, guiding us through one of the world’s largest and most historic cities as it is today – from its slums to its villas, its bars and its balconies, through its infamous traffic. Appearing in English for the first time, these stories evoke the sadness and loss of the modern city, as well as its humour and beauty.

30 review for The Book of Cairo: A City in Short Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    As I have said many times, I am a big fan of indie publishers, mainly because they always come up with interesting ideas. At the moment, I’m liking Comma Press’ ‘Reading the City’ series. It’s a simple idea, ten short stories about a city written by authors who live there. This time the focus is on Cairo. We all know that in the last few years Cairo has undergone changes, many of them problematic but I will admit that these ten stories portray Cairo from a different angle. For starters, more than As I have said many times, I am a big fan of indie publishers, mainly because they always come up with interesting ideas. At the moment, I’m liking Comma Press’ ‘Reading the City’ series. It’s a simple idea, ten short stories about a city written by authors who live there. This time the focus is on Cairo. We all know that in the last few years Cairo has undergone changes, many of them problematic but I will admit that these ten stories portray Cairo from a different angle. For starters, more than half these stories are genuinely funny; there’s Hatem Hafiz’s Whine (trans by Raphael Cohen) which concerns a government employee, who goes through an existential crises, or the professional rumormonger of Mohammed Kheir’s Talk (trans by Kareem James Abu-Zeid). The sex obsessed marjuana maker in Ahmed Naji’s (trans by Elisabeth Jaquette) brilliant Siniora. Even the opening story Gridlock offers a humorous view of Cairo’s citizens during a busy morning. Out of the more serious one’s there’s the heartfelt closer An Alternative Guide to Getting Lost, which is about a woman who desperately wants to escape Cairo by plane but cannot and then there’ the centrepiece of the whole collection, Hassan Abdel Mawgoud’s (Trans by Thoraya El-Rayyes) Into the Emptiness, which I think provides a full picture of both the beautiful and frustrating aspect of Cairo life. Then there’s the downright weird Soul at Rest is about a judgemental person who writes obituaries for a newspaper and Two Sisters, a offbeat romance featuring a masked video store clerk. The Book of Cairo has something for everyone and is quite a varied collection. 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. Each story is a winner and a must read in it’s own right.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    The Book of Cairo is a collection of 10 short stories by Egyptian authors translated into English and published by Comma Press. It is part of a series based on cities. The stories cover a wide range of genres. In one sense most of the stories could have been set in a number of cities. I enjoyed the variety of style and will definitely reread some of these. This was the first book I have read from Comma Press and has whetted my appetite to read more.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anne-Grete

    What a unique set of short stories throwing you in the middle of Cairo. Some of the stories were melancholic, others had funny tonalities. I really enjoyed it and curious about other books in this series. Also very nice to get to know different authors from Egypt.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Traffic jams. Office politics. Love affairs in high rise apartment blocks. The isolation of the soul and physical crush of bodies. City life in Cairo, in this book of short stories, is like city life everywhere in the world, and yet the Cairo-ness of Cairo, from microbuses to desert sand blowing over the city, is ever present. When you don’t know anything about a city, it’s hard always to know where these stories tip over into imaginative fantasy, or to understand where they are being funny, but Traffic jams. Office politics. Love affairs in high rise apartment blocks. The isolation of the soul and physical crush of bodies. City life in Cairo, in this book of short stories, is like city life everywhere in the world, and yet the Cairo-ness of Cairo, from microbuses to desert sand blowing over the city, is ever present. When you don’t know anything about a city, it’s hard always to know where these stories tip over into imaginative fantasy, or to understand where they are being funny, but this book gives a visceral sense of Cairo - not the city of pyramids and minarets of the cover illustration, but a city of roads filled with slowly moving traffic and buildings filled with tiny cells of people. Kudos to the editor Ralph Cormack for arranging these stories in such a fantastic order. Gridlock, by Mohamed Salah al-Azab, is a great introduction to the city and to the limpid style of most of the translations; the two last stories take us back into the universal with - probably my favourite - Nael Eltoukny’s tale of a police officer tasked with finding The Whole Truth (which has to be complete, unified and shocking, but not in fact true) and then back to gridlock with Areej Gamal’s brief study of a different kind of being stuck in the city. In between, as ever with an anthology, not everything was to my taste but some of these stories got under my skin. The trio of stories about middle-aged male bemusement at the problems of status and accomplishment - Mohammed Kheir’s Talk, Hatem Hafez’ Whine, and Hend Ja’far’s The Soul At Rest - are grounded in specifics like the office tea boys and the automatic negotiations between religions in a religious culture, but express the feelings of human consciousness that translate across all city cultures. Nahla Karam’s delicate story of teenage love The Other Balcony is my favourite of all the female voices in the book. This collection is an admirable introduction to contemporary Cairo writers and to the city as it is for those who live there, inaccessible to visitors who will never see inside those cars, apartments or offices. There are characters in it I would like to see again. A keeper.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I didn't really know what to expect from this book, maybe a collection of stories that really captured the atmosphere of one of my favourite cities. What I found was different, and to be honest I didn't really 'get' a few of these stories, and I found some boring, but some of them were intriguing. The story which tells the story of how various members of a typical Cairo traffic jam end up there was good; I love stories where different people's lives come together. I was gripped by the story of t I didn't really know what to expect from this book, maybe a collection of stories that really captured the atmosphere of one of my favourite cities. What I found was different, and to be honest I didn't really 'get' a few of these stories, and I found some boring, but some of them were intriguing. The story which tells the story of how various members of a typical Cairo traffic jam end up there was good; I love stories where different people's lives come together. I was gripped by the story of the sexually frustrated guy smoking weed in his apartment, the descriptions and language explicit in a way I didn't really expect from an Arab writer - he actually ended up in jail for writing so sexually in one of his other books. The satirical piece on a policeman trying to find The Truth was another that stood out to me, for displaying police brutality and torture methods yet insisting sardonically that policemen who do this are still normal people, because they still fast and read and pace in their apartments. So I suppose this book really did look into the heart of many issues at the heart of Cairene life that its citizens face and of course when works are translated they do not carry the same essence as they do in their original language so I must take that into account. However I think I was just not really able to sink my teeth into a fair few of these stories, and although I enjoyed reading something different for a change, I ended up being a little underwhelmed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    theshortstory.co.uk (TSS Publishing)

    "...an entertaining and varied collection. There are stories that tip into the fantastic alongside stories that are grounded in reality; stories that explore the personal alongside those looking at the political aftermath of the Arab spring; and from stories about everyday trivialities such as bins to those that explore the brutality of the state." Read James Holden's full review at: https://theshortstory.co.uk/short-sto... "...an entertaining and varied collection. There are stories that tip into the fantastic alongside stories that are grounded in reality; stories that explore the personal alongside those looking at the political aftermath of the Arab spring; and from stories about everyday trivialities such as bins to those that explore the brutality of the state." Read James Holden's full review at: https://theshortstory.co.uk/short-sto...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hal

    My favourite collection of short fiction I've read this year. Lots of the stories (or my favourites anyway) have a mix of mundanity, humour and weirdness. My favourite was Into the Emptiness, the sense of unreality experienced by the narrator living on a city fringe was really convincing. Hamada Al-Ginn is a brutal and funny bit of satire, very keen to read that writers other work. My favourite collection of short fiction I've read this year. Lots of the stories (or my favourites anyway) have a mix of mundanity, humour and weirdness. My favourite was Into the Emptiness, the sense of unreality experienced by the narrator living on a city fringe was really convincing. Hamada Al-Ginn is a brutal and funny bit of satire, very keen to read that writers other work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rookie

    Ok, the first short story ‘Gridlock’ by Mohamed Salah (no Liverpool player) Al-Arab had an interesting kick to it. ‘Talk’ by Mohammad Kheir was chillingly brilliant. But the rest? Ho hum-to- what-the- ¥$€§ Really, not very worth it. Lacking in any spiritual awareness. Disappointing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen Michele

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tine Lavent

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mel

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Doyle

  15. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Kane Gielskie

  16. 5 out of 5

    SamB

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  19. 4 out of 5

    James

  20. 5 out of 5

    Caro

  21. 5 out of 5

    rachy

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jo

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gowaart

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cathryn

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick Van Loy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Renée

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christina

  29. 4 out of 5

    هند جعفر

  30. 4 out of 5

    Charlott

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