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New Arrivals

As summer comes to an end it is time to pack away the entertaining beach-reads and browse through the new arrivals in Cairo’s bookstores. Brand new novels by Arab authors and new translations of treasured tales are vying for shelf space and the attention of the avid reader. Here is our pick for the coming month.

Adaptable Bureaucrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria
by Joshua Stacher

Although Egypt and Syria both witnessed popular revolutions to overthrow their despotic regimes, the outcomes are very different. Egypt’s Mubarak was overthrown, while Bashar Al-Assad is still clinging to power in Syria. Adaptable Bureaucrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria by Joshua Stacher explores the nature of the autocratic political systems in Egypt and Syria, aiming to find out why the revolutions had such different outcomes in both countries. While Egypt was preparing for its parliamentarian and presidential elections, Syria was counting bodies on the streets each day. The author explores how and why these two authoritarian regimes had such different survival mechanisms. He argues that the centralisation of power in each system plays a crucial role in deciding the regime’s durability. The book was published in May by the Stanford university press as part of the Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Societies and Cultures and is now available in Egypt. Reviews describe the book as a spot-on detailed account of the developments in Egypt and Syria and a thorough exploration of the regime dynamics in both Arab Spring countries.

The Book of Epiphanies

By Gamal Al-Ghitany

Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab

Gamal Al-Ghitany is one of the most noted modern Egyptian writers with a collection of novels that have their own faithful audience. The Book of Epiphanies was first published in 1990 and this month the AUC press released its translated edition for all Al-Ghitany fans out there. Even though Al-Ghitany is known for his rich Arabic expressions and sometimes overly descriptive, detailed style, his books remain unique in a way that uses complicated stylistic forms. It can be off-putting, yet those who prevail will find a wealth of literary beauty. The Book of Epiphanies explores political issues and a son’s relationship with his father in a satirical surreal way, allowing the narrator’s character to transcend time and place with many surprising real and unreal events.

Lifting the Veil: Two Centuries of Travelers, Traders and Tourists in Egypt

By Anthony Sattin

Lifting the Veil traces the journey of imperialism in Egypt through a unique cast of characters, starting with the French mission to Egypt and Napoleon Bonaparte’s dream to the British mandate and finally the end of imperialism and Egypt’s independence in 1956. According to the publishers, “this fast-paced and richly described narrative illuminates a bygone world and charts the end of imperialism and the advent of Egyptian independence.” The book reviews are mostly positive, describing the book as informative and rich with historical details while keeping the reader interested. The book would appeal to all those interested in gaining an insight in the British Empire and the relation it had with its colonies and specifically Egypt. It is an encompassing and comprehensive account of an unforgettable era in human history.

The Turks in Egypt and their cultural legacy

 By Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu

Translated by Humphrey Davis

Though in modern Egypt there is almost no family without at least one member watching Turkish TV shows, the cultural effect of the Ottoman Empire on the Egyptian society remains an ignored topic. Turkish culture did not penetrate Egyptian society only recently, but the era in which Egypt was a vital part of the then Ottoman Empire witnessed a rise and decline of Turkish culture, evident in printed words like books, letters and other writings. The book explores the cultural legacy of the Turks in Egypt and examines the patterns that were imported from Turkey and implemented in all aspects of the Egyptian life. The book’s English edition was just released and therefore lacks reviews. However, the book would be an interesting eye opener that gives the deserved attention to an era long under researched.  Understanding the Turkish cultural legacy and tracing its remains in modern day Egypt could shed light on many details of Egyptian cultural behaviour and would help understand the dynamics of modern day Turkish-Egyptian relations.

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