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New arrivals on the shelves

New arrivals this month dive into love in post-conflict Iraq and the life of the famed author Taha Hussein

8-2aMan of Letters

Translated by Mona El-Zayyat

Taha Hussein’s autobiography, one of the greatest figures of the 20th century Arab renaissance published here in a single volume for the first time, tells the story of the blind prolific author who rose from a modest home in 1889 to become one of the most distinguished authors and public figures in Egypt and the Arab world, serving once as the Minister of Education and titled unofficially the “Dean of Arabic Letters”. Critic Louis Awad described him as “the greatest single intellectual and cultural influence on the literature of his period.”

The story unfolds in between Cairo and Paris through personal correspondence, portraying friendship, and the split between two seemingly irreconcilable cultures, east and west.


8-2bDates on My Fingers

Mohsen Al-Ramli

Translated by Luke Leafgren

Taking place between Madrid and Iraq, this tale of youthful love and post-conflict Iraqi village life revolved around Saleem. Saleem is fed up with his village life and flees his hometown to go to Spain for a chance to build a new life for himself.  His self-imposed exile is thrown into disarray when he encounters his father, Noah at a nightclub in Madrid after years of no contact. Noah is a changed man and Saleem is determined to find out why his father is in Spain.

As he tries to solve the mystery, he remembers moments in Iraq of family, war and the accidental death of Aliya, a cousin who was a partner in exploring sexuality with Saleem.

When his relationship with his father erupts in conflict, Saleem rediscovers his sense of self and stability of his own life. Through his reflections, the story comes to a climax, straddling Spanish and Iraqi realities.


8-2cRain over Baghdad

Hala El-Badry

Tranlsated by Farouk Abdel Wehab

From the award-winning author who brought you A Certain Woman and Muntaha, Rain over Baghdad deals with life in Baghdad before the events of the late twentieth century. The 70s and 80s saw the rise of Saddam Hussein, the northern Kurdish autonomy and Iraq-Iran war. With oil and a newfound wealth, many Egyptians immigrated to Iraq and the novel portrays these phenomena through the eyes of an Egyptian woman married to an engineer working in Iraq. The narrator works for an Egyptian magazine’s bureau in Baghdad and provides readers with a more accurate perspective of the nuances of Iraqi society at the time.

With the disappearance of an Iraqi woman in the south, we learn of the protagonist’s life, including her love for an Egyptian Marxist journalist. The novel portrays Saddam’s Iraq before US invasion, an Iraq whose reality is very different than the Iraq we know today.

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