For May we’re reading ذات، صنع الله إبرتهيم / Zaat by Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim, translated by Anthony Calderbank.
A summary of the book from AUC Press:
“This unusual and much lauded novel tells the story of the life of an Egyptian woman—the eponymous Zaat—during the regimes of three Egyptian presidents: Abdel Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. Imbued with an Egyptian sense of humor and deeply rooted in the culture and politics of the modern period, the novel takes a humorous but often black look at the changes that have occurred in Egypt over the past few decades. Zaat’s life experiences and relationships are set against economic and social upheavals in a style that is both sophisticated and bawdy, highly ironic and often extremely poignant. Zaat’s story is interspersed and illustrated with extracts from newspapers of the day—headlines, articles, captions, death notices, advertisements—reflecting events and incidents contemporary with her life. Beautifully put together with bitter and cutting irony, they tell of corruption, financial scandals, torture, foreign debt, and social problems. The heroine epitomizes the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of simple folk tossed about on the stormy sea of modernization, consumerism, and the ever-present mirage of new wealth. Zaat is a brilliant social commentary that provides keen insights into how Egypt has come to be the way it is today.”
For further reading, take a look at Read Kutub‘s discussion, and two articles by Samia Mehrez: “Sonallah Ibrahim’s Dhat: The Ultimate Objectification of the Self” (Chapter 6 in “Egyptian Writers between History and Fiction: Essays on Naguib Mahfouz, Sonallah Ibrahim, and Gamal al-Ghitani”), and “From the hara to the imara: emerging urban metaphors in the literary production on contemporary Cairo” (Chapter 8 in “Egypt’s Culture Wars: Politics and Practice”).
We’ll meet to discuss on Saturday, May 15th 2010.