For January we’re reading خالتي صفية والدير، بهاء طاهر / Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery by Egyptian author Bahaa Taher, translated by Barbara Romaine.
A summary of the book from the publisher, University of California Press:
“Taher tells the dramatic story of a young Muslim who, when his life is threatened, finds sanctuary in a community of Coptic monks. It is a tale of honor and of the terrible demands of blood vengeance; it probes the question of how a people or nation can become divided against itself. Taher has a magical gift for evoking the village life of Upper Egypt—a vastly different setting than urban Cairo and a landscape that tourists usually glimpse only from the windows of trains and buses taking them to the Pharaonic sites. Here, where Christians and Muslims have coexisted peacefully for centuries, where the traditions of the Coptic Church are as powerful as those of the Muslims, Taher crafts an intricate and compelling tale of far-reaching implications. With a powerful narrative voice and a genius for capturing the complex nuances of human interaction, Taher brilliantly depicts the poignant drama of a traditional society caught up in the process of change.”
In light of the tragic Alexandria church bombings, M. Lynx Qualey’s Arab Lit in English blog recently had a post on Bahaa Taher, with several interviews he has done over the past several years, commenting at times on the subject of sectarian tensions:
We’ll meet to discuss on Wednesday, January 26 2011. *Postponed to March 23 2011.