For March we’re switching things up and reading a graphic novel: مترو، لمجدي الشافعي / Metro by Magdy el-Shafee, translated by Chip Rossetti.
A brief summary of the book from Goodreads:
“A brilliant portrait of a bank robbery and two friends’ breakneck escape through an edgy, pulsing Cairo on the brink of explosion. When Shehab runs afoul of a loan shark, all avenues of salvation in Mubarak’s corrupt, oppressive Egypt are closed to him but one: robbing a bank. Things go wrong: In their blow against their crumbling society, Shihab and his friend Mustafa happen on evidence of vice that points to the upper reaches of the regime. On a wild chase through Cairo’s metro system, Shehab and Mustafa turn to family and friends for refuge, which is offered only by Dina, a muckraking journalist who, for Shehab, will take the greatest of risks. In art as alive and immediate as Cairo itself, Magdy El Shafee has delivered an arresting and prescient portrait of a crumbling society and Egypt’s coming eruption. A powerful story of comrades on the lam and an impossible love, Metro also sounds the cry for a better, freer future.”
Metro is Egypt’s first graphic novel and a vivid portrait of poverty and corruption under Mubarak’s rule. When it was first published in January 2008, it was quickly banned on the ground of “offending public morals”: the police raided the Malameh publishing house, confiscated all copies of the book, and banned Malameh from printing further copies. Al-Shafee as well as his publisher, Mohammed al-Sharkawi, were charged under article 178 of the Egyptian penal code (which criminalizes the printing or distribution of publications that “infringe upon public decency”) and ultimately each fined 5,000 LE.
We’ve picked this book now because it has recently been republished in Arabic and made available in Egypt, for the first time in five years – more on its republication in Arabic on ArabLit. Additionally, here is a preview of the English edition, translated by Humphrey Davies, on Words Without Borders.
Magdy el-Shafee will be joining us for our discussion on Sunday, March 17th 2013.