Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformed

Ahdaf Soueif. Pantheon, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-90810-0
What novelist and translator Soueif (The Map of Love; Mezzaterra) saw during the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was no less than the upheaval of an entire order of Egyptian society. Hailing from a generation that tried and failed to bring down the Mubarak dictatorship years before, Soueif rushed back to her native city from a literary festival in India on January 25, 2011, after she heard news of unrest erupting in Tahrir Square. She affectionately refers to the now world-famous square as the Midan (from its Arabic name: Midan el-Tahrir) throughout her diary of the decisive first 18 days, which is followed by accounts tracking later events during the year, such as the elections. Her grown children and nephews and nieces raced home, some from abroad, joining activist siblings, friends, aunts, and other relatives. They participated in spontaneous street demonstrations and provided aid to protestors, as well as setting up film and Internet stations. Soueif writes of her tremendous pride in the younger generation, who faced down government thugs, snipers perched on buildings, tanks, and security police. Many received beatings, or were imprisoned (her own nephew, Alaa, was jailed) or, in the case of 843 protesters, killed. The author captures beautifully her anguish at Cairo’s degradation during the years of dictatorship and Mubarak’s calculated sowing of division among the people. Yet with the recent violent eruptions in the country, Soueif’s work as an eloquent witness is a work in progress. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/2013
Release date: 01/07/2014
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