Voices

Soleiman Fayyad, Author, Hosam Abou-Ela, Translator, Hosam Aboul-Ela, Translator
Soleiman Fayyad, Author, Hosam Abou-Ela, Translator, Hosam Aboul-Ela, Translator Marion Boyars Publishers $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7145-2945-5
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Hamid Al-Bahairi, owner of elegant Parisian shops and hotels, returns to his birthplace, an impoverished Egyptian village that he has not seen since he was a boy of 10 three decades ago. In Fayyad's short, stunning novel, narrated in the alternating voices of the envious villagers, two cultures clash with disastrous results. To Hamid, his hometown by the Nile is crude, primitive, an embarrassment; to his French journalist wife Simone, it's quaint, exotic, grist for her newspaper stories. Humble shopkeeper Ahmed, Hamid's jealous younger brother, flirts with Simone, while their embittered old mother agonizes over whether her half-French grandchildren will be brought up Muslim or Christian, and whether Simone has had a proper female circumcision. The brutal, violent ending is a shocker. First published in Arabic in 1972, this is the only work in English translation by prolific short story writer Fayyad, and his only novel. It rivals the fictions of Naguib Mahfouz in its psychological depth and sharp social commentary. (Dec.)
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