cover image The Pistachio Seller

The Pistachio Seller

Reem Bassiouney, , trans. from the Arabic by Osman Nusairi. . Syracuse Univ., $29.95 (162pp) ISBN 978-0-8156-0919-3

Bassiouney's bighearted fourth novel (the first to be translated into English) portrays the agonies of love and identity. When Ashraf Daawood returns to Egypt in 1980, after growing up and becoming a banker in England, his cousin Wafaa falls hard for him. She must deal with her turmoil in secret, however, when Ashraf begins dating Lubna Thaabit, a feisty Communist journalist. After a brief stay in jail for her political leanings, Lubna breaks up with Ashraf, who returns to London and soon loses all his money. Penniless and disgraced, Ashraf flees to America, where his comeuppance involves working as a lowly cashier in a bank and living in poverty in a group house. Meanwhile, Wafaa has become a history teacher, supporting her parents and refusing to get married, doggedly waiting for Ashraf, with whom she shares an initially stilted correspondence that eventually shows signs of something deeper. Though sentimental in places and melodramatic in others, this story of self-discovery and the trials of love is delivered with warmth and humor. (Nov.)