cover image A Splendid Conspiracy

A Splendid Conspiracy

Albert Cossery, , trans. from the French by Alyson Waters. . New Directions, $14.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1779-8

The idleness of young men finds devilish outlets in this queasy novel by late Egyptian author Cossery (1913–2008). A young rake, having left home six years before, ostensibly to study abroad, reluctantly returns to his un-named provincial Egypt hometown at the behest of his father. However, young Teymour, who never enrolled in a university and bought a fake diploma, finds plotting seductions of young girls with his old friends much more fun than working in the family business, and soon Teymour and his friends, Medhat and Imtaz, are acting as procurers of schoolgirls for a rich dupe named Chawki. Throw in a flimsy element of mystery involving the inexplicable disap-pearance of certain prominent male citizens, a police chief who suspects the young idlers of plotting rebellion, and a thriving brothel with a bawdy advertising campaign, and you've got a prurient, over-the-top throwback that's some-times hard to take seriously. Fluidly translated, this novel reads much like a horny old goat's fantasy, and its appeal will likely be limited to the Henry Miller set. (May)