cover image Captain Ni’mat’s Last Battle

Captain Ni’mat’s Last Battle

Mohamed Leftah, trans. from the French by Lara Vergnaud. Other Press, $14.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-63542-064-7

An unexpected sensual awakening lies at the center of this alluring English-language debut from late Moroccan critic and novelist Leftah (1946–2008). With his military career cut short by a failed 1967 expedition to Yemen many years earlier, Captain Ni’mat plods through a comfortable retirement in Cairo with his wife, Mervet. Daily swims at the pool represent a welcome escape from his idleness, though he’s disturbed by the dreams he has about the supple young men who dart around him there. Is his recognition of male beauty the work of Satan? Curiosity and desire prompt him to further explore. Under the hands of his young Nubian houseboy Islam, who obeys orders without protest, the captain crosses an erotic line, then another, and another. Far from scared off, Ni’mat dives deeper into erotic exploration with Islam, despite his society’s deep homophobia, and even engages in a tryst at the pool with a middle-aged man. Inevitably, this secret activity leaks out to Mervet, who doesn’t abandon her husband, but banishes Islam and demands separate bedrooms. Leftah’s measured prose draws out the characters’ emotions without indulging too much in erotica. The result is graphic and sensuous without being prurient, and a piquant exploration of masculinity, gender, societal taboos, and the nature of love. (June)