cover image I Loved You for Your Voice

I Loved You for Your Voice

Selim Nassib. Europa Editions, $14.95 (255pp) ISBN 978-1-933372-07-5

Paris-based Nassib, a journalist for Liberation, is the author of Un Amant de Palestine, a novel highlighting the complex and passionate relationship between Golda Meir and Lebanese-Palestinian banker Albert Pharaon (currently untranslated). This second book takes on another big relationship that's relatively unknown in the U.S.: that of Egyptian singer Om Kalthoum (1904-1975), who is revered in the Arab world, and the poet Ahmad Rami. In 1924, Kalthoum is a budding performer who must pose as a man in order to take the stage. Rami, enthralled by her voice, soon grows transfixed by her, but casually pretends otherwise, even as she begins to sing his poems. The resulting entanglements last a lifetime, but this novel (at least in this translation) ends up flatly sentimentalizing them, with the Middle East's turbulent history serving as a tense backdrop.