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AUC Press's Description
A young Bedouin leaves his small village for Cairo, settling in a fringe neighborhood, in a building peopled by a tragicomic cast of characters on the margins of society. He becomes a fly-on-the-wall, the hoarder of his neighbor’s most sacred and scandalous secrets, observing the antics of would-be transvestite Sayf, drug-dealing Gamal, Shaykh Hassan the devout sinner, the sex-selling Doctoress, and the irrepressible vocal stylings of the matriarch Um Gamal. Yet our narrator cannot remain blameless for long, and his transgressions, too, are eventually revealed, leaving him at the mercy of the build-ing’s owner, the just and unmerciful Abu Gamal.
Hamdi Abu Golayyel combines a vivid rendering of absurd, all-too-human characters with a sharp ear for appropriating all levels of language—from literary, historical, and formal Arabic to the lowest vernacular of the Cairo streets—to critique established ideologies and the way they shape human relations and underground pursuits in modern Egyptian society. It is a story of the arbitrariness of life, and the search for purpose and dignity in a social milieu that offers little hope for either.
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