Fiction in Translation
English edition  
March  2002
174 pp.
Paperback
12.5X20 cm
$15.95
LE100
ISBN 9789774247163
For sale only in the Middle East

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The Committee

Sonallah Ibrahim
Translated by Mary St. Germain
Charlene Constable
Afterword by Roger Allen

A Kafkaesque vision from the author of Zaat

Sonallah Ibrahim has been called the Egyptian Kafka. And no wonder: this wry tale revolves around its narrator’s attempts to petition successfully the elusive “Committee.” Consequences for his actions range from the absurd to the hideous. In Kafkaesque fashion—an intriguingly symbolic and minimalist style—Ibrahim offers an unbroken first-person narrative rendered in brief, crisp prose framed by a conspicuous absence of vivid imagery. Furthermore, the petitioner is a man without identity. The ideal antihero, he remains unnamed throughout the intricate plot, with a locale suggestive of 1970s Cairo. The Committee, first published in Arabic in 1981, sardonically pierces the inflammatory terrain between ordinary men, unbridled displays of power, and other broader concerns of the author’s native Egypt. The novel’s corrosive, shocking conclusion catapults satiric surrealism into a new realm.
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Sonallah Ibrahim was born in 1937. After studying law and drama at Cairo University, he became a journalist in Cairo until his arrest and imprisonment in 1959. Upon his release in 1964, he briefly returned to journalism in Egypt before moving to Berlin and Moscow. He returned to Egypt in 1976 and since then has dedicated all his time to writing. In 1999 he was a visiting associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies of the University of California at Berkeley. His satirical novel Zaat was translated and published by the AUC Press in 2001. Mary St. Germain is head of the Near East Section at the University of Washington libraries. Charlene Constable studied Arabic at the University of Washington and has traveled in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

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“Kafkaesque in its presentation, the story is allegorical on many levels: Egyptian and Middle Eastern politics and regimes, conspiracy theory groups, even theological in one interpretation. This story of a man who is summoned to meet the committee (who is it? what does it want with him?) is gripping in its simplicity and stimulating in its profundity.”—The Global Ministries

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