A novel set against the Cairo ‘bread riots’ of 1977 from the author of Nile Sparrows One long winter night and the Cairo neighborhood of Kit Kat stands at a crossroads. Poised like herons fishing on the banks of the Nile, the characters of this novel wait and watch as opportunities swim by past their reach. Some gaze on as their local café is stolen before their eyes. One studies how the nouveaux riches of the Open Door Policy make their money, while others try their own hand at swindle. Still others read the empty rhetoric of state-run newspapers and wonder what it all means. It is long past midnight; some walk, some sit and smoke, and all are trading stories. A young artist waits by himself for a girl, a drink, or a revolution. All are waiting for what the next day might bring.
Set on the eve of the January 1977 “bread riots” against IMF austerity programs and privatization that nearly brought down President Anwar Sadat, The Heron catches Egypt in the mid-stream of its modern history. Since it first appeared in 1984, Ibrahim Aslan’s The Heron has been a classic of modern Arabic literature. It has been translated into a number of European languages and adapted as the successful film Kit Kat.
Ibrahim Aslan (1937–2012) was born in Tanta in the Nile Delta. He published his first collection of short stories, Buhayrat al-misa’ (‘Evening Lake’), in 1971. The Heron, his first novel, was published in Arabic in 1983. He is also the author of Nile Sparrows (AUC Press, 2004).
ELLIOT COLLA teaches comparative literature at Brown University. His book Conflicted Antiquities is a study of the figures of Egyptian antiquities in European travel writing, museum discourses, and modern Egyptian literature.