New translations of novellas from the Egyptian short-story master that explore one of Arabic literature’s most enduring themes, East meets West Yusuf Idris was undoubtedly one of Egypt’s most talented and versatile writers in the second half of the twentieth century. The first two novellas in this volume, Madam Vienna and The Secret of His Power, come from the peak period in his career, the late 1950s and early 1960s, while New York 80 belongs to his late period, the 1980s. Yet something holds these three works together, despite their different periods and their scattered settings: Vienna, an Egyptian Delta village, and New York. They all deal with a seminal theme in Arabic fiction since its nascent years and until today: the East–West encounter, often treated allegorically by Arab writers through a love story between an Arab man and a Western woman who stand for their respective cultures. In these three novellas, Idris harnesses his remarkable narrative skills to tell us some of the most memorable stories of the encounter in Arabic fiction.
Described by Tawfiq al-Hakim as “the renovator and genius of the short story,” Yusuf Idris was one of the great figures of twentieth-century Arabic literature. He was born in 1927, graduated from medical college in 1951, and practiced medicine for several years. His first collection of stories was published in 1956. In 1960 he gave up medicine to become editor of the Cairo daily newspaper al-Gumhuriya, and he continued to write and publish prolifically until his death in 1991. His novel City of Love and Ashes was published in English translation by the AUC Press in 1998. The Essential Yusuf Idris, edited by Denys Johnson-Davies, was published by the AUC Press in 2009.
Rasheed El-Enany is emeritus professor of modern Arabic literature at the University of Exeter. He is the author of Naguib Mahfouz: His Life and Times (AUC Press, 2007).
City of Love and Ashes
ISBN 978 977 424 699 9 Paperback
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