Coping with a Failed Revolution

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James Currey


The Democracy Spring, or “the Arab Spring,” that stretched roughly from December 2010 to mid-2012 and seemed to cross many borders almost at the same time has unsurprisingly become a persistent focus for Egyptian novelists, and they are offering the most cohesive set of responses to that startling turn in contemporary Arab history. Their creative spectrum of reflections on the initial hopes and ultimate disillusionment range from ongoing defiance and hope, to a resigned acceptance. Formalistically this range of responses has expressed itself in self-deprecating wit, demonstrable in Nael Eltoukhy’s Women of Karantina (2014); surrealist abstraction and universalist imagery in Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue (2013 [trans. 2016]); a despairing dystopic vision of a relentlessly brutal future in Mohammed Rabie’s Otared (2014 [English translation, 2016); and a personal philosophical reflection on the nature of change and stasis, in Yasmine el Rashidi’s Chronicle of a Last Summer (2016). Only when such very different works are read together can one appreciate the complex psychological upheaval that is very much alive in Egyptian—and Arabic—society.

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ALT 35: African Literature Today Focus on Egypt


Ernest N. Emenyonu