July 29, 2021

the Egyptian revolution, literary upheavals

“All these rubbish” (Kol hadha al-haraa), by Ezzedine Fishere, translated from Arabic (Egypt) by Hussein Emara and Victor Salama, Joëlle Losfeld, 282 p., € 22, digital € 16.

“Three seasons in hell” (‘Utârid), by Mohammad Rabie, translated from Arabic (Egypt) by Frédéric Lagrange, Actes Sud, “Sindbad”, 350 p., € 22.80, digital € 17.

The revolution passed over their lives, like a chariot over the corpse of the unknown soldier. This is the paradox of history: those who make it are often the last whose lives we know. All this bullshit the novel by Ezzedine Fishere, collects the destinies of the crushed heroes of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Who remembers Wael, Moheb and Tamer, the three “ultras” of the Cairo football club of Al-Ahly who came to the revolution by solidarity of supporters? Who remembers Hend, the feminist activist, and Moheb, the journalist, this solar couple that the revolution pulverized? Who remembers Bahaa and Sheriff, the gay couple forced to flee to New York?

All this bullshit is a tale of Thousand and one Night modern. No caliph and no slave here, but the essential is there: sex, words, death. And love perhaps, but this story remains to be written… The Scheherazade of the novel is a 22-year-old young man, Omar, who grew up in an Islamist environment. Its “caliph” is Amal, 29, an American of Egyptian and Christian origin, awaiting deportation from Egypt after a year of imprisonment for subversive activities for the benefit of a foreign NGO. For two nights and two days, these two, who have just met, will make love and dialogue. The novel is presented as the transcription of this closed session.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In Tahrir, Egyptian power clears its way

Fishere, diplomat and scholar in addition to being a novelist, has never hidden his support for the “Arab Spring”. He pulls some in All this bullshit a contrasting record: on the tails, so many lives destroyed, the return of dictatorship, the persistence of prejudices and the enslavement of society; on the other side, the irreversible awakening of youth, the concrete utopia of a better world, the shaking of security institutions. The dialogue between Omar and Amal, like a debate between two hemispheres of the same brain, stages this swing at the time of the assessment: negative like Omar the pessimist, or positive like Amal the optimist, whose name means “hope” in Arabic.

You have 48.76% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.