Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Request


Hello good people. I write today with a simple request for book recommendations for my time here in Egypt. My roommate, Amr, works at the American University of Cairo's library and he has offered to check out books for me to read. Ideas in relevant topics like Mubarak, Nasser, Sadat, political Islam, Arab history and Arab literature are certainly welcome. Beyond the regional and religious reading, my other current interests include nationalism, Black Power, Henry Kissinger, and US foreign policy. There are also plans to read works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ayn Rand, Sayyid Qutb, George Packer and Olivier Roy. Also, I should probably read something about Thebes or Alexander the Great. A progressive education has left me in the dark in all that ancient jazz.

Feel free to post in the comment section or email me. Comments would be great, though, so other people can benefit from your advice.

Many thanks.


Lauren Jill Hatshepsut said...

Matt! I was at the last session at ILI, so most of the people there with you were there with me. I'll comment more in a response to your earlier July 6 posting.
Books: There's a "genre" I like of cross cultural titles, e.g., The Cairo House by Chapel Hill's own Samia Serageldin. It's quasi-autobiographical and therefore is rather loaded with history.
Another fiction writer is Ahdaf Soueif. I've only read her 2nd novel, The Map of Love. I'm eager to get the first, In the Eye of the Sun. Non-fiction I also have her Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground, "A collection of essays on Arab identity, art, and politics, such as articles in Manchester Guardian and book reviews. Contains rather damning stuff.
There's a very nice bookstore in Old Cairo, just north of the churches, synagogue and mosque. I bought Cairo Cats, a fantastic collection of photographs with excerpts from all sorts of writings, and a superb introduction. It sure catches the essence not only of Cairo cats, but Cairo. Distributed by AUC Press. I gave it to a young friend and have ordered my 2nd copy through Bull's Head. Would up talking with the store owner and others. In fact I constantly was talking with Egyptians.
I know a ton about the ancient stuff, which is only 1 of my interests; I imagine contemporary is at the top, then fill in everything in between. Don't have a single tome to recommend--Amr would be a better source.
I haven't seen the light with Naguib Mohfouz, but maybe someday I will.
I don't know how much you're into music (to read about in detail), but Scott L. Marcus has a brand new (important) book out, Music in Egypt or somesuch, published by Oxford University Press. It's about all the kinds of music of the present and recent past; perhaps is aimed at ethnomusicology classes (also gave away my copy). I imagine Meg Farrell is still studying at ILI; she could tell you about it (and others).
Speaking of music, I heard a lot of wonderful music. Each Wed. in Islamic Cairo is a free performance by Sufi dancers and musicians, all of whom are superb (I'm a musician myself). I went with Dutch student Martina (I think) and Jakeb (spelling?) who teaches in Arkansas, brought students, and is originally from Poland.
I haven't really addressed your categories, but have thrown out a few things that touched me.
I've been thinking of contacting you about how I might put my past month in Cairo on the blog. I've never posted on a blog, so am clueless where to start. Now that I’ve created a google account, maybe it will be obvious. Otherwise I’ll email you, or somesuch.
I'm hungry, but may later respond to your Cairo/ILI message (or this extremely slow and cranky computer). Best, and hi to people I know at ILI, maybe especially chef Hassan and Madame Izuzu (spelling) at the front desk. As well as director Barbara and the 2 Dahlias.
Cordially (you lucky dog to be there), Jill Oh, one more, I think: AUC's Cairo: The Practical Guide; get the latest (15th) ed., c2006, if you get it. Glance thro it. And I hope you've discovered the Culture Wheel on the west side of Zamalek, under the bridge--lots of concerts, exhibits, etc.

Taylor said...

yeah, it shouldn't take long to get through your fair share of nationalism, ayn rand, and qutb. so when that happens in a few weeks, it'll be just in time for the final harry potter!

Sam said...

if you get through 5% of what you intend to read, i'll be impressed.

george packer's 'assassins gate' is wicked. also, keep up with his stuff in the new yorker-- always worthwhile.

as for us foreign policy.... read my blog.

and careful with the qutb.

Matt said...

A friend passed along these books (stories?). Any thoughts?

Taha Hussein, The Days (Egypt)

Yehia Haqqi, Qindil Umm Hashim (Egypt)

Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North (Sudan)

Abd al-Hakim Qassim, Al-Mahdi (Egypt)

Idris Ali, Dongola (Egypt)

Abdul-Rahman Munif, Endings (Saudi Arabia)

Ibrahim al-Kuni, Bleeding of the Stone (Libya)

Ahdaf Soueif, Map of Love (Egypt)

Hanan al-Sheikh, The Story of Zahra (Lebanon)

Ghassan Kanafani, Men in the Sun (Palestine)

Ghassan Kanafani, All That is Left to You (Palestine)

Sahar Khalifah, Wild Thorns (Palestine)

Ahlam Mostaghanemi, Memory in the Flesh (Algeria)

Marium said...

Kanafani...hes awesome...see u tomorrow for dinner InshAllah!

Lauren Jill Hatshepsut said...

In the Eye of the Sun, by Ahdaf Soueif. I've finally gotten another "Egyptian novel," but I don't recommend it to you at this time, Matt, because it's 785 p. long. But would recommend it in general. The time frame is 1967-1980, so there's a lot of history. I mentioned her works in my earlier comment, and someone else also mentioned a later novel by her. Since this one begins in 1967, there's a lot of detailed history of the war at that time.

In the other comment I mentioned Serageldin's Cairo House. It's set in President Nasser's era, so also definitely has a realistic historical perspective.