Being Abbas El Abd

by Ahmed Alaidy / translated by Humphrey Davies

‘This groundbreaking novel explores the mental landscape of what Alaidy calls the “autistic generation,” a generation cynical about politics and upset by the growing gap between the rich elite, an impoverished middle class and the poor struggling to survive.’
Arab News

“What is madness?” asks the narrator of Ahmed Aliady’s jittery, funny, and angry new novel, Being Abbas el Abd. Assuring readers that they are about to find out, the narrator takes us on his subsequent itinerary through the insanity of present-day Cairo — in and out of minibuses, malls, and crash pads. Assaulted on all sides by buxom but inaccessible co-eds, traffic cops, and minibus touts drumming belly-dance rhythms on the panelling of their vehicles, the narrator navigates the city’s pinball machine of social life with tolerable efficiency, and is ever ready with a a withering response.

Sharing the intensity of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club and the hip sensibility of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X, Ahmed Alaidy’s work pushes the limits of written Arabic, developing private meanings and personal rhythms that mirror the weft and warp of the narrator’s mind and revel in every linguistic register from the ironic high Classical Arabic to the ingenious abuse of the streets via the hip colloquial language of Egypt’s “what-have-I-got-to-lose” generation. A literary sensation in its original Arabic edition, Being Abbas el Abd heralds the arrival of a major new voice in Arabic literature.

AHMED ALAIDY was born in 1974, studied marketing at Cairo University, and has worked as a script writer on quiz shows and for the cinema, and as a book designer. He has written satirical stories for young people and currently writes a political comic strip for an Egyptian weekly. Being Abbas el Abd is his first novel.

HUMPHREY DAVIES is the translator of Thebes at War by Naguib Mahfouz (AUC Press, 2003). and Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury, for which he was awarded the Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation in 2006.

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