All Roads Lead to Brooklyn – Part III (Middle East)

One sure way to get a sense of the Middle East of today is through its history and literature, some of it home-grown and some by westerners.

http://img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/c2/c14831.jpg$35.00 hardcover each $16.00 paperback

  • Naguib Mahfouzs magnificent Cairo Trilogy (available in single volume or separately) traces three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons–the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. Al-Sayyid Ahmads rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination in Palace of Desire, as the world around them opens to the currents of modernity and political and domestic turmoil brought by the 1920s. Sugar Street brings Mahfouzs vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician. Throughout the trilogy, the familys trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two World Wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, The Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller.

each $15.00 paperback

  • The Alexandria Quartet is a series of four novels by Lawrence Durrell (available in a boxed set as well as individual titles) set in the Egyptian city during the 1940s. The first three volumes describe, from different viewpoints, a series of events in Alexandria before World War II; the fourth carries the story forward into the war years. The events of the narrative are mostly seen through the eyes of one L.G. Darley, who observes the interactions of his lovers, friends, and acquaintances in Alexandria. In Justine, Darley attempts to recover from and understand his recently ended affair with Justine Hosnani. Reviewing various papers and examining his memories, he reads the events of his recent past in romantic terms. Balthazar, named for Darleys friend, a doctor and mystic, reinterprets Darleys views from a philosophical and intellectual point of view. The third novel, Mountolive, is a straightforward narrative of events, and Clea, volume four, reveals Darley healing, maturing, and becoming capable of loving Clea Montis, a painter and the woman for whom he was destined.

$14.99 paperback

  • The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of 20th-century literature. In this intensely fascinating story, Paul Bowles examines the ways in which Americans’ incomprehension of alien cultures leads to the ultimate destruction of those cultures. A story about three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky explores the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert.

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid takes us a bit far afield, to a cafГ© table in Lahore, where a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter. Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite valuation firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. But in the wake of september 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

$13.95 paperback

  • Childhood best friends Bassam and George have grown to be men in war-ravaged Beirut. Now, in Rawi Hage’s novel, De Niro’s Game, they must choose between the only two futures available to them: to stay in the devastated city and consolidate power through crime or to go into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have ever known. Told in a distinctive, captivating voice that fuses vivid cinematic imagery, a page-turning plot, and exquisite, dark poetry, De Niros Game is an explosive portrait of life in a war zone and a powerful meditation on what comes after. The author was born in Beirut and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war.

$14.99 paperback

  • Shattered by his wifes death, and by his own role in it, successful cardiologist Charles Anderson volunteers to assist with earthquake relief in an impoverished Islamic country in a constant state of conflict with its neighbor. But when the refugees hes come to help do not appear and artillery begins to fall in the distance along the border, the story takes an unexpected turn. Right of Thirst is a haunting, resonant tour de force about one mans desire to live a moral life offers a moving exploration of the tensions between poverty and wealth, the ethics of intervention, the deep cultural differences that divide the world, and the essential human similarities that unite it. An emergency physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the author of this novel, Frank Huyler, grew up in Iran, Brazil, and Japan.

$13.00 paperback

  • An autobiographical erotic novel written by an observant Muslim woman in contemporary North Africa, The Almond by Nedjma is an extraordinary and pioneering literary work, a truly unforgettable journey into the sexual undercurrents of a world that is, outwardly and to Western eyes, puritanical. Badra is a young Muslim widow who flees the small town of Imchouk to take refuge with her Uncle Slimanes iconoclastic ex-wife. In Imchouk, it was expected that Badras life should be limited by her husbands wishes, but at Aunt Selmas, Badra begins to think about how she wants to live from now on. When she develops a passionate, consuming relationship with a wealthy doctor, Badra remembers and rediscovers her own sexual being, in scenes that are erotic, revelatory, and sometimes bittersweet.

$25.00 hardcover

  • In 1930, Evelyn Waugh went out to Abyssinia as special correspondent for The Times of London to cover the coronation of the Emperor Ras Tafari—Haile Selassie I, King of the Kings of Ethiopia. Waughs account of the coronation is included in Waugh Abroad: The Collected Travel Writing, an entertaining volume in its entirety. The countryside, cities, towns and villages are vividly described and just as vividly populated: natives rub shoulders on Waughs pages with eccentric expatriates; settlers with Arab traders; and dignitaries with Armenian monks. No literary trip through the Middle East would be complete without Waugh’s eccentric company.

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