That Smell and Notes from Prison by Sonallah Ibrahim

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Synopsis

That Smell is Sonallah Ibrahim’s modernist masterpiece and one of
the most influential Arabic novels. Composed in the wake of a five-year
prison sentence, the semi-autobiographical story follows a recently
released political prisoner as he wanders through Cairo, adrift in his
native city.

That
Smell
is Sonallah Ibrahim’s
modernist masterpiece and one of the most influential novels written in Arabic
since WWII. Composed after a five-year term in prison, the
semi-autobiographical story follows a recently released political prisoner as
he wanders through Cairo, adrift in his native city. Living under house arrest,
he tries to write of his tortuous experience, but instead smokes, spies on the
neighbors, visits old lovers, and marvels at Egypt’s new consumer culture. Published
in 1966, That Smell was
immediately banned and the print-run confiscated. The original, uncensored
version did not appear in Egypt for another twenty years.

For this edition, translator Robyn Creswell has also
included an annotated selection of the author’s Notes from Prison, Ibrahim’s prison diaries—a personal archive
comprising hundreds of handwritten notes copied onto Bafra-brand cigarette
papers and smuggled out of jail. These stark, intense writings shed unexpected
light on the sources and motives of Ibrahim’s groundbreaking novel. Also
included in this edition is Ibrahim’s celebrated essay about the writing and
reception of That Smell.





 

About Sonallah Ibrahim

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Sonallah Ibrahim, the author of eight novels, was born in Cairo in 1937. After studying law at Cairo University he became a journalist. In 1959 he was arrested for his political activities and served five years of a seven-year prison sentence. During that time he wrote Notes from Prison, and shortly after his release composed his pioneering work, That Smell. For several years he lived in Germany and the Soviet Union, and returned to Cairo in 1974 where he has lived ever since. In October 2003 he won the Egyptian government’s Higher Council for Culture Arab Novel Award. At the ceremony Ibrahim declined the prestigious prize, saying he could not accept a literary honor from “a government that lacks the credibility to bestow it.” Robyn Creswell is the translator of Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Clash of Images and poetry editor of The Paris Review. He is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University.
 
Published February 19, 2013 by New Directions. 121 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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