Egyptians who are neither rich nor middle class, but somewhere in the vast space beneath, what we alternately call lower-middle class, lower class, underclass, the marginalized, or the horrid “simple folk” (البسطاء).But, as she goes on to elucidate, Fadl has made his career out of peddling stereotypes of these ordinary Egyptians in films and TV -- and he does so in many of the essays. As Baheyya avers, this seems a shame because -- from her account, at least -- the book appears to open up a view of Egypt's proletariat (to use a word coined by another great essayist), at once traditional and modernising, that translations of Alaa al-Aswany's novels have only begun to broach for non-Arabic readers.
Baheyya has thoughtful reviews of two other works of non-fiction that cast a light: Karima a-Hifnawy's Diary of a Pharmacist (review), a memoir by an outstanding activist who -- like her better-known contemporary Nawal al-Saadawi -- combines medicine, human rights and an assured literary tone, and novelist Galal Amin's What Has Life Taught Me (review). The blogger may claim that
Autobiography is my least favourite literary genre, too easily prone to posturing and self-exoneration, or else heavy woe-is-me tales about the author’s suffering at the hands of a cruel world. Life is already too full of braggarts and whiners to have to be subjected to them in booksbut her reviews suggest that -- above and beyond the pitiful rate of fiction in translation (see ThreePercenter Chad Post's most recent round-up and sharp analysis of US stats at Publishing Perspectives -- we're missing out if memoirs, essays and autobiographies aren't crossing languages and cultures as well.