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The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Napoleon, Wittgenstein and the Egyptian Novel

Thanks to the Complete Review for this dazzler: Youssef Rakha channels the spirit of Wittgenstein for Tractato Franco-Arabicus, a playful and informative Al-Ahram review of Sonallah Ibrahim's recent novels about Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, Amrikanli (Dar Al-Mustaqbal, 2003) and its sequel Al-Qaanoun Al-Faransi (The French Law, Dar Al-Mustaqbal, 2009). In a fit of Wittgensteinian melancholy, Rakha concludes that whereof the postcolonial novel cannot speak, thereof it must remain silent:
3.5. The Turban and the Hat ends with the image of Dr Shukri waking up at 5 am to prepare for his return to the homeland -- only to find that copy of the conference programme on which he had written his address for Celine to have on the floor outside the door to his room.

3.5.1. "I picked it up to find a line in pencil beneath my address... 'My response is precisely that you are a naive, backward human being.' I put the programme in my handbag and proceeded to the lift with heavy steps."


4. An Arab novel about the Egyptian Campaign cannot go beyond that image.

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