Temple Bar by Bahaa Abdelmegid

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Temple Bar by Bahaa Abdelmegid

Egyptian fiction

Original title – Khammarat al-ma’bad

Translator – Jonathan Wright

Source – personal copy

So we move from Lampedusa yesterday across the med to North Africa and an Egyptian Novel mainly set in Dublin. As I have felt I haven’t reviewed enough Arab fiction I have gone out and got some recently and this is the first of those I am reviewing. Bahaa Abdelmegid is a lecturer in English literature at Cario University. He himself was a student in Ireland at Trinty College at the same time as the character in his book Moataz. Not entirely Autobiographical in an interview at the time the book came out he wants the hero of the book to be like those in Passage to India or A Death in Venice.

As soon as she had gone, the landlord and I went up to the room. He was aman in his seventies, but well-built, with sever features, a powerful voice, and white hair like his mother.He showed me how to use the gas meter saying that you have to put fifty to cook a meal and warm the room for two hours, fifty pence to use the electricty for a day and fifty pence to have a shower.The more energy you cosumed the , the more you paid. I remembered reading in the Cario newspaper Al-Abram that Ireland imports natrual gas from Egypt through an underwater pipeline.

The cost of his digs adds up bit by bit as he is told how far fifty pence will go in the meters.

Moataz has got a scholarship to Trinity college as he is doing a Ph.D. on the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. He has a family that has very high expectations of him. So the trip to Dublin has given him a breathing space in his world. He arrives and is sent to a boarding house with an old fashion landlord that tells him he will have to pay fifty pence for this fifty pence for this. He nearly ends up on the street early on when his father is late putting money in his account and leaves him penniless. He wanders the streets and sees the ghost of Ireland great writers as he wanders like the hero of Joyce Ulysses Bloom and Stephen did. Moataz is a man haunted by those women he left behind failed romance and the woman he meets in Dublin and is drawn to them. He struggles forced in the middle of the day to sell flowers to make ends meet. He also ends up in Trouble with the law in Dublin which leads him to head out of town. The trip out of town has a lasting effect on him he heads North to Belfast and the troubles in the north. A different city from Dublin he says full of politics and struggle but leaves it calling it his O beautiful Belfast as it was where Heaney studied at Queens. He eventually returns to Cario and marries but is a man changed by his time in Dublin.

The beautiful women of Dublin

When I started at Trinity college in Dublin, I couldn’t work out the university women. I couldn’t tell whteher they were conservative and shy,or whether they just didn’t welcome freindship with a young foreign man. They didn’t speak to me and I couldn’t find the right words to start a conversation with them. Pergaps I was shy too, perhaps I  had litttle knowledge of women ot too many miscinceptions of western- that they were easy and available , so why was it difficult to get to know them ?

Moataz and his experience early on with the women of the university before he met Simone!

I choose this book just because it is a book about a subject I love that of Culture clash seeing a place you know well through another cultures eyes. I spent a lot of time in my youth in Ireland mostly around Belfast but have also spent time in Dublin. This is like Heinrich Boll’s book Irish Journal or Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas one that is an ode to the country and the writers that haunt the city of Dublin especially Joyce. Although the modern multinational Dublin we see through Moataz eyes is a far cry from Bloom’s Dublin his view of the city is similar crossing the Liffey, flower sellers and underlying sexual desires. Bloom and Moataz share that repressed nature one remembers Blooms description of the woman on the beach in Ulysses that is echoed somewhat in Moataz meet Simone. He also captures the time this is just after the Good Friday deal but at this time the bombing of Omagh happened which is touched on a bombing that touched our family as we have relatives in that town as well that had friends effect by the bomb. A short book easily read in a day but one seep in the writers love for Ireland and the writers but also the effects of that town on a young Egyptian writer.

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