Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

 

Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

Egyptian fiction

Original title أجنحة الفراشة

Translator – Raphael Cohen

Source – Library edition

I took some short novels from the library to read on my time off , but as ever when you are away time was short sightseeing and spending time with amanda but I did manage to read this great Arabic novel by Mohamed Salmawy . Salmawy is the president of the writers union of Egypt and secretary-general of the Arab Writers and also editor of a leading daily newspaper. This book came out just before the events of 2011 , so in a way is quite insightful about what happened then .

Doha imagined that meeting Ashraf al-Zayni on the plane had been a chance encounter.It would be over when the flight ended and they went their separate ways- she to Milan for the annual fashion show and he to Palermo in Scilly for the international NGO conference. Fate , however had something in store for her that she neither expected nor imagined.

The three and a half hours of the flight from Cario to Rome left an impression that would remain with her for the rest of her life.She had never met anyone like Ashraf al-Zayni before .She saw in him something she not seen in other politicians, plus  he had brought back to life something inside her that she had not believed still existed

The chancce encounter leaves an impression on the both .

This is a story with two main characters in it Doha is a fashion designer , a sort of link between the west and arab world , she comfortably travels between here homeland and The fashion world of Italy . Her husband is a leading figure in the Murbareck regime . We see their privileged world . But after a chance encounter with Dr Ashraf a man from the opposition she meets when they are both in Rome after talking to him she sees a new insight into her world . But even with this sense the wind may be changing in her homeland she returns and like the old saying about chaos theory a butterfly wings flapping can change the world the butterfly appears time after time whether flying or in patterns on the clothes Doha is wanting to show , the two meet later in the book as the tables are turned slightly from their first meeting  . Add to that a couple of small side stories about a man waiting to meet his internet wife and a pair of brothers hunting for the real mother.

Unable to rest, Doha flicked through The butterflies of Egypt , she came to a photograph of the mural in the tomb where the ancient  Egyptian artist had painted a picture of the butterfly . The tomb belonged to a noble called Nob Amun. According to the book , there were fifty-eight indigenous species in Egypt , which was a relatively small number in comparison with other countries. This was due to Egypt’s desert environment . Neverless , Egypt’s butterflies had adapted to the harsh conditions and were able to survive and maintain their beauty despite hardships

LIke the country itself the butterflies make a good metaphor from the Egypt post Arab spring .

This is another book that captures the can of worms that was opened in Egypt when Murbarek regime was on the verge of collapsing as part of the Arab spring A figure like Ashraf , is a passionate voice of a the young people on the street we saw so much in the TV coverage  clever wanting a bright future , which as we know never really happened . There is also echos of this change in the brothers seeking their mother a new mother maybe is clever metaphor for a new country and leadership. I also love the subtle use of butterflies as a recurring Motif throughout the book. But also a larger motif of the country emerging as a butterfly from it catalyst moment of the riots being the start of something beautiful like a pure white Butterfly. This is clever look at the recent past of Egypt.

2084 the end of the world by Boualem Sansal

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2084 The end of the world by Boualem Sansal

Algerian fiction

Original title – 2084  La fin du Monde

Translator – Alison Anderson

Source -review copy

A few weeks as they say in politics is a lifetime and since I read this at the turn of the year this book has probably more meaning than it did two weeks ago .Boualem Sansal is a writer that talks about the uncertain world we live in his books are frequently banned in his homeland, I have reviewed him before with his book Harraga  , this book is set in a distant future and is a reworking in a way of Orwell’s book 1984.

The reasons for these restrictions are not known. They date from long ago. The truth is that the question had never occurred to anyone, harmony had reigned for so long that no one knew of any reason for disquiet .Even disease and death, which took their turn more often than was fair, had no effect on people’s moral. Yolah is great and Abi is his faithful delegate.

This is what happens when one man takes power to far the rest forget why the rules were put down in the first place .

 

Ati lives in a future where his country Abistan is a totaliranian regieme the coutry is named after its leader Abi a man that found and was given a new book to live by from a new god Yolah . The new religion is of course a twisted version of Islam we see beheading , stoning of the criminals as examples to the nation. As they have to pray nine times a day  . Now he happens to meet an archeologist that says he has discovered some truths in the caves about the village they have found Nas tells Ati about this but this discovery could threaten the regime that wants to control the lives of the citizens by watching the every move like in 1984 . Can ATi and his friend Koa get to the village and discover the real truth behind Yolah and Abi ? Before they are caught by the regime !

Over time Ati found some peace, which allowed him to settle into the routine he dreamt of. At last he was a believer like all the other; he was no longer in danger. He rediscovered the pleasure of living from day to day without worrying about tomorrow, and the joy of believing without asking any questions. Rebellion is impossible in a closed world where there is no way out. True faith is in surrender and submission, Yolah is omnipotent, and Abi is the flock’s infallible shepherd

Ati nearly falls for a quiet life of being blind to the truths around him that he knows are their .

Well how strange the book has so many echoes of what is happening now this is of course the other end of Trumps world a state that  has taken an extreme version of Islam that seems very similar to the language of Trumps world . Even the fact the village means the history is different to the History Abi is trying to give other since I read the book I am reminded of the Alternative Facts quote from the Trump camp. This is a timely novel as much as 1984 is seen to have much in common with Trump this take on 1984 is maybe more scary as this is partly Trump but maybe what could happen if the regimes Trump has just kicked by banning their citizens take another path could become Abistan. I can see why this book made a lot of book prize shortlist in France it is maybe better than Houellbecq book that every one was talking about last year . A powerful book against totalitarianism in all its forms whether eastern or western!

1984 no sorry its now 2084 the first book in the post of 2017

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Well the first book I got sent this year is from a writer I have reviewed before Boualem Sansal is an Algerian writer that has had his works banned and censored in his homeland. I reviewed Harraga Two years ago. This is of course an homage in a way to Orwell’s  great book 1984 and also a work  against all totalitarian regiemes here  in the future a country called Abistan after its spiritual leader a place where like in Orwell’s world every move is watch we find one man who is trying to find a new truth. What was your first book of 2017

The Final Bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

 

 

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The Final bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Moroccan fiction

Original title – al-Rihan al-akhir

Translator – Jonathan Smolin

Source – review copy

This is the second from The new AUC impress Hoopoe fiction I was sent late last year . Abdelilah Hamdouchi is a Morrocan writer of crime fiction he was one of the first writers of this genre to be translated into English. He has written 8 novels and also written for television and cinema were all his novels have been made into Dramas. He lives in Rabat in  Morocco.

As for Sofia’s body, it was lying on the bed drenched in blood. Her nightgown was open at the waist. Her right arm was extended as if she wanted to grab something. The left hung down to the ground. She was lying on the edge of the bed and looked like she was about to fall off, but death had frozen her in this position. Alwaar stared at her pale face and understood the meaning of the inspector’s ambiguous smile.He looked for Boukrisha among the other cops in thee room.

“The young guy downstairs , that’s her husband ?”

Alwaar sees the dead seventy year old woman and on way to her room meet her thirty year old husband.

Well this book The final bet claims to have been the first Arabic crime novel to be translated to English.I have actually the original edition of this book when it came out a few years ago sat on my shelves , IO see the translation may have been update in this new edition. The book follows a murder the woman whom is murdered is a french woman living in Morocco , she married a few years earlier Othman a Moroccan who was forty years his wife Sofia’s Junior. He own son is even older than her husband and he is also about when the crime is committed . Now Othman has fallen for a woman more his own age since him and Sofia married Nameea , he get very little time to sneak out and meet his mistress. Sophia is ever watching so a walk out with the dog or a trip to the shop are the short snatches of time they capture. It is one of these meetings late one night Othman returns from his meeting to find his wife stabbed in her chest.. This enter the Moroccan Police in the form of a detective Alwaar and the inspector he reports too Boukrisha. They almost from the start put the crime as one cause by the husband , and blame him. Even thou he could give an alibi , he tries to get more help from an old friend who is now an up and coming Lawyer that has been waiting for a chance to show how the police can be wrong sometimes.

For alwaar, this was the most difficult stage of any investigation. He’d look for what the evidence was telling him and read from every angle before moving to the next step. This made Alwaar move slowly, testing the patience of his assistants, who were always standing around, awaiting orders.

he finally got down to buisnees.He walked around the beside table and, with a cloth wrapped around his hand opened the top drawer, taking out a box lined with silk. He opened the lid and found it full of jewelry: Gold earings, a diamond necklace, and a ring with a sparkling jewel.He immediately ruled out theft as a motive for the murder.

The point I felt Alwaar is part Maigret but this also point Othman is the main suspect!

This is a short Book  as i would say one of those evening reads . It is an interesting insight into a new police force . We haven;t had many books looking at law and order in the Arabic world, as this was one of the first crime novels from the arabic world to break out. I wonder how many more in the coming years we will see as we see the Police in this part of the world like it is here in Morocco has changed over time  This may be owes a debt to Simenon in a way the lead detective Alwaar is maybe an homage to the French detective , even down to having a scene at home like we often see in the Maigret novels. What on the surface from the police point of view as we could see the young man killing his rich much older wife is so much more it turns out.I enjoyed this it was an enjoyable crime novel with a new setting and angles in it .

 

 

Looking forward 2017 Arab and Quebec book and a White read along

Well I am pleased to see the back off 2017. I spent last few months slowly blogging just think about the turn of the new year being a new start for the blog. I have recieved some great books this last few weeks of 2016. So the start of the year will see one real Gem a Quebec novella The brothers .A truely surreal book.

 

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Then I have started on the first few books from the new press from AUC Hoopoe press  . I have read one book already Otared by Mohammad Rabie a book shortlist for the Arabic book prize.They also have some great books coming as well as these other arabic gems on Arablits post of what is coming this next year.

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THen In March I join Messy Tony , Grant and Kimbfo in a read along of the great Novel Voss by Patrick white He is the only Aussie writer so far to win the Nobel prize . This is described by the Guardian as .  A love story set against the disappearance of an explorer in the outback, Voss paved the way for a generation of Australian writers to shrug off the colonial past when it was no 77 in there 100 best novels . So join us from March the first and talk about the book ?

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I will be doing the shadow man booker again for the sixth year and the first part of this year will see me reviewing some books from the past year as I try to catch up.

Happy new year for tomorrow from allnhere at Winstonsdad .

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