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Proud Beggars

Overview

Early in Proud Beggars, a brutal and motiveless murder is committed in a Cairo brothel. But the real mystery at the heart of Albert Cossery’s wry black comedy is not the cause of this death, but the paradoxical richness to be found in even the most materially impoverished life. Chief among Cossery’s characteristically proud beggars is Gohar, a former professor turned beggar, whorehouse accountant, hashish aficionado, and street philosopher. Such is his native charm that he has accumulated a small coterie that ...
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Proud Beggars

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Overview

Early in Proud Beggars, a brutal and motiveless murder is committed in a Cairo brothel. But the real mystery at the heart of Albert Cossery’s wry black comedy is not the cause of this death, but the paradoxical richness to be found in even the most materially impoverished life. Chief among Cossery’s characteristically proud beggars is Gohar, a former professor turned beggar, whorehouse accountant, hashish aficionado, and street philosopher. Such is his native charm that he has accumulated a small coterie that includes Yeghen, a rhapsodic poet and drug dealer and El Kordi, an ineffectual clerk and would-be revolutionary who dreams of rescuing a consumptive prostitute from her miserable life. The police investigator Nour El Din, harboring a dark secret of his own, suspects all three of the brothel murder, but finds himself captivated by their warm good humor. He is drawn to these men. How is it that they live surrounded by degrading poverty, yet possess a joie de vivre that even the most assiduous forces of state cannot suppress? Do they, despite their rejection of social norms and all ambition, hold the secret of earthly contentment? And so this short novel, considered one of Cossery’s masterpieces, is at once biting social commentary, police procedural, and a mischievous delight in its own right.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The book that perhaps best expresses Cossery’s characteristic outlook on life and is still his best-known work. Marked by Cossery’s trademark elegance, the novel is humorous and reflective by turns. This is a world of simple pleasures, charming humour and the mockery of anything that might smack of authority.”  —David Tresilian, Al Ahram Weekly

“Albert Cossery...ought to be a household name. he’s that good: an elegant stylist, an unrelenting ironist, his great subject the futility of ambition ‘in a world where everything is false.’” —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590174425
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 772,243
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Albert Cossery (1913–2008) was born in Cairo. He settled in Paris after the Second World War and lived there for the rest of his life among some of the most influential writers and artists of the last century. In 1990 Cossery was awarded the Grand Prix de la francophonie de l’Académie française. His books, which have been translated into more than fifteen languages, include Men God Forgot, The House of Certain Death, The Splendid Conspiracy, and The Jokers (available from NYRB Classics).

Alyson Waters has translated books by Vassilis Alexakis, Louis Aragon, René Belletto, Réda Bensmaia, Albert Cossery, and Tzvetan Todorov. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship, a PEN Translation Fund Grand, a residency grant from the Centre national du livre, and was twice a translator in residence at the Villa Gillet in Lyon, France. She teaches literary translation in the French Department of Yale University, is the managing editor of Yale French Studies, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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