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That Smell and Notes from Prison
     

That Smell and Notes from Prison

by Sonallah Ibrahim, Robyn Creswell (Translator)
 

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That Smell is Sonallah Ibrahim’s modernist masterpiece and one of the most influential Arabic novels. Composed in the wake of a five-year prison sentence, the semi-autobiographical story follows a recently released political prisoner as he wanders through Cairo, adrift in his native city.That Smell is Sonallah Ibrahim’s modernist masterpiece and one of

Overview

That Smell is Sonallah Ibrahim’s modernist masterpiece and one of the most influential Arabic novels. Composed in the wake of a five-year prison sentence, the semi-autobiographical story follows a recently released political prisoner as he wanders through Cairo, adrift in his native city.That Smell is Sonallah Ibrahim’s modernist masterpiece and one of the most influential novels written in Arabic since WWII. Composed after a five-year term in prison, the semi-autobiographical story follows a recently released political prisoner as he wanders through Cairo, adrift in his native city. Living under house arrest, he tries to write of his tortuous experience, but instead smokes, spies on the neighbors, visits old lovers, and marvels at Egypt’s new consumer culture. Published in 1966, That Smell was immediately banned and the print-run confiscated. The original, uncensored version did not appear in Egypt for another twenty years.For this edition, translator Robyn Creswell has also included an annotated selection of the author’s Notes from Prison, Ibrahim’s prison diaries—a personal archive comprising hundreds of handwritten notes copied onto Bafra-brand cigarette papers and smuggled out of jail. These stark, intense writings shed unexpected light on the sources and motives of Ibrahim’s groundbreaking novel. Also included in this edition is Ibrahim’s celebrated essay about the writing and reception of That Smell.

Editorial Reviews

J. M. Coetzee
“The pervasive moral corruption of Nasser’s Egypt seeps up between the lines of Ibrahim’s seemingly affectless prose. A landmark in Egyptian literature.”
Benjamin Kunkel
“Robyn Creswell’s translation of Ibrahim's exhiliratingly bleak novelgives English-speaking readers a new classic of mid-century existentialism and, at the same time, a window onto an Egypt too few of us have glimpsed in literature or elsewhere.”
Yasmine El Rashidi - The New York Review of Books
“That Smellmarks a significant entry into the diminutive collection of Arabic literature translated into English, providing a dramatic new view of literature to American readers who otherwise see hardly any of it.”
Lorin Stein - The Paris Review Daily
“Robyn Creswell has knocked it out of the park with his translation of Sonallah Ibrahim’s modern Egyptian classic.”
The Daily Star - Lebanon
“To this day, That Smell is a modernist masterpiece, a peerless provocation and a lodestar in the history of Arabic literature.”
Jeremy Lybarger - Los Angeles Review of Books
“A controlled howl of fury.”
The Daily Beast
“Bold, uncompromising writing.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811220361
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
03/22/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
120
Sales rank:
1,379,363
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Benjamin Kunkel
Robyn Creswell’s translation of Ibrahim's exhiliratingly bleak novel gives English-speaking readers a new classic of mid-century existentialism and, at the same time, a window onto an Egypt too few of us have glimpsed in literature or elsewhere.
J. M. Coetzee
The pervasive moral corruption of Nasser’s Egypt seeps up between the lines of Ibrahim’s seemingly affectless prose. A landmark in Egyptian literature.

Meet the Author

Born in Cairo in 1937, Sonallah Ibrahim studied law at Cairo University and was imprisoned in 1959 for his political activities. After his release he spent several years abroad and returned in 1974 to Cairo, where he has lived ever since. In 2004 he was awarded — and pointedly declined — the Egyptian government’s prestigious Novelist of the Year prize.

A critic, translator, and scholar, Robyn Creswell is currently the poetry editor for the Paris Review and assistant professor of comparative literature at Yale.

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