Review of Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashid

image

About Chronicle of a Last Summer

Cairo, 1984. A blisteringly hot summer. A young girl in a sprawling family house. Her days pass quietly: listening to a mother’s phone conversations, looking at the Nile from a bedroom window, watching the three state-sanctioned TV stations with the volume off, daydreaming about other lives. Underlying this claustrophobic routine is mystery and loss. Relatives mutter darkly about the newly-appointed President Mubarak. Everyone talks with melancholy about the past. People disappear overnight. Her own father has left, too—why, or to where, no one will say.

We meet her across three decades, from youth to adulthood: As a six-year old absorbing the world around her, filled with questions she can’t ask; as a college student and aspiring filmmaker pre-occupied with love, language, and the repression that surrounds her; and then later, in the turbulent aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrow, as a writer exploring her own past. Reunited with her father, she wonders about the silences that have marked and shaped her life.

My Thoughts

“I heard the word revolution all the time but didn’t know exactly what it meant. Nobody answered me when I asked.”

I was captivated from the start. The intricate political views and opinions from the inside, the pauses of ambiguity contributed to my fascination. Purely political driven, conflicting views create interest.

Having a privileged young girl serve as narrator as she comes of age including her politics is insightful. She’s observant, knows when not to ask questions, a sponge soaking in all she hears, sees and is told, she is aware of much more than realized. Not easily influenced as her cousin Dido discovers.

A country and its people changed through the revolving door of power, politics and imprisonment. How life is in a constant state of flux and the days of permanence missed. You definitely feel as if you’re looking from the inside out, a privy intimate glimpse into the political upheaval of this complicated and controversial country through the eyes of a young girl cum young adult.

About Yasmine El Rashidiimage

Yasmine El Rashidi is an Egyptian writer. She is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, and an editor of the Middle East arts and culture quarterly Bidoun. She lives in Cairo, where she is currently translating the works of Egyptian novelist Khairallah Ali.

Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by Tim Duggan Books

Advertisements

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

image

“A man does not know a woman’s value, Firdaus. She is the one who determines her value. The higher you price yourself, the more he will realize what you are really worth.”

Saadawi brilliantly describes the predicament of Firdaus, a woman sentenced to death for a slaying in self-defense.


“Everybody has to die. I prefer to die for a crime I have committed rather than to die for one of the crimes which you have committed.”

Firdaus tells her life story which is heartbreaking, a story often retold in many regions throughout the world. A woman’s independence in a patriarchal society, female circumcision and subjugation of women are unfolded in the telling of Woman at Point Zero. Saadawi an accomplished feminist author creates a self-analysis on why males behave they way they do. She points the story in the direction of how men view women. This story should not be looked upon strictly towards third world countries but the entire world.

“Every single man I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face.”

An emotional story, a courageous heroine giving insight to issues frequently ignored as well as a hard look at attaining respect, and the nature of power.

Firdaus is an incredible woman, a steady voice of strength for women suffering oppression and senseless abuse in the name of religion or cultural traditions. A woman defining heroine.

“Yet not for a single moment did I have any doubts about my own integrity and honour as a woman. I knew that my profession had been invented by men, and that men were in control of both our worlds, the one on earth, and the one in heaven. That men force women to sell their bodies at a price, and that the lowest paid body is that of a wife. All women are prostitutes of one kind or another.”

image

Published September 15th 1997 by Zed Books (first published 1973)
Paperback, 112 pages
ISBN13: 9780862321109