Month: May 2021

Ashraf El-Ashmawi: اال>سيدة الزمالك، (The Lady of Zamalek)

The latest addition to my website is Ashraf El-Ashmawi‘s اال>سيدة الزمالك، (The Lady of Zamalek). This novel covers Egypt from the beginning of World War II to almost the end of the twentieth century, focussing on Abbas Mahalawi, a young Egyptian, who, initially, looks as though he is going be a young man made good but soon turns out to be a young man made bad, as he makes lots of money and gains power by totally unscrupulous means, starting with his involvement in a historical robbery and murder. Corruption, lying, cheating, bribery, fraud, using and misusing family members and friends and murder are his stock in trade. He is surrounded by a host of characters, including some historical characters (both King Farouk and Nasser make an appearance), nearly all of whom are as corrupt as he is. The women often do badly, forced into marriages they do not want, but Abbas’s sister Zeinab turns out to be as unscrupulous as her brother and even his daughter, Nadia is not averse to cheating and deception. It is a fascinating portrait of a totally corrupt and immoral society.

Wolfgang Hilbig: Alte Abdeckerei (Old Rendering Plant)

The latest addition to my website is Wolfgang Hilbig‘s Hilbig: Alte Abdeckerei. This is a short novel, set in what was East Germany, in a fairly remote area. Our unnamed narrator, first as a boy and then as an adult,explores the blighted landscape not far from his home. He discovers a foul-smelling stream but also considerable evidence of former mine workings, now not only abandoned but with no maps as to where the tunnels are, so they are dangerous as they are liable to subsidence. As an adult, he discovers an active rendering palnt and sees animals – dead, alive and half alive – dragged to the plant. The whole sight disgusts and horrifies him but, later, when considering a job, he thinks of working there, despite the fact that the workers are very much looked down upon and smell the whole time. However, the mine tunnels are liable to subsidence… This is a first-class novel, superbly invoking the blighted landscape of East Germany.

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