Sonallah Ibrahim: العمامة والقبعة (The Turban and the Hat)

The latest addition to my website is Sonallah Ibrahim‘s العمامة والقبعة (The Turban and the Hat). The novel takes place during the French occupation of Egypt from 1798 to 1801. The historical figure Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti wrote the only surviving account of the occupation from the Egyptian point of view. In this novel, the unnamed narrator mirrors the account by al-Jabarti, his teacher, but unlike al-Jabarti, gives the account from the point of view of the ordinary people. We follow his story, including an affair with Pauline Fourès, a historical figure who was also Napoleon’s mistress. However, we see the changes and chaos following the French occupation, made more awkward (for the French) by the English blockade, Napoleon’s incursion into Syria and a plague epidemic. However, while this is interesting, following the machinations of our hero both as regards his love life and his perspective on the occupation is what makes this such a worthwhile novel.

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1 Comment

  1. Duncan McLean

    Sonallah Ibrahim is a great novelist, Thank you for your description of this new translation. I look forward to reading it(I have it in order from our local bookshop.) Everything I’ve read by Ibrahim is contemporary, or set in the very recent past, so this is an exciting departure

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