A young man’s dreams for a better future as a student in the Teachers’ Institute are shattered after he assaults one of his instructors for discriminating against him. From then on, he begins his descent into the underworld. Penniless, he seeks refuge in Wikalat ‘Atiya, a historic but now completely run-down caravanserai that has become the home of the town’s marginal and underprivileged characters. This award-winning novel takes on epic dimensions as the narrator escorts us on a journey to this underworld, portraying—as he sinks further into its intricate relationships—the many characters that inhabit it. Through a labyrinth of tales, reminiscent of the popular Arab tradition of storytelling, we are introduced to these denizens, whose lives oscillate between the real and the fantastic, the contemporary and the timeless. And while the narrator starts out as a spectator of these characters’ lives, he soon becomes an integral part of the lodging house’s community of rogues.
KhairyShalaby (1938–2011) was born in Kafr al-Shaykh in Egypt’s Nile Delta. He wrote seventy books, including novels, short stories, historical tales, and critical studies. His novel The Lodging House was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2003, and was published in English translation by the AUC Press in 2006.
FaroukAbdelWahab was Ibn Rushd Professorial Lecturer in Arabic at the University of Chicago. He was the translator of many works of Arabic fiction, including Gamal al-Ghitani’s The Book of Epiphanies (AUC Press, 2012). He won the 2007 Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of The Lodging House (AUC Press pbk, 2008). He died in 2013.
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