- The Book of Epiphanies
Upon returning from a trip abroad, the author–narrator learns that his father has died during his absence. Crushed with grief and guilt, he begins a journey of discovery of self and existence. Beset by doubts and at times despair, he almost gives up, but then is granted the priceless gift of appearing before the mythical–mystical Diwan, the council that oversees all affairs of this world, keeping a record of everything that has ever happened or existed and righting wrongs past and present. With the guidance of the Great Master, the Prophet’s grandson al-Husayn, he is able to witness events of his father’s life, his own life, and that of his beleaguered country as he progresses through Sufi states and stations.
Granted the ability to be in several places and various eras simultaneously, the narrator is able to bring together heroes and villains and great events and debacles in Egypt’s and all of Islam’s history. Alternating scenes depict the historical martyrdom of al-Husayn in Karbala, and a fantastical confrontation between two camps fighting over the soul of Egypt: in one camp we meet President Gamal Abdel Nasser, al-Husayn, the narrator’s own father, and a ragtag army of valiant but ill-equipped Egyptians in combat with one led by Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin.
This surrealist novel with political and mystical overtones and an edge of satire reveals one of Egypt’s greatest living writers at his finest.
Gamal al-Ghitani (1945–2015) was an Egyptian novelist, literary editor, political commentator, and public intellectual. He published over a dozen novels, including Zayni Barakat (AUC Press, 2004) and The Zafarani Files (AUC Press, 2009), as well as several collections of short stories. He was also founding editor of the literary magazine, Akhbar al-adab (1993–2011). He was awarded the Egyptian State Prize for the Novel (1980), the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France (1987), and the Egyptian State Prize for Literature (2007). In 2015, he received the Nile Award in Literature, Egypt’s highest literary honor.
Farouk Abdel Wahab 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, by Khairy Shalaby (AUC Press pbk, 2008). He died in 2013.