This multi-layered novel about the depths of human experience and the struggle between polarities, on the surface presents a love story of unrequited passion between Rama—the symbol of multiplicity and creativity—and Mikhail—the symbol of unity and constancy. Their story reflects the relationship not only between man and woman, Copt and Muslim, but also between Upper and Lower Egypt. Through a delicate grid of intertextual references and juxtaposed narratives, the dreams and hopes, fears and defeats of Rama and Mikhail move from the local to the global, corresponding to human dreams and anxieties everywhere.
In this novel, Edwar al-Kharrat has created a unique form of narrative discourse in which he presents Egyptian realities and actualities of the 1960s and 1970s, with flashbacks to as early as the 1940s, in an aesthetic form that highlights historical moments while blending philosophical, mythical, and psychological perspectives in a literary parallel to the cinematic technique of montage.
In their citation awarding al-Kharrat the Mahfouz Medal, the judges stated: “Rama and the Dragon is considered a breakthrough in the literary history of modern Arabic fiction.”
Edwar al-Kharrat was born, raised, and educated in Alexandria. His first book of short stories, High Walls, was published in 1959. Since then he has written novels, criticism, and poetry. He is the winner of numerous international awards, including the Cavafis Prize.
Ferial Ghazoul is an Iraqi scholar, critic, and translator. She is professor of English and comparative literature at the American University in Cairo and formerly editor of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics. She has written extensively on medieval literature in comparative context, on modernism in Europe, on postcolonialism, and on gender studies.
John Verlenden is a writing instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo, and an anthologized writer of short stories. He and Ferial Ghazoul won the King Fahd translation prize from the University of Arkansas in 1997 for Egyptian poet Muhammad Afifi Matar's Quartet of Joy.
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