Private Pleasures describes the three-day sex, drink, and drug binge of a thirty-something newsreader in the back streets and crumbling apartments of his native Giza, that pullulating mass of humanity that, like an ugly sister, sits opposite Cairo on the Nile’s west bank. Pursued by an unshakable sense of impending doom that is only partly attributable to fear of retribution at the hands of a sadistic police officer with whose wife he is conducting a frenzied affair, the narrator observes, with fascinated horror, his own stumbling progress through a world of menace and wonder inhabited by philosophical prostitutes, nightmarish butchers, serene Quran-readers, pious family members, religious con-men, autistic tissue-sellers, and others. Milleresque in its treatment of sex, the novel captures the essence of the phantasmagoric world of the Egyptian mega-city, disintegrating under the pressures of its home-grown horrors while pining for the sublime.
A Modern Egyptian Novel
Private Pleasures describes the three-day sex, drink, and drug binge of a thirty-something newsreader in the back streets and crumbling apartments of
Hamdy el-Gazzar was born in 1970 in Cairo and graduated in philosophy from Cairo University. Since 1990 he has published several short stories and articles in the Arabic press, as well as writing and directing three plays. Black Magic is his first novel. He is presently director of the research department of the Culture TV channel in Cairo. Humphrey Davies is the translator of The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany (AUC Press, 2004) and Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury, for which he was awarded the Banipal Prize for Literary Translation. His most recent translation is Pyramid Texts by Gamal al-Ghitani (AUC Press, 2007). He was awarded the 2010 Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of Yalo by Elias Khoury.
Humphrey Davies is the translator of a number of Arabic novels, including The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany (AUC Press, 2004). He has twice been awarded the Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.