Traces

A Memoir

Gamal al-Ghitani
Translated by Nader K. Uthman

One of Egypt’s greatest contemporary writers, Gamal al-Ghitani (1945–2015) was born into a family of modest means in the Egyptian countryside. He

English edition
14 April 2020
246 pp.
15X23cm
ISBN 9789774169533
For sale worldwide

$25.00

One of Egypt’s greatest contemporary writers, Gamal al-Ghitani (1945–2015) was born into a family of modest means in the Egyptian countryside. He trained as a carpet maker before turning his attention to writing, publishing over a dozen novels and several collections of short stories.

This haunting memoir, one of seven autobiographical “notebooks” written before Ghitani’s death, weaves together a series of vignettes in a style that mimics the uneven, discontinuous nature of memory itself. These fragments, or traces, are summoned from across the span of a singular lifetime, from Ghitani’s rural birthplace in Upper Egypt to Cairo, to the Arab world and beyond. We read of his childhood adventures, his erotic awakenings, his time as a political prisoner, and his reports from the battlefront in Iraq and the corridors of power in Syria. There are vivid passages that capture fleeting glances of strangers through car windows, flavors and scents of delicacies he still savored, dreams and sorrows of neighbors in the apartment blocks of Cairo before Nasser, as well as recollections of chance conversations at points of transit, in cafés and on elegant streets, and trysts with unnamed paramours.

These memories, and Ghitani’s musings on memory’s own finitude and mutability, make Traces both memoir and a meditation on memory itself, in all its inscrutable workings and inevitable betrayals.

To read an excerpt, click here.

 

Gamal al-Ghitani

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.

Nader K. Uthman

Nader K.  Uthman teaches Arabic language, literature and culture at NYU.
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