26 December 2007

Naguib Mahfouz, The Day the Leader was Killed, 1985

Goings-on in a middle class Cairo family in the months before the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat in October 1981. The book has three narrators: Randa, constantly at the receiving end of her bad decisions, her indecisive fiancé Elwan, and his mischievous, sloganeering grandfather Muhtashimi; this triad of viewpoints each reflect the national despair at Sadat’s open-door economic policy which wreaked havoc in the everyday lives of Egyptians. There’s a great deal of irony to be found in their self-confessed impotence even though there are millions more far worse off than themselves, and their preoccupation with their own small problems and desires comes to an unexpected head for Elwan in a way that simultaneously reflects the emergency situation facing the nation. The Day the Leader was Killed has ironic political undercurrents but at its heart is soap opera, enjoyable nonetheless.   PY

No comments: