Smell of it, The

by Ibrahim, Sonallah

SONALLAH IBRAHIM was born in Cairo in 1937. He studied Law then worked as a journalist. He spent five years n prison because of political activities from 1959 until 1964. in 1968 he left Egypt for the Lebanon, and now lives and works in Germany, where some of his short stories have been published. He is currently working in a new novel based on several months stay at  the construction site of Aswan High Dam.

These short stories describe the minutiae of everyday feelings, tasks, sensations, routine – the reader is drawn inside the characters and sees the world through their eyes. Some vignettes of suburban life in Cairo (or elsewhere in Egypt) could be linked to Pinter in their style, and it is fascinating to be able to read for the first time in English description of this kind, small but telling details of people and things, in an Arab landscape.

The first story, from which the book takes its title, was written in 1964, directly after the author had been released from five years of detention for political activities. It was banned after its publication in February 1966. Nevertheless, this short novel, the first work to be banned by Nasser, evoked a controversial reaction in the press. In 1968 it was published in Cairo after certain passages were taken out.