Last updated on November 28, 2020

In recent years, many modern Arabic novels were translated into English. In a three part-series, I will present the finest modern Arabic novels which were translated into English.

Part TWO presents modern Arabic literature written by authors from Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Authors from EGYPT

Hunger

جوع

by Mohamed El Bisatie (محمد البساطي), Egypt

bisatie hunger

The book is a detailed account of the ordinary lives of those at the very bottom of society, sufferers of continuous hunger. Through a detached yet intimate portrait of the day-to-day lives, the Egyptian author explores how, despite their sufferings, these neglected people can still reflect on human existence and ask questions about their surroundings.

You can get the Arabic version on almost any web store, for example, Neelwafurat.

Brooklyn Heights

بروكلين هايتس

by Miral-al-Tahawy (ميرال الطحاوي), Egypt

brooklinheights

Brooklyn Heights tells the story of the New York’s Arab immigrants and those who live among them through the eyes of the female narrator.

By contrasting her experiences in her chosen home, America, and her homeland Egypt, the author reveals the problematic relationship between East and West.

Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge

عناق عند جسر بروكلين

by Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (عزالدين شكري فشير ), Egypt

brooklinbridge

On the eve of Salma’s twenty-first birthday, scattered friends and family converge on New York for a celebration organized by Darwish, her obstinate grandfather. Each guest’s journey to this fated gathering takes on an unexpected significance, as they find themselves revisiting the choices they have made in life, and rethinking their relationships with one another and the country in which they live.

Mercury (also: Otared)

عطارد

by Mohamed Rabie (محمد ربيع ), Egypt

atar

2025: fourteen years after the failed revolution, Egypt is invaded once more. As traumatized Egyptians eke out a feral existence in Cairo’s dusty downtown, former cop Ahmed Otared joins a group of fellow officers seeking Egypt’s liberation through the barrel of a gun.

As Cairo becomes a foul cauldron of drugs, sex, and senseless violence, Otared finally understands his country’s fate. In this unflinching and grisly novel, Mohammad Rabie envisages a grim future for Egypt, where death is the only certainty.

In the Spider’s Room

في غرفة العنكبوت

by Mohammed Abdel Nabi (محمد عبد النبي), Egypt

spider

Hani was out for an evening stroll near Cairo’s Tahrir Square when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder. An informant had identified him, and he was thrown into the back of a police truck.

There began a seven-month nightmare as he was swept up, along with fifty other men, in the infamous “Queen Boat” affair in 2001 that targeted Egypt’s gay community.

Sunset Oasis

واحة الغروب

by Bahaa Taher (بهاء طاهر), Egypt

sunset

Sunset Oasis is an enthralling story of mystery and frustrated passions set against the backdrop of an exotic locale in the late 1800s. When Mahmoud, a disgraced Egyptian officer, is posted to the remote desert town of Siwa, his Irish wife insists on accompanying him, to pursue the secrets of Alexander the Great. Neither is prepared for the stultifying heat, the hostility of the townspeople, or the astonishing and disturbing events that befall them in the dreamlike other-worldliness of the Sunset Oasis.

Authors from TUNISIA

The Scents of Marie Claire

روائح ماري كلير

by Habib Selmi (الحبيب السالمي), Tunisia

scentmarie

This novel from one of Tunisia’s leading writers, the first of his works to be translated into English, narrates a love story in all its stages, in all its glorious and inglorious details. Moment by moment we become acquainted with the morning rituals, the desires of the flesh, the turbulence of the spirit, and even a few unattractive personal habits.

It is a journey that takes us inside the nuances of what passes between two lovers, from the first glances of attraction to the final words of anger.

Authors from MOROCCO

A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me

طائر أزرق نادر يحلق معي

by Youssef Fadhel (يوسف فاضل), Morocco

bird

Aziz is a pilot at the air force base who loves flying and forgets his cares when he is up in the air. It is flying that he thinks of on his wedding night, rather his 16-year-old bride, Zina, waiting in the adjoining room.

The following morning, he leaves his house at the crack of dawn, not to return for 18 years.

The Arch and the Butterfly

القوس والفراشة

by Mohammed Achaari (محمد الأشعري), Morocco

butterfly

The Arch and the Butterfly is a journey in the life of a left wing Moroccan writer, Yousef, whose past life, political beliefs and faith in his own principles are shaken by a letter he receives one day.

You can get the Arabic version on almost any web store, for example, Neelwafurat.

My Tormentor (My Torturess)

معذبتي

by Bensalem Himmich (بنسالم حميش), Morocco

tormentur

In a gripping novel, whose narrative style is a blend of Kafka and One Thousand and One Nights, Himmich imagines an innocent man’s experience of extraordinary rendition in an American prison.

During his captivity, the protagonist is subjected to interrogation and torture by both Arabs and foreigners and yet, against all odds, the author manages to find some hope in an otherwise desperate situation.

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