The House of Jasmine by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid

Like I’ve said before, it’s great having a public library with an international authors shelf that’s always kept well-stocked with a diverse collection of fiction from around the world. One novel I happened to come across during one of my frequent library visits happened to the short Egyptian novel The House of Jasmine by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid. Originally published in Arabic back in 1986, an English language version was published this spring courtesy of Interlink Books. Even though I burned through Meguid’s novel relatively quickly I was left wondering just how much I enjoyed it. Looking back on The House of Jasmine, just like it is with a lot of thing in life, I guess there are things about it I liked and things about it I didn’t like.

First of all, the novel is set not in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, but the coastal city of Alexandria, a city that for whatever reason has always fascinated me. Second of all, as one follows the slightly bumbling adventures of the novel’s narrator and protagonist Shagara, one gets a street-level view of the complicated and frequently absurd life of your average Egyptian citizen. Unable to financially get ahead, be an active part of any meaningful political process or settle into an affirming and committed romantic relationship, life in Shagara’s in Egypt while not feeling horribly oppressive nevertheless still seems a bit devoid of opportunity.

As for the downsides, for whatever reason I just couldn’t get into this novel. While I could find no fault with Noha Radwan’s translation (and her short commentary at back of the book I found very helpful) there was something about the storytelling that just didn’t suck me in and keep me actively engaged. Maybe it’s just me, but something about the novel’s pacing or structure just didn’t work for me.

But the cool thing about reading The House of Jasmine is it counts towards not one, but three different reading challenges. Being Egypt is part of the Middle East, it’s covered under Helen’s Middle East Reading Challenge. Since Egypt is also part of Africa, it counts as part of Kinna’s African Reading Challenge. And lastly, since it’s fiction, I can include it as part of Kerrie’s Global Reading Challenge. So, with one book satisfying the demands of three different reading challenges, how could I go wrong?

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Area Studies/International Relations, Fiction, History

7 responses to “The House of Jasmine by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid

  1. I love it when a book counts for more than one challenge! I am taking a little blogging break due to family stuff, but hope to get back to reading soon!

  2. When I saw this book appear in my Google Reader I was so excited because that cover is stunning and it’s a book I had never heard of before. Also, it might count towards Kinna’s challenge. I’m sad to hear you didn’t enjoy it as much as you anticipated though.

    • Thanks! Don’t let my review scare you off. It’s a short book so don’t be afraid to read it. If you do end up reading it, I’d love to read your review. Sometimes it’s just a matter of personal taste whether or not a person enjoys a book.
      Thanks for posting Iris! Been a long time. Drop by anytime!!

  3. Pingback: Spring Flowers, Spring Frost by Ismail Kadare | Maphead's Book Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s