Posted by: Titus Presler | February 4, 2011

“Naima” recommended in New Yorker magazine

Coincident with the current turmoil in Egypt, the New Yorker magazine published an outstanding piece of fiction set in Egypt in its Jan. 24 issue.  “Naima,” by Hisham Matar, focuses on a family that settled in Cairo in exile from an unnamed Arab homeland because the father in the family was a minister of a monarch who was deposed.  Naima is the Egyptian maid of the family.

The story has only a little to do with religion, and much of the action and reminiscence center on the expatriate experience.  The story is vivid with the sense of Cairo and its jostling communities, the discomfort of inter-cultural and inter-national encounters, and the wrestling with oppression and freedom.  It is one of the best short stories I’ve read in years, and I commend it to you.

The story has significant connections with Matar’s own life story, according to an online biography.  Matar was born in New York, the child of a Libyan diplomat at the United Nations.  His father’s politics drove the family into exile, from which his father was captured by Egyptian police and handed over to the Libyans.  He has not been heard from since.  Hisham Matar’s novel first novel, In the Country of Men, was nominated for the Booker Prize and has been translated into 22 languages.

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