Friday, April 2, 2010

Book Review

Book Review: Cat's Eyes (عين القط) by Hassan Abd El Maugoud: I stumbled upon this stylish little novella when I was browsing the Contemporary Arabic Fiction section in one of my favorite bookstores, and, I hate to admit, was attracted by its cover. I read the synopsis on the backcover and bought it on a whim. It was a good decision.

The novella tells the tale of a young boy - referred to throughout the novella only as Qot or Cat - living in a village in Upper Egypt with his conservative family, and who believes he can Astral-Project every night and inhabit the body of any stray cat. This allows him to prowl the village at night, sneak into houses undetected, and learn the village inhabitant's darkest secrets. Author Hassan Abd El Maugoud uses this intriguing premise as a launching pad for clever socio-political commentary, painting a not very pretty picture of living in a village in Egypt, which stands in for Egypt itself; a place which, as depicted in the story, is rife with corruption, bullies, unscrupulous politicians and sexual repression.

Although at times the pace becomes annoyingly frenetic, this short novella is filled to the brim with ideas and memorable characters, and the author's smooth, unpretentious style is addictive. A compelling, stylish read.

P.S. This novella has won the Saweris Award (2nd place) for outstanding first novel.

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