by Rana Asfour
The Book: 'A Land Like You' by Tobie Nathan / Translated by Joyce Zonana
‘Egyptian! ... I was born in Cairo, like everyone. And Cairo is in Egypt, right?
Translated by Joyce Zonana from the French, Tobie Nathan’s part fantastical fable, part realistic history is on the one hand a tempestuous love story between the sensuous dancer & singer Masreya & ruffian turned business man/fixer Zohar. On the other hand it is an account of Cairo’s Jewish community from the early 1920s until its ‘exodus’ in the late 50s.
A story of two lovers unfolds against the backdrop of a country struggling against British occupation, a World War, a crumbling monarchy, Communism vs rising religious fanaticism, a region’s discovery of black oil & Palestine’s partition followed by Arab/Israeli wars that would all together challenge the notion of ‘a real Egyptian’
A compelling all-encompassing tale that uncovers the nitty gritty of people’s daily lives, living peaceably side by side sharing language & superstitions, hopes & dreams, within the Muslim, Coptic & Jewish communities, rich & poor, to weave a closer than ever before picture on the ‘first time, since the Pharaohs of antiquity, Egypt was about to become Egyptian.’
It’s rich, masterfully translated, & complex yet also funny, sensitive and moving. It vibrates with an energy that is in tandem with the vibrancy of a city known to most as ‘Umm el Dunya’ aka ‘Mother of the World’.
Read an excerpt from the 2020 novel published by Seagull Books at The Markaz Review
The Film: Muhammad Malas, Syrian Auteur as Subject of Documentary- A Review
'Unlocking Doors of Cinema' (2019), the first feature-length documentary by Abu Dhabi resident and associate professor at Zayed University, filmmaker and director, Nezar Andary, sheds light on the grand master of Arab auteur cinema, Syrian filmmaker Muhammad Malas. Here's my review published recently in The Markaz Review (click HERE to read)