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Tag Archives: Albert Cossery

Some thoughts on translation

In A Splendid Conspiracy (reviewed here), the police informant and intellectual of the streets, Rezk, covets foreign books, which he diligently reads at the pace of a page a day even though he frequently finds phrases that are beyond his comprehension. At the same time, Medhat, who works the for the town’s newspaper, dismisses the […]

A Splendid Conspiracy – Albert Cossery

Since reading his novel The Jokers several years ago, Albert Cossery, the French-resident, Egyptian-born, Syriac-descended anti-materialist author, I have been an admirer of his work. A Splendid Conspiracy is the fourth of his novel I have consumed. While there is a lot to admire in these books, each successive one has rubbed away some of […]

The Storyteller – Mario Vargas Llosa

In a gallery in Florence an ex-pat Peruvian writer (Mario Vargas Llosa) comes across a photograph of a gathering of Machiguenga natives and is transfixed by the sight of the storyteller with a conspicuous birthmark. Familiar with the Machiguenga, but not privileged enough to have met a reclusive storyteller, the narrator is certain that he […]

Dr. Futurity – Philip K. Dick

I picked up Dr. Futurity in a used bookstore recently based on two criteria. First, one of my blindspots in the area of classic science fiction is the work of Philip K. Dick. I am aware of the premises for quite a few books, but I have never read any of them. Second, of the […]

Beer in the Snooker Club – Waguih Ghali

“Perhaps you’re right,” he said. “Perhaps our culture is nothing but jokes.” Told from the point of view of Ram, the scion of a Coptic family in Egypt’s elite, Beer in the Snooker Club is a window into the upper crust of Egyptian society in the wake of King Farouk’s ouster in 1952. The revolution […]

The Colors of Infamy – Albert Cossery

Honor is an abstract notion, invented like everything else by the dominant caste so that the poorest of the poor can boast about having a phantom good that costs no one anything. Karamallah was most certainly the prophet of a great eccentric battle against the official agents of deceit. Everyone with money is a thief, […]

Desert, J.M.G. Le Clézio

The Europeans in North Africa, the “Christians,” as the people from the desert call them–but isn’t their true religion money? What more can the old man from Smara do against this wave of money and bullets? Desert, a novel published in 1980 by 2008 nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio, was not what I expected. The […]

May Reading Recap

Proud Beggars – Albert Cossery Reviewed here, Cossery’s 1955 novel celebrates the three beggars–the former professor Gohar, middling bureaucrat El-Kordi, and the drug dealer Yeghen, who he treats as a sort of intelligentsia of the slums. Much like in The Jokers (published 1964), Cossery takes a dim view of middle class society and praises the […]

Albert Cossery, Proud Beggars

Everyone has their foibles, their obsessions and their needs. Peace and happiness only emerge from abstaining from the reality of civilization, but what happens when the needs come calling? Proud Beggars is the second Cossery novel I’ve read and I went into it with high expectations based on how much I loved The Jokers. The […]

March Reading Recap

Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes– I read Heart of Darkness a few years ago and, while it was a challenging read, I found it quite moving and decided I would read his other works. I only made it a few pages into The Secret Agent before giving that up because I was busy. This past […]