Sonallah Ibrahim

Sonallah Ibrahim

Sonallah Ibrahim was born in Cairo in 1937. He studied law at Cairo University and was imprisoned in 1959 for his political activities. While serving his five-year sentence he wrote Notes from Prison and composed That Smell shortly following his release. After several year abroad, he returned in 1974 to Cairo, where he has lived ever since, publishing many works of fiction. In 2004 he was awarded the Egyptian government’s prestigious Novelist of the Year prize. Ibrahim publicly declined the award, saying he could not accept a literary prize from “a government that, in my opinion, lacks the credibility to bestow it.”


by Sonallah Ibrahim

Translated from the Arabic by Hosam Aboul-Ela

Set in the turbulent years before the 1952 revolution that would overthrow King Farouk and bring Gamal Abdel Nasser to power, Stealth — by Sonallah Ibrahim, one of Egypt’s most respected and uncompromising novelists — is a gripping story seen through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy. A young Egyptian’s coming of age proves halting and uncertain as he fails to outgrow dependence on his aging father and tries to come to terms with the absence of his mother.…
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That Smell & Notes from Prison

Fiction by Sonallah Ibrahim

Translated from the Arabic by Robyn Creswell

Edited by Robyn Creswell

That Smell is Sonallah Ibrahim’s modernist masterpiece and one of the most influential novels written in Arabic since WWII. Composed after a five-year term in prison, the semi-autobiographical story follows a recently released political prisoner as he wanders through Cairo, adrift in his native city. Living under house arrest, he tries to write of his tortuous experience, but instead smokes, spies on the neighbors, visits old lovers, and marvels at Egypt’s new consumer culture.…
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Ibrahim has continuously re-invented the form and language he uses in his work, while probing deeply into the underlying tensions running through Egyptian society.
—Yasmine El Rashidi, The New York Review of Books
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