That Smell is not just a story, it is a revolution, the beginning of which is the artist’s rebellion against himself.

—Yusuf Idris, author of City of Love and Ashes

That Smell — a watershed in contemporary Egyptian fiction — combined with the author’s Notes from Prison in a single edition

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. Published in 1966, That Smell was immediately banned and the print-run confiscated. The original, uncensored version did not appear in Egypt for another twenty years.

For this edition, translator Robyn Creswell has also included an annotated selection of the author’s Notes from Prison, Ibrahim’s prison diaries—a personal archive comprising hundreds of handwritten notes copied onto Bafra-brand cigarette papers and smuggled out of jail. These stark, intense writings shed unexpected light on the sources and motives of Ibrahim’s groundbreaking novel. Also included in this edition is Ibrahim’s celebrated essay about the writing and reception of That Smell.

Editions: PaperbackEbook

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Paperback (published March 22, 2013)

ISBN
9780811220361
Price US
15.95
Price CN
17
Page Count
120

Ebook (published March 22, 2013)

ISBN
9780811220620
Price US
15.95

Sonallah Ibrahim

Egyptian activist and writer

That Smell is not just a story, it is a revolution, the beginning of which is the artist’s rebellion against himself.

—Yusuf Idris, author of City of Love and Ashes

Since the 1960s, Sonallah Ibrahim has been Egypt’s literary voice of political conscience.

Jadaliyya

One of the Arab world’s most distinguished novelist… an intellectual who thoroughly understands the price and value of freedom.

—Sarnia Mehrez, Al-Ahram

Breathtakingly subversive.

—Yasmine El Rashidi, New York Review of Books

Superbly austere… a comédie humaine of Nasserist Egypt in just fifty pages.

—Robyn Creswell, The New Yorker

Bold, uncompromising writing.

—Frederick Deknatel, The Daily Beast

A controlled howl of fury.

—Jeremy Lybarger, Los Angeles Review of Books

Creswell’s new translation of That Smell finally allows English language readers to appreciate these qualities.

—Yasmine El Rashidi, New York Review of Books

Robyn Creswell’s translation of Ibrahim’s exhilaratingly bleak novel gives English readers a new classic of mid-century existentialism and, at the same time, a window onto an Egypt too few of us have glimpsed in literature or elsewhere.

—Benjamin Kunkel

The pervasive moral corruption of Nasser’s Egypt seeps up between the lines of Ibrahim’s seemingly affectless prose. A landmark in Egyptian literature.

—J. M. Coetzee