Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Barakunan, 2023
What might William Burroughs be doing in Tahrir Square at the height of the Egyptian revolution of 2011? Was there really a radical atheist insurgency in New Cairo? Where in extant science fiction do people go when they die? In these Cairo-focused stories written at the height of the Arab Spring, in its wake and its ruins, the reader is led by a colorful cast of characters through a hypnagogic urbanscape pulsating with the spectres of post-political Islam and failed revolution. Whether it is an alien abduction in “Lexi” or a Cairo-centered, futuristic retelling of an Old Testament narrative in the titular story “Emissaries” – the stories here play with notions of contemporary Egyptianness to evoke a human circus of possibility and despair that is undeniably universal at its core.
Youssef Rakha is an Egyptian writer and poet. His first two novels, The Book of the Sultan’s Seal and The Crocodiles, appeared in English in early 2015 through Interlink and Seven Stories Press, respectively. Also a cultural journalist, literary translator, and creative writing coach, he is the founding editor of sultansseal.com. He can be found online at therakha.net and on Twitter @Sultans_Seal. Barra and Zaman, an essay in 200 numbered paragraphs on the Egyptian filmmaker Shadi Abdel Salam’s 1969 classic The Mummy, is published by Palgrave Macmillan. Rakha’s first English novel, The Dissenters, is set for publication by Graywolf Press in 2025.