This year has seen the publication of many great books marking the centenary of the 1919 revolution, a key event in modern Egyptian political life.
Below are the picks by the editor of Ahram Online’s Books Section for the best book from Egypt, or about Egypt, of 2019, in no particular order.
Mostafa El-Nahas: Mozakerat Al-Manfa (Mostafa El-Nahas: Memoirs of Exile), edited by Emad Abu Ghazi, Dar El-Shorouk, 2019.
The memoirs of Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa El-Nahas, who held the position five times between 1928 and 1952, were published for the first time after five years of work by editor and historian Emad Abu-Ghazi. A few years ago, the memoirs of El-Nahas, who was a key figure in Egyptian politics in the first half of the 20th century, were given to Abu Ghazi, a renowned historian and professor at Cairo University and culture minister in the years that followed the January 25 Revolution. The memoirs tackle the period when El-Nahas was exiled to Seychelles by the British occupation with the Egyptian revolutionary leader Saad Zaghloul.
Fi Athr Enayyat El-Zayyat (On the Trail of Enayyat El-Zayyat) by Iman Mersal, Cairo: Kotob Khan, 2019.
Egyptian poet Emane Merssal follows the trail of little-known Egyptian author Enayyat El-Zayyat through her mystifying manuscript, published after her tragic death in 1963 when she committed suicide in her mid-twenties. Merssal's search for the late and almost forgotten writer began in 1993, when she found El-Zayyat’s text Al-Samtt wal Hob (Love and Silence). Mersalle's book is fascinating in its style and eloquence.
Al-Thawra Waltarikh – 1919, Baad Maeit Aam (Revolution and History – 1919, a Hundred Years Later) by multiple authors (Cairo: El-Maraya), 2019.
This book, released was on the centenary of the 1919 Revolution by Dar Al-Maraya, is a collection of articles by almost 30 writers who aim to contextualise and analyse the making and breaking of 1919, away from the otherwise prevailing sentimental take on this major political event. The book counters the over-romanticisation and over-simplification of the 1919 revolution offering a fresh look on a key event in the Egyptian modern political life.
Moulak Misr (The Owners of Egypt), edited by Mohamed Gad (Cairo: Dar Al-Maraya), 2019. 343pp
Moulak Misr, published by Dar Al-Maraya and edited by Mohamed Gad, tackles the last four decades of the Egyptian economy with an emphasis on the politics that determined the outline of economic policies in this period.
The book brings politics back into the analysis of economics and vice versa. The main premise of the book is that after Samia Imam's Who Owns Egypt was published in 1985, all books on Egypt's economics sought to present themselves as politics-free, based on a neoliberal stance and analysis grounded in claims to objectivity, which not only served neoliberal policies but also failed to elucidate the political context that produced these policies.
Sakhret Heliopolis (The Rock of Heliopolis) by Ahmed Zaghloul Al-Sheety (Cairo: Dar Al-Ain), 2019, 132pp.
After a long hiatus, Egyptian writer Ahmed Zaghloul Al-Sheety released his second novel Sakhret Heliopolis (Heliopolis Rock) with a more subjective line as a proof to the world that he is still alive, and that he is still going through his own adventure.
Al-Sheety is an Egyptian writer born in Damietta in 1963. He published his first novel Worood Samma El-Sakr (Poisonous Roses for Sakr) in 1990 and was met with wide praise from readers and critics.
Nawafez Gadida (New Windows: A Different History of Egypt) by Mohamed Afifi (Cairo: Battana), 2019.
Historian and head of the history department at Cairo University Mohamed Afifi offers a new history of Egypt in the last decade through a different lens other the usual one: the document. Afifi tries to dislocate the central place of the document (Al-Watheeqa), the icon at which historians worship, to offer other sources that give a completely different outlook on history. This is why we need to look through the windows that Afifi opens.
Likol Al-Maqhourine Agneha (All the Oppressed Have Wings) by Radwa Ashour (Cairo: Al-Shorouk), 2019.
This book, published posthumously, is a collection of Radwa Ashour's articles and talks during the last 10 years of her life. Ashour, who died in December 2014, is best known for her Granada Trilogy, and published literary, theoretical and critical works and supervised the translation of the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, which came out in several volumes. Ashour also authored The Woman from Tantoura, which was recently released by the AUC Press.
America w Thawret 19 (America and the 1919 Revolution: The Mirage of Wilson's Promise) by Mohamed Abul-Ghar, (Cairo: Dar El-Shorouk), 2019. 198pp.
This book is a study of the 1919 Revolution in relation to the United States. The book recounts the events surrounding the Egyptian national movement’s plan to send a delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 to demand independence for Egypt, which was in accordance with the promise of self-determination by American president Woodrow Wilson. However, Britain, which was occupying Egypt at the time, denied the delegation the right to travel to the peace conference, which was also met by American silence. The book cites documents that are published for the first time.
Addaraed (Taxes: Whose Interest) by Multiple Authors (Cairo: Dar Al-Maraya), 2019.
This book tries to re-evaluate the Egyptian tax system through the three angles that shape it: The history of the Egyptian tax system since the 19th century, the institutional progress of the tax system in the last few decades, and the tax system’s relationship with the overall economy.
The book is authored by Mohamed Gad, Sara Saif, Amr Shafei, Beesan Kassab, Amira Gad and Noha Magdy.
Ma Ra'ah Samy Yacoub (What Samy Yacoub Saw) by: Ezzat El-Kamhawi (Cairo: Al-Dar Al-Masriah Al-Lubnaniah), 2019. 140pp.
This novel by award-winning novelist Ezzat El-Kamhawi is about fear, one of the worst human emotions. The protagonist of the novel is Samy, a young man looking for the security that would allow him to live his life with his beloved Farida. El-Kamhawi is best known for his noel Bayt El-Deeb, which won him the 2012 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.