Bayt An-Nar (House of Fire) by Mahmoud El-Wardani, Cairo: Miret, 2012. 347pp
Mahmoud El-Wardani's latest novel delves into the inner world of Cairo in the 1960s and 1970s, tracking the fates of the family of one ill civil servant and their struggle to find a place to live and support themselves in an increasingly harsh, expanding metropolis. Small details capture the reader’s attention as the neighborhood and its class of inhabitants become stand-ins for the life of the country.
The history of that change is subtly told through words and metaphors: how financial constraints deprive the family of the ironing service that used to be part of the life every middle-class house, forcing them to do their own ironing. Similar stories are told about various jobs the hero takes in his search for money with which to support himself and his widowed mother and sister.
The author of many novels besides Heads Ripe for Plucking (published in English by the AUC Press), Mahmoud El-Wardani is the winner of the 2011Sawiris Cultural Award.