Review: Small Butterflies by Mohammed El-Bosaty

Sayed Mahmoud , Wednesday 21 Mar 2012

Underrated novelist produces short story collection of great power and beauty that deserves a wide readership

Small Butterflies

Farashat Saghira (Small Butterflies) by Mohammed El-Bosaty, Cairo: Dar Al-Hilal, 2012.

It’s a matter of regret that Farashat Saghira (Small Butterflies), the new short story collection by Mohammed El-Bosaty, has received little critical interest except for one article by Gamal Al-Ghitany.

El-Bosaty has returned to surprise us with his new text, which justifies his label as the “poet of the short story.”  

He has been unjustly ignored by the media and it is well-known that he has not received state prizes due to his stand against the official cultural organisations over the last 10 years.

His new collection shows he is still maintaining the artistic qualities that have marked most of his works: the mysterious place between realism and fantasy. On the spatial side, he still prefers to write about the countryside, as he has done since the sixties.

El-Bosaty's passion for the countryside dominates most of the stories. He also meditates on the world of prisons, posing questions raised by the experience of imprisonment, questions of freedom and its value. The author explores this experience and how it changes the people who pass through it.

He reconstructs the world by dismantling it into smaller units as if he’s intensifying, filtering and refining it. 

The writer captures the moments that escape us in our everyday lives and are difficult to catch. He stands in silence listening to the tales of women who are burdened with worries and uses soft transparent language to narrate their tales.

In one story titled The Visitor, readers can touch the traces prison leaves on the soul, when a recently released prisoner goes to visit the family of his cell mate who is still in prison. During the visit he speaks with his friend's wife about intimate secrets between her and her husband. The narration style would lead us expect a seduction was about to take place, yet it does not. The writer reveals insights into how private and intimate secrets are dissolved in prison.

On the other hand there are stories that produce a light pleasure, such as the Roar of the Lake, The Wedding and Twins. The writer's poetic power reveals itself in the story called The Signing of the Bird, which narrates the life of a peasant woman who is repressed by her husband and decides to return to her family and original home.

The collection evokes the forgotten world of small towns, which are lost in their own worries, and induces sympathy for the plight of repressed women. Women are presented in their full femininity, yet with exhausted powers. Seduction also takes place in some of the stories.

In short, El-Bosaty's enthralling collection shows he is on the front line of writers defending the value of literature.

Short link: