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Cairo Book Fair: New Titles of Interest

The 47th edition of the Cairo International Book Fair runs through February 10th, bringing together hundreds of publishers from across the Arab world and beyond, and tens of thousands of daily visitors. Many scholarly books remain focused on the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the historic causes of the violent disintegration of many Arab states; on the relationship between religious tradition, political power and the modern state; and on the need for religious reform. Here is a list of some new titles of interest.

– Crowds and Sultans, Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and Syria, Amina Elbendary, AUC Press, 2015 (in English). An account of social transformations, unrest and frequent protests that took place in the Mamluk sultanate in the fifteenth century, showing that “rather than stoically endure autocratic governments, populations often resisted and renegotiated their positions in response to threats to their interests.”

Also worthy of note from AUC Press are Donald Malcom Reid’s Contesting Antiquity in Egypt: Archaeologies, Museums, and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to Nasser and Egypt’s Desert Dreams, by David Sims, an expert and critic of urban development in Egypt.

– The Fictional Works of Gamal El Ghitany, volume 1 and 2, The General Egyptian Book Organization, 2015 (in Arabic): A collection of all the literary works by the renowned author, who passed away in 2015 and who the fair celebrates this year. El Ghitany is best known for novels such as Zayni Barakat — a powerful story about propaganda, surveillance and torture set in medieval Cairo — and the Zaafarani Files — in which an alley in Islamic Cairo is struck by a case of seemingly contagious impotence.

– A Popular History of the Period of Nasserist Rule, Khaled Abu Eleil, The General Egyptian Book Organization, 2015 (in Arabic). As it says in its subtitle, this book aims to provide “the point of view of the marginalized” on this extraordinarily significant period of Egyptian history, one that continues to shape the country’s politics today. The author, a literature professor at Cairo University, based the book on oral interviews with underprivileged Egyptians regarding their experiences of the great social changes and projects of the Nasser era.

–  2015 ،متاهة الحاكمية: أخطاء الجهاديين في فهم ابن تيمية، هاني نسيرة، مركز دراسات الوحدة العربية

In this work published by the Arab Unity Research Center, Hany Nasira analyzes the teachings of the famously cantankerous medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, and the way they have been misunderstood by modern-day jihadists, many of whom view the scholar as a reference.

– كنت صبيا في السبعينات ،محمود عبد الشكور دار الكرمة، ٢٠١٥

Subtitled “A Cultural and Social Biography,” this book by a well-known cinema critic recounts the years of his childhood and adolescence and, through them, the changes that Egyptian society underwent between the year of President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s death and that of President Anwar Sadat’s assassination, documenting the life of an “average” family — what its kids learned at school, what books it read, what shows it watched on TV and what films it went to see at the cinema.

–  أمُّ الكتاب وتفصيلها : قراءة معاصرة في الحاكمية الإنسانيةتهافت الفقهاء والمعصومين محمد شحرور، دار الساقي 2015

The Syrian scholar and Koranic expert Mohamed Shahrour offers another study and critical re-interpretation of religious tradition. He bases his exegesis on what he sees as the Quran’s differentiation between absolute matters in religion (al-muhkam) and ambiguous matters (al-mutashabih) that are open to human interpretation.

– غبار المدن بؤس التاريخ ادونيس، دار ساقي، ٢٠١٥

The Dust of Cities and the Wretchedness of History‪, Adonis‪, Saqi Books‪, 2011‪. The first book the Syrian poet ‪— one of the best known and widely regarded of his generation ‪— has published since 2011.

– صور موت الفلسطيني، اسماعيل ناشف، المركز العربي للابحاث و درسات السياسية، ٢٠١٥

In his book “Images of a Palestinian’s Death,” scholar Esmail Nashif looks at the significance of the concepts of victimhood and martyrdom in Palestinian society and asks: “Is it possible to understand a society through the ways in which its members die?”

– The Egyptian publishing house Dar El Shorouk recently published works by three public figures who no longer have the platforms they once did: the journalist Yousri Fouda (“In Harm’s Way”); the screenwriter and columnist Bilal Fadl, who left Egypt because he was no longer able to express himself freely (“The Republic of Absurdity”) and the well-known novelist and columnist Alaa Al Aswany, who after supporting the removal of Mohamed Morsi from power in 2013 has become critical of the military leadership and has faced increasing censorship (his collection of recent writings is called “Who Dares to Speak?”).

* Please do add book recommendations in the Comments section.
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