(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Al-Fanar Media).
Haitham Dabbour, the Egyptian novelist, aptly names his new novel “Embargo,” a publishing term for a temporary ban on making information public, as the book focuses on a character who breaks the social silence surrounding the harassment of women in the workplace in the Arab world.
The novel creates multiple temporal levels that address the theme of confession as a path to salvation, a means of obtaining usurped rights and resisting societal complicity.
Dabbour begins his narration inside an Arabian Nights palace, where he opens the first scenes with Scheherazade, the narrator who has just fallen prey to Shahryar, the king. Shahryar is presented as a man compensating for his sexual impotence and misery by torturing a new slave girl every night, in a cycle of hatred and madness.
The novel takes off from Scheherazade’s gambit of saving herself from the king’s sword by telling him tales until dawn, seducing him with anticipation night after night.
Scheherazade’s presence in the novel paves the way for another contemporary tale. The narration moves between the classical world and a contemporary world whose main heroine is Mona, who has worked her way up to become the media officer of one of the ministries in Egypt.