Thieves in Retirement
A NovelBook - 2006
Hamdi Abu Golayyel offers a striking portrait of a marginalized Egyptian community, bringing to life the absurd and tragic characters who occupy the margins of society while paying tribute to a historical Cairene neighborhood. By turns comic, reverential, beautiful, and tawdry, the novel reveals a social climate where ruthlessness and goodness seem almost indistinguishable and humanity is on display in all its rich variety.
The novelist s distinctive vision of Egypt s various postmonarchy political regimes and ideologies shapes this dark comedy of human relations and underground pursuits in late twentieth-century Egypt. Through intricate levels of allegory, puns, and double meanings, Abu Golayyel effectively plays on the rhetoric associated with the nationalist government of Gamal Abdel Nasser, including the post-Nasser turn toward international capitalism with its a consumer-oriented economy-and movement away from the workers rights orientation of the 1960s.
This novel represents a new voice and a new stage in contemporary Arabic literature, as it criticizes official ideologies, whether socialist, capitalist, or Islamist. Abu Golayyel s cast of memorable characters embodies the arbitrariness of life and the search for purpose and dignity in a social milieu that offers little of either. Marilyn Booth s translation fluently renders the novel s delicate levels of diction and rhythm, making this brilliant Egyptian novel available to a much-deserved wider audience."